USDA to use outdoors recreation to boost economy around national forests, grasslands
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Agriculture began planning to develop outdoor recreation opportunities near national forests and grasslands this month, part of a broader Biden administration push to help communities reap economic rewards from the growing recreation sector.
Three USDA agencies — the U.S. Forest Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and Office of Rural Development — signed a memorandum of understanding last fall pledging to collaborate on plans to develop outdoor recreation economies in “gateway communities” near national forests and grasslands, according to a Jan. 19 press release.
A Rural Development spokesperson said the agency selected its final team to begin developing the first annual plan in mid-January. The spokesperson declined to be identified by name.
“We know that when we invest in rural and tribal communities and people, we create an economic ripple effect that benefits everyone,” the spokesperson said in a written statement to States Newsroom.
Many of the rural communities near national forests and grasslands have experienced significant economic downturns in recent years. The multi-agency effort is meant to help those communities harness the economic power of outdoor recreation.
“We want to be intentional about making sure that they are getting economic, social, and physical benefits,” said Toby Bloom, the national program manager for travel, tourism, and interpretation with the Forest Service.
Some communities may have been reliant on a large employer that closed, forcing people to find work elsewhere and leading to a shrinking workforce that discourages further investment, Bloom said.
“If we can address that vicious cycle by creating opportunities, creating jobs, there’s a huge amount of jobs that are generated by recreation every year,” she added.
Bloom highlighted a mountain biking trail network near Ironton, Ohio, as an example of a community reorienting its economy around outdoor recreation tourism.
The USDA program is an acknowledgment from the government about the clear economic benefits of the outdoor recreation sector for rural areas, said Chris Perkins, senior director for the industry and nonprofit coalition group Outdoor Recreation Roundtable.
“What this partnership will do is just make the process of economic development around outdoor recreation a possibility for more communities,” Perkins said. “That will help demystify the process. And it will help them access funding and take on challenges before they arise.”
The great outdoors: a booming economic sector
Funding for the initiative will come from existing USDA grants, loans and service programs, though specific figures have not been set, the Rural Development spokesperson said.
The spokesperson added that the agencies will prioritize projects that advance Biden administration goals to address climate change, environmental justice, racial equity, and improved market opportunities.
Bloom explained that this is the first time the partnership will push recreation opportunities as projects for funding.
“Previously, we never thought about using a recreation lens,” Bloom said. “And we’re seeing now what an important piece of the economy it is.”
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis found that outdoor recreation produced $454 billion in economic activity, accounting for 1.9% of the nation’s gross domestic product in 2021. The agency also found that employment in outdoor recreation grew by 13.1% from 2020 to 2021. According to the USDA, the sector supports close to 6.1 million jobs directly nationwide.
Interest in outdoor activity is only accelerating, Perkins said. The sector grew at three times the rate of the larger U.S. economy last year as people turned to the outdoors as a tool for physical and mental health, he added.
Bloom said that rural communities close to public lands also tend to have a lower tax base, as no one is building on the land.
“This is really an attempt to help those communities near public lands and water capitalize on the existing financial opportunities,” the program manager said. “Yes, you may have a smaller tax base, but you have these recreation amenities that have the potential to generate as much, if not even more, income.”
COVID-19 highlighted the importance of outdoor recreation, Bloom said. The pandemic’s early months saw an explosion in outdoor recreation. And while some rural communities handled the influx of tourists effectively, others were left scrambling to accommodate the jump in visitor numbers, she said.
“It’s kind of like America rediscovered its outdoors,” Bloom said. “And so as federal agencies, we need to help both the visitors have their best peak experience and also help those communities that are receiving visitors be able to manage that visitation and also benefit from it.”
The roots of the USDA initiative
President Barack Obama launched the Federal Interagency Council on Outdoor Recreation in 2011. The council, comprised of representatives from USDA and the departments of Interior, Commerce, and Defense, conducted the country’s first wide-scale economic analysis of the recreation economy.
Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, disbanded the council when he took office in 2017.
Bloom said the Biden administration reestablished the council last summer, laying the groundwork for the renewed partnership.
Bloom said the council helped raise the recreation sector’s profile with politicians, setting the stage for the USDA agencies to bring their expertise to the project.
‘Open the faucet’
The agencies will help communities plan to create or enhance outdoor recreation opportunities. They will also provide funding for development programs and help communities apply for federal grants.
As the agencies develop their annual plans, an emphasis will be on “sustainable growth,” according to the release. That means helping the local outdoor sectors grow at a pace the communities can handle while maintaining resilience to climate change and natural disasters.
“Anybody who opens their eyes has seen the impact of natural disasters on our country,” Bloom said. “We really need to start thinking about how we are going to approach recreation, knowing that we have these challenges ahead of us.”
Priorities for the first plan will include the development of affordable housing around gateway communities and giving more opportunities for people of color, low-income residents, and members of the LGBTQ community to visit outdoor recreation spaces.
“The communities that do best in developing these recreation economies are the ones that have everyone at the table,” Perkins said. “So many people are craving recreation right now; closing that faucet is tough. But if you can think about how you want to open the faucet and invite people to your community, and the messaging you want to share with them about how to be a responsible visitor, that’s where this work really benefits everyone.”
The program is already attracting attention from state-based groups such as the Alaska Outdoors Association and other agencies within the Forest Service, she said.
Bloom said the program aims to boost both environmental stewardship and economic benefit.
“You can’t ask people to decide between putting food on the table and conserving nature,” she said. “But if I can help somebody put food on the table by conserving nature, that’s a success for me.”
by Adam Goldstein, Virginia Mercury
Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: email@example.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.
Fauquier Health welcomes new general surgeon Dr. Nathaniel Saint-Preux
Fauquier Health announced the welcoming of their newest general surgeon, Nathaniel Saint-Preux, MD. Dr. Saint-Preux has joined Fauquier Health’s Northern Virginia Surgical Specialists group, which was recently acquired in the fall of 2022. Dr. Saint-Preux joins board-certified physicians Joseph Brown, MD, FACS, Cynthia Dougherty, MD, and Benjamin Wampler, MD, FACS.
Dr. Saint-Preux graduated from the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia in 2013. He completed his Doctor of Medicine at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. in 2017. Dr. Saint-Preux then completed his general surgery residency at the Detroit Medical Center/Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan in 2022.
“As a physician I strive every day to develop a deeper understanding of the interaction between health, social, cultural, and environmental issues in our communities,” commented Dr. Saint-Preux. “I enjoy working with my patients to ensure they feel educated about the issues they may be facing, what options they have, and what their future path of wellness could look like.”
Dr. Saint-Preux is trained in minimally invasive robotic surgery and has interests in hernia repair, colonoscopy, upper endoscopy, colorectal, appendectomy, skin lesions/lipomas, thyroid disease, breast procedures, and more. Dr. Saint-Preux has conducted multiple service trips, including outreach in Haiti to provide health care to under-served populations. Giving back to the community and providing cross-cultural care has led to a greater understanding of the health issues facing our world today.
Dr. Saint-Preux is accepting new patients at all four locations in Warrenton, Gainesville, Culpeper, and Manassas. The Warrenton office, located at 550 Hospital Drive, can be reached at 540.347.2805. The Gainesville office, located at 7915 Lake Manassas Drive, can be reached at 571.261.2782. The Culpeper office, located at 1100 Sunset Lane, can be reached at 540.812.2937. Lastly, the Manassas office, located at 9001 Digges Road, can also be reached at 571.261.2782. Additional details about Dr. Saint-Preux can be found at FHDoctors.org or FauquierHealth.org.
