Dear <<First Name>>,
I hope this email finds you and your loved ones in good health and ready for a relaxing holiday season. It’s been quite a year and this pandemic keeps throwing us curve balls. Despite another incredibly challenging year, the members of the Outdoors Alliance for Kids continue to make significant strides to expand equitable and readily available opportunities for children, youth and families to connect with the outdoors.
As 2021 comes to a close, I’m happy to report that we have made incredible progress thanks to your support and partnership. Here are a few highlights from the past year:
- Partnering to Get More Kids Outdoors. OAK has been working to expand the impact of the Every Kid Outdoors program (which invites fourth-graders and their families to visit our national parks, public lands and waters for free), by advocating for sustainable federal funding for the program and urging state park systems to participate in the program. Our very own Jayni Rasmussen co-authored a blog with EKO Champion and Congresswoman Katie Porter, and REI hosted a virtual event with OAK youth leaders Robbie Bond and Tigran Nahabedian to elevate the program. We will continue our advocacy in 2022 to secure at least $25 million for the EKO program to expand program equity by ensuring it serves more young people with limited opportunities to visit our parks. We had a major victory this year with the establishment of California’s version of the Every Kid Outdoors program (California State Park Adventure Pass), opening up 19 state parks for free to fourth-graders and their families.
- Expanding Equitable Park Access for Kids and Communities. The Interior Department took a big step to address inequitable access to the outdoors by committing $150 million in funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP), the National Park Service’s only program that funds parks and greenspace projects in historically underserved communities. OAK members organized sign-on letters and grassroots emails advocating for the reinstatement and expansion of the ORLP program after it was eliminated by the Trump administration during its last days in office. Now ORLP is a central feature of Interior Secretary Haaland’s America the Beautiful initiative, and our federal policy action team has helped secure an additional $100 million for the program in the House-passed version of the Build Back Better Act. California welcomed the launch of the CA Outdoors for All Initiative, which includes the state’s largest investment in park equity to date.
- Improving Public Transit to Trails. Interior Secretary Haaland and Transportation Secretary Buttigieg just announced plans to collaborate to increase access to national parks and improve options to get to and around our parks in a pollution-free ride, including shared bikes and scooters. Earlier in the year, OAK joined Representative Jimmy Gomez and OAK members and partners Latino Outdoors, Sierra Club, Nature for All, Green Latinos and The Wilderness Society to host a virtual event to bring critical attention to the need to develop a national transit-to-trails program. Now OAK and our members are working to pass the federal Transit to Trails Act which would create a grant program at the Department of Transportation that invests in environmental justice communities and helps reduce the nature equity gap.
- Making Public Lands More Welcoming and Inclusive. Just a few weeks ago, Secretary Haaland announced the formation of a departmental task force to review and replace racist and derogatory place names among our country’s geographic features. This is an important step to foster welcoming and inclusive spaces in the outdoors. The Interior Department also hosted a series of listening sessions and a call for public comment on “Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through Recreation Opportunities.” OAK members came together to share some of our thinking and we hope the Department will continue to hold important conversations and take meaningful action to move the agency towards racial equity.
- Establishing a Civilian Climate Corps. For years, OAK has advocated for the expansion of a conservation corps across the country to provide meaningful conservation-focused career pathways for young people, particularly from disinvested communities. President Biden’s call for a modern-day CCC in his American Jobs Plan was a major milestone for the alliance, and we’ve worked throughout the year to make this vision a reality. OAK members advocated for a CCC that pays a family-sustaining wage, prioritizes investments in communities that have suffered from a historic lack of investment, and is large enough to tackle the existential threat of climate change. We co-hosted a virtual event, What a Bold CCC Means for our Future, with OAK members and partners like The Corps Network and Sunrise Movement. The House version of the Build Back Better Act provides for 300,000 good jobs protecting our planet and cultivating green spaces that provide access to nature and protect neighborhoods from extreme temperatures. OAK supports efforts to secure final passage of the overall Build Back Better Act and we look forward to supporting the implementation of a CCC in the new year.
- Expanding and Strengthening our Partnership. In 2021, OAK also brought on new steering committee members from Latino Outdoors, National League of Cities, and REI. We also welcomed SkyDay, Outward Bound California, Nature Head Co., and Pacific Education Institute as new members. All of OAK’s success is due to the dedication of our members and we look forward to continued growth in the new year.
I hope you take a moment to celebrate these collective wins with us--because we couldn’t have done any of this without you! And this is only the beginning of what we can accomplish in the next few years.
Thank you for continuing to support the work of OAK and our members. Together, we’re creating a world where all children and youth have the opportunity and encouragement to play outside, touch soil, feel rain, watch leaves fall, sleep under the stars, count waves, eat food fresh from the garden, roll down a hill, catch a fish and enjoy the satisfaction of climbing to the top of a hill or a tree. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season with your loved ones. I look forward to connecting in the new year.
Founder & Chair
Outdoors Alliance for Kids
P.S. charitable c3 dollars were not used to support OAK's c4 legislative lobby work.