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Our favorite stories about public lands and opportunities for you to get involved in protecting your outdoor experiences.


Using Data to Get People Outside

Tania Lown-Hecht

Today, data is used to mobilize voters, sell diapers, predict home prices, and map changing urban demographics. As Americans are increasingly living in urban environments, how can we use data to help get people outside? A recent article in the Washington Post highlights a doctor who is using data to encourage kids to get outside in their neighborhoods.

Dr. Robert Zarr is a pediatrician at Unity Health Care’s Upper Cardozo Health Center in Washington DC who has created an online database of green spaces in the city. He uses this database to “prescribe” time outside to kids, some of whom are suffering from behavioral disorders whose symptoms may be alleviated by “reconnecting with nature.”

Data is an important part of the future of outdoor recreation, and Dr. Zarr’s project is a great example of how we can use new mapping techniques and data to convert an idea to reality. In this case, Dr. Zarr uses maps to provide tangible guidance on the nearest park and its amenities. 

Tools like Mountain Project and MTB Project have enabled individuals to catalogue climbing routes and mountain biking trails, but we have not yet seen the full potential of using data conserve important places. At Outdoor Alliance, we know that mapping can transform how we explore, connect with, and protect places that matter to the outdoor recreation community.  We can use data to identify the places that are most important to the recreation community, to mobilize important constituencies to action, to connect people with advocacy opportunities in the places that matter to them, and to demonstrate how and why to protect particular landscapes and waterways.