About Fauquier Health
Fauquier Health is a community health system dedicated to high-quality, patient-centered care in a unique environment that considers the multiple facets of healing and respects the individuality of each and every patient. Located at 500 Hospital Drive in Warrenton, Virginia, Fauquier Health serves the residents of Fauquier and several surrounding counties. It comprises: Fauquier Hospital, a fully-accredited, 97-bed hospital; Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 113-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility; the Villa at Suffield Meadows, an assisted living facility; the Wound Health Center and a medically supervised Wellness Center offering health and wellness programs. Fauquier Health also operates several physician’s offices, including primary care, generay surgery, OB/GYN, Neurology and more. More information on Fauquier Health is available online at FauquierHealth.org or by calling 540-316-5000.
New daily rail service into Tennessee begins in April, expanding port’s reach west and south
Beginning April 1, The Port of Virginia® will expand its westward reach with a new daily rail service between the port’s primary container terminals and Norfolk Southern’s regional intermodal terminal near Memphis.
“It’s an important step west and south for The Port of Virginia,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “Both exporters and importers have asked us [Norfolk Southern and the port] to develop a high-quality Memphis rail service.
“When we first discussed this possibility, we agreed consistency was critical to developing a first-class product that provides daily service to and from this market. We have spent the past six months working together to ensure we are both ready and capable to meet customer expectations.”
The railroad’s regional terminal is in Rossville, which is in Southwest Tennessee, and located on Norfolk Southern’s Crescent Corridor route. The terminal is about 40 miles from Memphis, which is an important Midwest intermodal center. Memphis is one of only four cities in the US to be served by five Class I railroads, and according to the Greater Memphis Chamber, cargo moving through Memphis can reach 45 states and Canada and Mexico by rail within two days.
“We’re investing nearly a billion-and-a-half dollars to expand our on-dock rail capabilities, modernize one of our terminals and make our shipping channels the deepest on the US East Coast to create the East Coast’s leading global gateway,” Edwards said. “We are always looking for opportunities to expand into new markets and create demand. It’s important that we continue to collaborate with our long-time rail partner, Norfolk Southern, to create consistent, complimentary rail products to meet the needs of those companies that want to diversify their logistics and supply chains and reach new markets.”
The port is engaged in a $1.4 billion expansion effort called the Gateway Investment Program. This includes expanding the port’s overall annual rail capacity to 1.8 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units); completely renovating the North Berth at Norfolk International Terminals to create the capacity for 800,000 lifts, annually; and deepening the commercial shipping channels to at least 55 feet deep and making them wide enough for two-way traffic of ultra-large container ships.
(The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and through its private operating subsidiary, Virginia International Terminals, LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal. A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create more than 437,000 jobs and generated $1 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis.)
D.C. Guardian Angels return to the city to patrol Metro following increase in crime
The D.C. Guardian Angels, unarmed volunteer safety patrols dedicated to helping prevent crime in public spaces, are making their return to the Washington area’s Metro system after an increase in reported crimes.
The group is led by John Ayala, who started the Washington chapter in 1989 after previously being a New York City group member.
The Guardian Angels are a New York City-based nonprofit started in 1979 by Curtis Sliwa. Since then, thousands of volunteers have joined the organization in cities nationwide and worldwide.
Ayala moved to Washington from New York City when he was 19 to bring the Guardian Angels to the nation’s capital. During the 1990s, the New York and Washington groups focused on the “crack cocaine era,” Ayala said.
“We were involved with the open-air drug market, trying to get a hold on it. So people in D.C. saw it and said, ‘you know what, we have that same issue here in D.C.,’” Ayala said in an interview with Capital News Service.
Ayala grew the group to about 100 members in the early 1990s, with an average age of around 18. Today, the group is working on trying to keep the Metro safe while recruiting new members with the goal of returning to a core of about 100 people. There are currently 40 members signed up, averaging around 40 years old.
“Now it’s going to get to the point…where history is starting to repeat itself. It’s not the gang violence, it’s not the drugs, but it’s the young people going out there hurting so many people in the community, and people are saying ‘enough is enough,’” Ayala said.
