Lamentations from a Senator

Article excerpt

"Italy has its renaissance, England has its history and America has the great outdoors."

One of the highlights of the National Recreation and Park Association's 2004 National Legislative and Policy Forum, held Feb. 25-29 in Washington, D.C. was Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), who spoke about "Reinvesting Federal Resources."

Alexander is no stranger to parks and recreation, having been politically involved with the cause during his governorship of Tennessee from 1979 to 1987. In 1984 President Ronald Reagan asked Alexander to chair the President's Commission on Americas Outdoors. "I've grown up at the edge of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in East Tennessee and that's a big part of my being-the outdoors and the park and so for all those reasons, I said yes."

Alexander said the commission held hearings nationwide to develop its initiatives. "We understand that America works community by community," he said.

Their report centered on the need for greenways, scenic byways, an environmental ethic, a more localized focus on parks with a special emphasis on urban parks, outdoor recreation, conservation easements, clean air, clean water, and the creation of a billion-dollar fund to support the land and water conservation initiatives. The result of the report helped renew some of the most vital programs for park and recreation departments: the Land and Water Conservation Fund, National Scenic Byways, the Congestion Mitigation Air Quality program, among others.

Twenty years later, Alexander reflects on the commission's report for the benefit of NRPA members in attendance. …