While this year’s presidential election was bitterly divisive, both red and blue America largely came together over at least one thing: supporting the outdoors. Despite the fact that Donald Trump has questionable environmental beliefs, districts that went for him also voted in local and state elections to fund and maintain public parks, trails, green transportation corridors, and outdoor education to the tune of $6 billion, according to the Trust for Public Land.
“We saw that while American voters are divided on many issues, parks and natural areas are an issue that we can all agree on,” said Trust for Public Land president Will Rogers in a statement. “They want local parks and close-to-home places for recreation and they're willing to pay for them."
These ballot measures will fund the creation of dozens of miles of hiking and biking trails, the conservation of tens of thousands of acres of land, and the construction of innovative urban parks and public spaces that will encourage the diverse denizens of our biggest cities to come together outside.
Once a textbook example of suburban sprawl, the Georgian capitol has jumped on the urban revitalization bandwagon. On Tuesday, Atlantans passed two referendums that will raise sales taxes for transportation projects, including the ambitious Atlanta BeltLine. The project is converting 22 miles of abandoned railroad into an urban loop around the center of the city. Its walking and biking trails will connect dozens of neighborhoods and parks and will be complemented by new streetcar lines. The city will use $66 million of the new funding to buy the remaining land needed to complete the loop.
Charleston County, South Carolina
The Charleston County Greenbelt Program has purchased over 20,000 acres of parks, wetlands, plantations, and farms for conservation thanks to nearly $100 million dollars generated by a transportation sales tax approved in 2004. Charleston voters passed an additional tax on Tuesday that will provide $200 million more to acquire green spaces.
Los Angeles, California
An interagency effort to revitalize the Los Angeles River in Southern California received overwhelming support from voters. Eleven miles of the waterway’s banks have been cemented over and its course has been altered to prevent flooding, but now a patchwork of local and regional government agencies are carrying out a plan to pull up much of that cement to create parks, recreation areas, bike and paths, and to restore wetlands along the river’s path through the Los Angeles area.
On Tuesday, Los Angeles County voters overwhelmingly passed Measure A, which will direct $84 million toward the river and other green spaces and trails throughout the region. They also passed Measure M, which will allocate money for the completion of a bike path that will follow the length of the 50-mile river (but currently has several impassable stretches).
Bostonians voted to sign on to Massachusetts’ Community Preservation Act, which helps communities in the state preserve open spaces, among other things. A CPA trust fund matches revenue generated by a property tax, which Boston voted to adopt. Much of the money is expected to go to the city’s parks, trails, and gardens. Areas that have already adopted CPA have seen 1,500 recreation projects completed and over 23,000 acres of land conserved.
Oregonians passed statewide Measure 99, which will provide funding to ensure that every fifth and sixth grader in the state has access to a week of outdoor education. The program, called the Outdoor School, has been offering camping trips on the coast and hikes in the mountains for over 50 years, but only around half of Oregon grade school students have been able to go on the trips in recent years due to budget shortfalls. Now the state will dedicate a percentage of the state lottery’s revenue toward the Outdoor School, making Oregon the first state to ensure outdoor education for every child.
The Texas capitol passed a $720 million bond measure that will create pedestrian- and bike-friendly corridors throughout the city. This will include $26 million for urban trails and $20 million for bike infrastructure.
Grand County, Colorado
This county in the Rocky Mountains went for Trump, but also approved Issue 1A, which will generate funding through a sales tax to acquire and conserve lands for outdoor recreation, wildlife habitat, and wetlands. It will also pay for the maintenance of the region’s hiking and biking trail systems.
Greensboro, North Carolina
A parks and recreation bond will generate over $34 million to maintain and create parks. It will also support the city’s Downtown Greenway, an urban loop that comprises four miles of hiking and biking trails.
Clermont County, Ohio
Trump also won Clermont County, but voters there approved new funding for its parks department, who will use the money to maintain 600 acres of green space, improve trails, and restore habitat, proving that access to the outdoors is a bipartisan issue.
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