Organizing for the Task: Chapter 7. (Outdoor Recreation in America)

Parks & Recreation, July 2002 | Go to article overview

Organizing for the Task: Chapter 7. (Outdoor Recreation in America)


A BUREAU OF OUTDOOR RECREATION

Providing adequate outdoor recreation opportunities for Americans over the next 40 years is a major challenge that will require investment of money, resources, and work. Leadership, vision, and judgment will be needed to guide this investment into the most efficient channels. The present uncoordinated efforts cannot do the job. There must be a new agency of government at the federal level to provide guidance and assistance to the other levels of government and to the private sector, as well as within the federal government itself.

Recommendation 7-1: A Bureau of Outdoor Recreation should be established in the Department of the Interior.

The broad function of the Bureau should be to consider the needs of the American people for all phases of outdoor recreation--within cities, in rural areas, and throughout the country. In the past, recreation planning and development have too often been controlled chiefly by the physical resources available. This orientation has largely determined not only the location but the nature and quality of the opportunities provided. But in view of the changing and expanding role of recreation and leisure in the years to come, it is important that planning for outdoor recreation emphasize more strongly the needs of people. Resource development programs that affect recreation opportunities, both directly and indirectly, should be modified to accommodate these needs. The basic purpose of a national Bureau of Outdoor Recreation would be to provide the leadership, coordination, and assistance required to realize this goal.

Why a New Bureau

There are now more than 20 federal agencies with programs involving some aspect of outdoor recreation. A similar multiplicity is found among state agencies. While the programs of these agencies are generally well planned in themselves, little thought is given in any of them to the over-all development of outdoor recreation throughout the nation.

Thus a complicated and difficult pattern of intergovernmental relations is created, as numerous federal organizations seek to work individually and separately with a variety of state and local agencies. There is at present no focal point for coordination of recreation policy, planning, programs, or management. Over-all responsibility for initiating and guiding a national effort in outdoor recreation has never been explicitly assigned.

There are a number of alternative organizational arrangements by which this important responsibility could be assigned. After consideration of all possibilities, the recommendation for a new bureau in the Department of the Interior is made as the most likely to be accepted. A top-level commission or an independent agency would in some respects be more effective in focusing attention upon the importance of outdoor recreation and in obtaining public support for programs. It would have advantages over a bureau in coordinating the programs of Cabinet-level departments and would be in a favorable position to handle federal-state relations. Yet there is a general reluctance to establish independent administrative agencies or permanent commissions outside the Cabinet structure, particularly in the light of the large number of agencies which already report to the President and the many urgent matters which require his direct supervision.

It seems impracticable to charge an existing office with these new functions. The duties of the proposed Bureau, nationwide in scope and ranging from the coordination of planning to the administration of financial and technical assistance, could not be adequately carried out within the framework of any present agency.

These facts argue in favor of the establishment of a new bureau within an existing department. With authorizing legislation, such a bureau could, through the Secretary of its department, deal with agencies in other departments as well as with bureaus within the same department. …

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