On November 1, the draft Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) was opened for public consideration and comment. The comment period runs until November 28th.
Money from offshore drilling and oil leases will go into a grant called the Land Water Conservation Fund, which the National Parks Service administers for recreation projects and open space conservation for outdoor recreation, said Bryant Wright, FNSB Trails Coordinator.
The Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan serves as a guide for all public outdoor recreation in both urban and rural areas of the state and is compiled every five years to be eligible for federal funding, said Ricky Gease, director of state parks.
“It’s pretty important to have the resources in this state to bring that funding in at every level,” Wright said. “We can’t access that funding and build the infrastructure that our communities are demanding based on usage without that money coming in.”
“Alaskans participate more in outdoor activities than residents of other states,” Gease said. Federal funding through grants is an important way to maintain access and infrastructure, he said.
The public comment period is an opportunity for residents to share their personal experiences and perspectives with nature, Gease said. He said they use the comments to look for areas to improve or engage with. It’s also an educational opportunity for residents to explore the new tools and reflect on what targets have been identified, Gease said.
Alaska didn’t have enough funds in its state parks budget to pay the grant administrator who normally puts together the SCORP, so this year was a volunteer-led planning process, Wright said.
“We divided and conquered,” Wright said.
The statewide advisory group included 25 members from federal, state and local agencies, as well as industry, nonprofits, user groups and seven subregional advisory groups, Gease said of the collaborative process.
Gease said they asked land managers and residents questions about public land facilities, including adequate parking, security, trail maintenance, garbage disposal, orientation and signage.
The organizers of this year’s SCORP are trying to encourage more open and transparent access to data, Gease said.
One research tool for the SCORP 2023 was mobile phone mobility data. Data from a GPS in a person’s phone, like when you give a weather app access to your location to show the weather, has been used to create heatmaps of activity in public areas, Gease said. Cell phone mobility data is all anonymized and cannot be traced back to the person. It also tracked which parks were being used by season and where people were coming from, whether that was within the state or overseas. Across all areas and regions of the state, most users are local Alaskans, Gease said.
Gease welcomes people to access the GIS mapping tool that illustrates where outdoor recreation is happening across the state.
The heatmaps will be available in the GIS Outdoor Recreation Hub on the park’s website by the end of the year. You’ll be able to pull up each state park and find out what to expect and what to expect, Gease said. The GIS maps will include the investments made by the Land Water Conservation Fund over the past 55 years and whether public lands are municipal, state, or federal lands.
As a member of the Inner Region group, Wright gathered information about what outdoor resources the community has, what the community needs, and identified the gaps in between.
The goals of the SCORP are: (1) to support outdoor recreation in Alaska; (2) make outdoor recreation a cornerstone of Alaska’s economy; (3) to increase outdoor recreation and use outdoor recreation to attract and retain residents and businesses; (4) to empower and empower Alaskans to lead active, healthy lives; (5) balance outdoor recreation growth and management; (6) build stable and sustainable funding for outdoor recreation; and (7) strengthening partnerships to improve outdoor leisure management.
An important aspect of the SCORP is economics and the workforce. “Local businesses get that money, they build the project, and the community gets to enjoy it,” Wright said. If there’s no SCORP, we don’t have millions of dollars for recovery.
“Being outdoors is healthier for you than being cooped up inside,” Gease said. Getting outside 30 minutes a day, three days a week doesn’t cost anything, he said. “[The SCORP] is an opportunity to reconnect people with the thought of being outside.”
Sustainability is an important aspect of SCORP, Gease said. A lot of sustainability and conservation is building things like hiking trails, parking lots, and campgrounds that last. You have to think about the long-term impact and maintenance costs, he added.