State releases promising new outdoor recreation plan

Part of New Hampshire's new "Live free and..." tourism campaign.
The outdoors are big business in New Hampshire, and part of what makes the state (including its cities) appealing.

The state Division of Parks and Recreation has released a new five-year Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), calling for the creation of more walking and running trails, playgrounds, and community recreation.

As Department of Resources and Economic Development Director (DRED) George Bald wrote in his introductory letter to the report:

Community recreation is vitally important to the entire recreation landscape in New Hampshire. Locally-based recreation opportunities that include parks with playgrounds and picnic tables, places where dogs can romp with other dogs and dog owners can share outdoor play time, pathways that allow for walking from home to stores or community centers and back again, bicycle paths and right-of-ways for both exercise and commuting, as well as safe walking routes to schools, are integral to future planning for both transportation and recreation improvements.

A strong community-based recreation program supports a strong state park system which helps build strong healthy minds and bodies for our young people, our families, and our elders.

Many of the rail trails south of Manchester remain unfinished - photo from Monopolybag
Construction of Manchester & southern New Hampshire’s trail network is ongoing – photo from Monopolybag

As the Union Leader reports, the plan is the result of a partnership between the division in charge of State Parks and DRED, which makes sense given how much of New Hampshire’s economy and attractiveness depends on its natural resources and recreational opportunities. It’s good to see the report extending the focus from the traditional state parks, White Mountains and rural areas to “community recreation”, playgrounds and other recreational opportunities that are integral to strong and vibrant cities.

Future Rimmon Heights & Notre Dame
Strong urban parks and access to the outdoors could be a major selling point for Manchester.

Manchester’s recent and ongoing trail network, its vast parks system, and the natural resources in and around the city (the Merrimack River, Massabesic and the Uncanoonucs) are all vital to making Manchester an attractive place to live and visit. And as we wrote this past spring, a stronger embrace of those outdoor and recreational amenities might offer Manchester an opportunity to better brand itself, and make the Queen City more another tool in competing with other New England cities.

It’s good to see the State promoting the sort of recreational tools that fit in well and are important in cities like Manchester, including things like bike trails and bike lanes. It would be great to see the State better promote cities like Manchester, as Massachusetts does with its urban state parks in Lowell and Boston. And it would be especially encouraging to see the City implement some of the things in this plan: neighborhood playgrounds, a strong network of bike trails and lanes, much better access to and integration with the riverfront, and promotion of the city as an urban jumping off point for outdoors enthusiasts.

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