While people in their 40s and 50s may remember the Guardian Angels from the 1990s and early 2000s, Ayala said younger people are less familiar with the group. So part of the Guardian Angels’ efforts is telling the younger generation about the group’s activities and mission, he said.
The Guardian Angels are currently concentrating their efforts on patrolling the Green Line, focusing specifically on the Anacostia and Congress Heights stations. Their goal is to be a deterrent, to observe and to report to Metro Transit Police Department, Ayala said.
Although the MTPD does not directly endorse the Guardian Angels, it “appreciates eyes and ears on the system,” Sherri Ly, Metro media relations manager, said in a statement to CNS.
Despite the MTDP’s efforts, Ayala said, “there are not enough police officers out there.”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a partnership between MTDP and the Metropolitan Police Department early last month, aiming to increase police presence at Metro stations.
While police patrol the stations, Ayala said there are not enough officers to patrol trains. After hearing about the increased police presence, the Guardian Angels are focusing on what is happening on the trains while also monitoring the station platforms.
“We're tired of hearing everybody blaming the mayor, blaming the police chief, blaming the councilman,” Ayala said. “Those people are not the ones out...robbing people, they’re not telling people to rob people. They’re doing the best that they can, but they can't do it alone. It takes a village.”
The safety patrols are recognizable by their red berets and white shirts.
“Prevention is the best cure… so if wearing a recognizable pseudo-uniform can help deter people from getting froggy on public transport, that's the right way for a civilian to help, I think,” said
Christopher Dailey, a Washington resident interested in potentially volunteering with the Guardian Angels.
Dailey rides the Metro about once a week. He recently heard of the Guardian Angels through social media and saw they were looking for volunteers.
“I've seen increasing reports of violence and harassment on the Metro, particularly against women, and I'm a pretty strong and tall guy, so I'd like to think I'd step in and stop some acts like that, but it's easy to vigilante yourself thinking about it in confrontational terms like that,” Dailey said.
In February, there were a total of 195 arrests at various Metro facilities, including buses, Metro rail, and parking lots, compared to 121 arrests in February a year ago, according to data released by the Metro Transit Police Department.
The MTPD reported 569 total crimes in February, an increase of 125 percent over the previous February. Sixty-five percent of the reported crimes in February happened on the Metro rail system.
Overall, crime in Washington’s transit system decreased during 2020 and 2021, reflecting the height of the COVID pandemic. Over the past year, crime rates have started rising again.
A Guardian Angels patrol usually lasts two-and-a-half hours; volunteers are asked to put in eight hours a month.
The D.C. Guardian Angels' goal is to have 100 volunteers by spring. Those interested in volunteering can contact the Guardian Angels at 202-359-0601.
By YESENIA MONTENEGRO
Capital News Service
Virginia making progress on 55-ft deep channel and becoming the US East Coast’s deepest port
The Port of Virginia® is progressing toward becoming the only US East Coast port with 55-foot-deep channels that are also wide enough to accommodate two-way traffic of ultra-large container vessels.
“It’s an important distinction to have because this sets The Port of Virginia apart from our East Coast peers in a way that cannot be matched,” said Stephen A. Edwards, CEO and executive director of the Virginia Port Authority. “In less than a year, we’ll be able to handle two-way traffic of the biggest ships afloat. Having the wide channel allows for consistent vessel flow, it will increase our efficiency and further reduce any downtime at our berths.
“Cargo owners, ocean carriers and logistics providers are closely following our progress. Many of the ocean carriers that call Virginia have new, larger vessels that are coming into service within the next year. We are telling them that they can bring those vessels to Virginia without concern for channel width or overhead draft restrictions. We don’t have any bridges in the Norfolk Harbor.”
The biggest section of the 55-foot project is the Thimble Shoal West Channel and the deepening work there is 99 percent finished with full completion this fall; the Thimble Shoal East Channel is 90 percent complete with full completion coming this spring. When the work on Thimble Shoal East is complete, the first section of the two-way channel will be ready for use.
