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Recent surveys conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service show troubling declines in what once were the bread and butter activities that defined people who lived in this state. These declines are also not unique to Minnesota. They are occurring across the country.
Apparently, nature based outdoor recreation does not have the priority in younger peopleıs lives that it once did.
Whatıs replacing traditional outdoor recreation? While much remains unknown, likely candidates include television, computer gaming, and over-programmed lifestyles. According to the surveys, these declines appear likely to continue, given how broad-based they are.
The DNR is devoting its draft State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), to this topic. The plan has one goal - increased participation in outdoor recreation. This document also provides guidance to outdoor recreation decision makers and managers on policy and investment matters.
The DNR is seeking ideas for addressing this troubling trend. People can review the draft and share ideas on what to do, by visiting www.mndnr.gov. Comments will be accepted through Nov. 9.
The DNR, is also partnering with Twin Cities Public Television, to produce a one-hour exploration of these declines in nature-based outdoor recreation and its impact on society. The show will air on TPT 17 on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8 p.m. and it will highlight a mix of experts and citizens talking about these trends and what they might mean.
Deeper exploration of the research shows the declines are most closely associated with the 16 - 44 year old age group, which includes Generations X and Y, the latter to which is also referred to as the Millennial Generation.
Additionally troubling is the 16-44 year old age bracket is the generation that traditionally passes outdoor recreation experiences on to children. Who will do this now? Anecdotal data points to the growing role grandparents are playing in sharing outdoor recreation experiences with grandchildren.
What are some of the implications of declining participation? A 2006 survey by the United Health Foundation found that while Minnesotans are generally healthier than the rest of the country, Minnesotans share the phenomenon of growing fatter. The survey indicated people who live in this state have witnessed a 132 percent rise in the obesity rate since 1990. Obesity is a key predictor of future health problems including diabetes. In addition to physical health, there are troubling indicators that our mental health is suffering too.
Richard Louv, in his best-selling book, ıLast Child in the Woodsı, sites a relationship between the growing mental health problems such as anxiety and depression and the loss of connection with nature.
How should people respond to this trend? There are a lot of independent efforts going on in schools, with our health care providers, and many other places, all focused on changing these troubling trends.
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