News Department

DEP, Trust for Public Land launch online survey seeking public input on recreation needs, with emphasis on overburdened communities

NEW JERSEY – The Department of Environmental Protection is launching an online survey to identify how to best enhance and expand outdoor recreation and open space opportunities that focus on the needs of overburdened communities as part of the Outside, Together! initiative, Commissioner Shawn M. LaTourette announced Wednesday.

The survey results will help the DEP develop an action plan and funding priorities to expand high-quality open space and recreational opportunities in New Jersey. The plan will further equity and environmental justice, enhance climate resilience and sustainability, identify investments in ecotourism, as well as promote technology, stewardship and the conservation and restoration of biodiversity.

The online survey is being administered by The Trust for Public Land on behalf of the DEP. Survey responses will be accepted from Feb. 22 to March 22. It will be available in English, Spanish, and by request, other languages commonly spoken by New Jersey residents and takes approximately 10 minutes to complete. The DEP designed the survey to engage overburdened communities, experienced outdoor users and anyone who enjoys spending time outdoors in New Jersey.

For more information about Outside, Together! and to take the survey, visit

“Every resident of New Jersey deserves easy access to quality parks and open spaces where they can enjoy the environment we share,” LaTourette said. “Through this Outside, Together! survey, my DEP colleagues and I hope to learn more from the public we serve about their outdoor needs. With the help of our Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, community leaders, and everyone who participates in this survey, DEP will build an outdoor recreation plan that better connects people to nature and one another.”

Survey participants will be asked about the importance of outdoor recreation and open space, their local needs, park features and amenities that are most important, obstacles to outdoor recreation, funding prioritization, climate resilience features to include in parks, and demographic questions.

As part of its outreach efforts, the DEP formed a 24-member Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee, chaired by Elizabeth Dragon, DEP Assistant Commissioner for Community Investment and Economic Revitalization, tasked with developing the initiative’s principles, discussing outreach efforts and reviewing the survey questions. Data from the survey’s findings will help inform new funding policies and acquisition prioritization used by DEP programs such as Green Acres, NJ Fish and Wildlife, and Parks, Forests & Historic Sites.

“The Outside, Together! survey is important for all residents to take because it will result in a framework and funding priorities for developing parks and preserving open space, with an emphasis on overburdened communities.” said Assistant Commissioner Dragon. “We need everyone’s input to let us know where they value investments in our outdoor spaces.”

The DEP’s Community Investment and Economic Revitalization Program regularly met with the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee between September and December 2022 to discuss the initiative’s principles for preparation of the survey questions.

On Earth Day 2022, Commissioner LaTourette signed an Administrative Order to update the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) for 2023-2027, which is a condition of eligibility for the state to receive National Park Service Land and Water Conservation Fund assistance. New Jersey’s SCORP must identify statewide recreation needs and opportunities and articulate a comprehensive strategy.

The Outside, Together! initiative, which is deeply rooted in public and stakeholder engagement, is New Jersey’s SCORP update and will be finalized by December 2023 for submission to the National Park Service. The survey is one part of the process to advance a five-year plan to set open space, parkland, outdoor equity and funding priorities to best serve the recreation and conservation needs of all New Jersey residents.

“Parks and open spaces provide critical public benefits, from strengthening social and cultural connections to helping communities adapt to climate impacts, and it’s essential these spaces reflect the needs and desires of all New Jerseyans,” said Scott Dvorak, Associate Vice President and New Jersey State Director for The Trust for Public Land. “Trust for Public Land is proud to further the mission of Outside, Together! with our data gathering expertise and commitment to public engagement to ensure everyone is connected to the outdoors.”

The survey will be promoted through Governor Murphy’s statewide update email, the Nextdoor social media application, DEP’s social media channels, DEP listservs, the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee members, and the New Jersey State Public Library newsletter and will reach millions of New Jersey residents.

With the help of its partners, the DEP will continue to develop its update to the SCORP to establish and clarify the state’s policies, benchmarks and recommended actions to ensure fairer and more equitable distribution of outdoor recreation and conservation funds and resources.

Public parks and open space provide New Jerseyans with areas they can go to celebrate special occasions, enjoy nature and relax. The DEP is committed to partnering with local governments and nonprofit organizations to expand the amount of and access to open space and recreation land. In addition to the survey, TPL will host multiple focus groups to hear from overburdened and historically underrepresented communities.

Members of the Outdoor Recreation Advisory Committee include representatives from state agencies, chambers of commerce, conservation organizations, environmental justice organizations, business organizations, academic institutions, and county and local park stewards. Through ongoing outreach efforts, committee members seek to increase public awareness and ensure New Jerseyans’ recreation needs are met.

Outside, Together! objectives include:

  • Identifying opportunities for expanding public access to recreation areas and facilities, and improving the user experience at existing recreation areas;
  • Educating the public about the importance, needs, benefits and availability of open space and outdoor recreation opportunities statewide;
  • Identifying high value open space and recreational needs and opportunities with particular focus on better serving the health and wellness of residents in underserved or overburdened communities;
  • Enhancing the focus on the economic benefits of preservation, including those associated with climate resilience and sustainability, ecotourism and biodiversity;
  • Identifying necessary policy, regulatory and legislative actions to advance open space and outdoor recreation goals;
  • Fully engaging the public and key partners to ensure an informed approach to outdoor recreation and conservation;
  • Encouraging collaborative partnerships and programs to enhance open space and outdoor recreation at multiple levels of government; and
  • Satisfying the National Park Service requirements so New Jersey continues to qualify for Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund opportunities.

To learn more about Outside, Together!, visit

For questions about Outside, Together! or the survey, email

Jay Edwards

Born and raised in Northwest NJ, Jay has a degree in Communications and has had a life-long interest in local radio and various styles of music. Jay has held numerous jobs over the years such as stunt car driver, bartender, voice-over artist, traffic reporter (award winning), NY Yankee maintenance crewmember and peanut farm worker. His hobbies include mountain climbing, snowmobiling, cooking, performing stand-up comedy and he is an avid squirrel watcher. Jay has been a guest on America’s Morning Headquarters,program on The Weather Channel, and was interviewed by Sam Champion.

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