At that time, the port will work with the Virginia Pilots Association, the US Coast Guard and NOAA to update the region’s navigation charts, rules and buoys to reflect the improved channel.
Edwards said this will provide “the first real navigation benefits” to ocean carriers because there will be an area of the channel open to two-way vessel traffic. The project’s companion widening of Thimble Shoal West is set to begin in this spring with completion in the early fall. When this work is complete, the port will be finished with its share of the deepening and widening project Edwards said.
“In parallel to our effort, our partners in this project, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Norfolk District office, are making progress on the inner harbor parts of this project,” Edwards said. “The contract for work on the inner harbor has been signed and there is dredge work underway in the Newport News Channel and work on the Norfolk Harbor Channel is scheduled to start by year’s end.
“The Norfolk District has been great partner in this effort and that team is working with a sense of urgency to maintain the momentum that we have going. They have been integral to the success of this project and the end is in sight as a result of our partnership.”
The project’s dredge work began in December 2019, nearly two-and-a-half years ahead of schedule. The port’s preparation for the project, its collaboration with the US Army Corps of Engineers, the support of elected officials and the state’s willingness to fully-fund the project ahead of the federal investment were factors behind the early start of construction and ongoing progress, Edwards said.
The work includes dredging the shipping channels to 55 feet – with deeper ocean approaches – and widening them up to 1,400 feet in specific areas. When dredging is complete in 2024, the commercial channels serving the Norfolk Harbor will be able to safely accommodate passage of two, ultra-large container vessels.
The federal government and the port agreed to a 50-50 cost share of the project at its outset in 2015 when the US Army Corps of Engineers began evaluating the economic value of a deeper and wider Norfolk Harbor and commercial shipping channel. The cost of the project is $450 million.
The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) is a political subdivision of the Commonwealth of Virginia. The VPA owns and through its private operating subsidiary, Virginia International Terminals, LLC (VIT), operates four general cargo facilities Norfolk International Terminals, Portsmouth Marine Terminal, Newport News Marine Terminal and the Virginia Inland Port in Warren County. The VPA leases Virginia International Gateway and Richmond Marine Terminal. A recent economic impact study from The College of William and Mary shows that The Port of Virginia helps to create more than 437,000 jobs and generated $1 billion in total economic impact throughout the Commonwealth on an annual basis.
Dunkin’ second annual scholarship program to award $125,000 to DMV high school and college students
Dunkin’® and its DMV franchisees today announced the return of its Dunkin’ Regional Scholarship Program which will award $125,000 in scholarships to high school and college students throughout the DMV.
In partnership with Scholarship America®, Dunkin’ will award 50 students throughout the DMV region with a $2,500 academic scholarship to an accredited two- or four-year college, university, or vocational-technical school of their choice in Fall 2023. Dunkin’s DMV Regional Scholarship Program will be available to current part-time and full-time undergraduate students and high school seniors. Recipients will be selected based on their academic record, demonstrated leadership skills, and overall commitment to their school and the local community.
“My fellow Dunkin’ franchisees of the DMV area and I are excited to again recognize hardworking students in our local communities with our second annual Dunkin’ Regional Scholarship Program,” said Parag Patel, DMV-area Dunkin’ Franchisee. “Dunkin’ is dedicated to the local communities that give so much to us. Scholarship recipients exhibit all the qualities of leadership we seek to nurture in young people and Dunkin’ is proud to help them and their families afford the significant investment that higher education represents.”
Applications for the Dunkin’ Regional Scholarship Program will be accepted through April 13, 2023. Applicants must be high school seniors or current undergraduate students who plan to enroll in a part-time or full-time undergraduate course of study at an accredited two-year- or four-year college, university, or vocational-technical school in Fall 2023.
