- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 2, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) Virginia needs thousands more baseball diamonds, basketball courts, soccer fields, golf courses and campsites to keep up with residents' outdoor lifestyles, according to a recently released state report.
The Virginia Outdoors Plan finds the state overall has enough hiking and horseback-riding trails, picnicking spots, beach acreage and water, though some parts of the state need more of those as well.
And though the state has about 1.3 million acres of lakes, rivers and bays available for recreation more than twice what is needed the report found a woeful lack of boat ramps to help people get onto the water.
"Water-based recreational activities are still the tail that wags the dog in terms of the recreational activities preferred by Virginians," said Bob Munson of the state Department of Conservation and Recreation. "But there's a screaming need for better access to the rivers of the state."
The plan, the eighth produced by the conservation department since 1966, is meant to help local governments and community organizations determine what recreational activities to offer residents.
Having a state plan ensures that localities and organizations are eligible to apply for up to $3 million in matching grants from the federal government in each of the coming years, Mr. Munson said.
Like the last plan in 1996, this one recommends the creation of up to eight more state parks.
Unlike the 1996 plan, this year's includes the results of a survey of 3,400 Virginia households about recreational preferences.
The survey, which has a margin of error of plus or minus two percentage points, found that walking and leisurely driving are favorite activities for Virginians.
Four of the top 10 favored activities involved water swimming, fishing, sunbathing on the beach and boating.
Hunting's popularity has declined slowly over the decades, with only 13.8 percent of survey respondents saying they hunted. West of the Blue Ridge, however, 28 percent said they hunted.
The plan suggests that local governments should start working to conserve land for recreation, noting that 70,000 rural acres are developed each year and the state's population is more than 7 million and growing.


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