VIRGINIA, USA — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is proposing nearly $245 million for outdoor recreation and natural lands to be included in an upcoming two-year budget.
The funding will go toward expanding the state's network of regional trails, state parks, and the Office of Outdoor Recreation, founded by Northam in 2019 to coordinate recreation efforts across multiple state agencies.
Northam's office said the money would support existing trails and develop new trails, such as the Eastern Shore, Shenandoah, and Fall Line trails. It would also allow the Office of Outdoor Recreation to support two full-time employees.
According to Northam's office, Virginia outdoor recreation employs more than 197,000 people, contributes an estimated $22 billion to the state's economy, and generates $1.2 billion in state and local tax revenues.
His office also noted that visits to the 41 state parks went up 13% in 2020, with nearly 8 million people visiting.
Republican State Sen. Emmett Hanger and Democratic Del. David Bulova, who both co-chair the Outdoor Recreation Caucus in the General Assembly, praised the proposal in a news release.
Northam made the announcement on Brown’s Island in Richmond as part of his "Thank You, Virginia" tour before leaving office on Jan. 15. During the tour, he also proposed adding raises for teachers and public safety officers to the upcoming budget.