Applicants must reside and/or be currently enrolled in college in one of the below regions to be considered. For more information or to apply, visit learnmore.scholarsapply.org/dunkinbaltimoredc.
Washington, D.C. Counties: Washington, D.C., Charles (MD), Frederick (MD), Montgomery (MD), Prince George’s (MD), St. Mary’s (MD), Washington (MD), Arlington (VA), Clarke (VA), Fairfax (VA), Frederick (VA), Loudoun (VA), Prince William (VA), Shenandoah (VA), Spotsylvania (VA), Stafford (VA), Warren (VA), Berkeley (WV), Jefferson (WV)
Maryland Counties: Anne Arundel (MD), Baltimore (MD), Baltimore City (MD), Calvert (MD), Carroll (MD), Cecil (MD), Harford (MD), Howard (MD), Kent (MD), Queen Anne’s (MD), Talbot (MD)
White House 2023 Christmas Ornament honors President Gerald R. Ford
On Tuesday, the White House Historical Association unveiled its Official 2023 White House Christmas Ornament honoring the 38th president of the United States, Gerald R. Ford.
Each year for President’s Day, the association releases a custom ornament honoring a former president. A team of up to 20 people works on planning and designing the American-made ornaments throughout the year.
“The ornaments serve as a wonderful teaching tool designed to tell the story of the White House during a specific presidency or anniversary,” said Stewart McLaurin, president of the White House Historical Association. “Through these collectibles, we’ve been able to further our mission to protect, preserve, and provide public access to the rich history of America’s Executive Mansion.”
The 2023 ornament, a three-dimensional wreath, features symbols on the front inspired by the First Lady Betty Ford’s White House decorations that could be recreated on Christmas trees at home, Matthew Costello, senior historian at the White House Historical Association, said.
“One thing that Betty Ford did, and it was reflective of the times, was this old-fashioned, handcrafted Christmas,” Costello said. “This was a feature amongst their Christmas decorations every year that they were at the White House.”
The front of the wreath is adorned with tiny decorations, including dolls, doves, stars, candles, gingerbread men, and red ribbons with “Christmas 2023” and “The White House.”
On the back of the ornament are a series of emblems relating to the life and presidency of Ford and a gold plaque featuring the North Portico of the White House.
A member of the House since 1949, Ford was nominated as vice president by Richard Nixon in 1973 after the resignation of the previous vice president, Spiro Agnew. Ford assumed the presidency ten months later when Nixon resigned over the Watergate scandal. Ford was the only president to have never been elected to the office of vice president or president.
Ford is also the only president to become an Eagle Scout, the highest achievable rank in the Boy Scouts of America, an accomplishment that is referenced in the “Troop 15” emblem on the White House ornament.
“Gerald Ford was either one of our most, or our most, athletic presidents,” Costello said. “He played collegiate football at the University of Michigan and was offered contracts to play professionally, but he decided not to and went to law school instead, which was probably a good decision.”
A football with Ford’s jersey number 48 is featured at the top of the ornament’s wreath alongside a line portrait of Liberty, the Ford family’s famous golden retriever, who had a litter of puppies in the White House.
The ornament also features a bicentennial pin commemorating the Ford family’s celebration of the 200-year anniversary of America’s founding and an emblem for the U.S.S. Gerald R Ford, a first-in-class aircraft carrier commissioned to honor the president’s service in the Navy.
“All of these different element emblems tell us a part of the story of who Gerald Ford was and, you know, what he did earlier in his life, and what took place when he was president of the United States,” Costello said.
Costello said proceeds from the ornaments fund the White House Historical Association’s educational work, including a teacher institute and resources, public programming, a web series called “White House History Live,” and research initiatives.
The association is a private, nonprofit organization founded in 1961 by First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
The popular Christmas ornaments date to 1981. That first ornament depicted a flying angel. The next year, the ornament honored George Washington; subsequent ornaments have honored each president in order.
By DESTINY HERBERS
Capital News Service
Wind: 6mph SE
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