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Author: Rebecca Maguire

Benefits of Facilitated Recreation

What exactly is facilitated recreation? Facilitated recreation refers to the process of organizing and leading recreational activities in a structured and engaging manner to ensure participants have a positive and enjoyable experience. 

The term “facilitated” implies that there is a skilled individual or facilitator guiding the recreational activities. These individuals may work for a recreation center, park district, or other organization that offers outdoor programs. Facilitators may also work independently, leading their own tours or workshops.

Participant-facing outdoor facilitators must have a strong understanding of the activities they lead, as well as the skills and knowledge necessary to keep participants safe. They must also be able to communicate effectively with participants of all ages and abilities.

Having a skilled facilitator is a great way to help others enjoy the great outdoors. 

What are the benefits of facilitated recreation? 

Facilitated recreation offers a wide range of benefits for participants of all ages and backgrounds, from skill development to stress relief. Here are some of the ways a facilitated recreation program can elevate the experience for the groups they lead:

  • Outdoor facilitators remove barriers for participants. Facilitators encourage inclusivity for people who may not otherwise have access such as people with disabilities, anxiety, physical limitations, typically marginalized groups etc. Enjoying outdoor experiences can be challenging at best, and oftentimes an insurmountable barrier facilitators can help remove.
  • Outdoor facilitators help with risk management, as most of whom are required to have first aid and CPR training at a minimum. Facilitators provide more eyes and ears for potential issues and enhance the ability to provide emergency services. 
  • Outdoor facilitators educate as they lead experiences – proper technique, history of area, value of conservation, etc. Respect for the land is fostered through shared experiences led by experts within outdoor recreation.
  • Outdoor facilitators are advocates for sustainable use and good outdoor ethics.  Facilitators understand the importance of conservation and share how important habitat and conserved lands and waters are to all.
  • Outdoor facilitators are leaders that provide a knowledgeable and safe experience for all who recreate. Outdoor recreation is also a great avenue to develop leadership skills. 
  • Outdoor facilitators help participants see the mental health benefits of the outdoors. Facilitators help with the previously mentioned areas, allowing participants to unwind and not stress about other responsibilities. Time in the outdoors can bring stress relief and improve mental clarity. 

Facilitators create an environment that encourages active participation, learning, and social interaction among the participants. The overall goal for facilitators should always be to enhance the overall enjoyment for all, regardless of age, ability level, or background. 

What is the future of facilitated recreation?

According to the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR), the outdoor recreation’s visibility has grown across the United States. The industry is now valued at nearly $1 trillion annual by the U.S. Department of Commerce due to the amount of Americans enjoying the outdoors. Behind this impact is the 4.5 million outdoor workers, including the facilitators. 

With the unprecedented growth of the outdoor recreation industry and the increased use on our public lands, many are looking into what the future of outdoor recreation will look like in America. While we don’t have all the answers yet, the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education (AORE) is working to empower the outdoor workforce to be relevant and connected. 

As the industry continues to move forward facing challenges head on, we are seeing the questions arise such as: 

  • Hiring:  How do we develop a more diverse and equitable workforce?
  • Pay:  How can we compensate staff with fair, equitable wages for work when their job often requires overnight to over a week, 24 hours a day?
  • Housing:  How can we pay and also provide housing in communities where work is needed with rising housing costs and lack of affordable housing?
  • Certifications:  How do we understand what certification and training are required, how these can be provided economically with an industry with limited or no professional development AND how to determine which certification and training providers are reputable?
  • Training:  How can we compensate staff for attending training and also make sure that trainer providers are fairly compensated?
  • Risk and Liability:  With a litigious society, and many facilitated activities happening outside of definitive care, how do we best navigate risk assessment, insurance, and liability?
  • Sustainability:  Facilitating people on and in natural areas can leave a lasting impact.  How do we recreate responsibility, have equitable access to permits that are not time or cost prohibitive, and also deal with impacts of climate change and reduction in conservation staffing?

Additionally, the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable produced a comprehensive  whitepaper that identifies a Roadmap for a 21st Century Outdoor Workforce.  These questions and more are further discussed and ideas to move forward are presented.

We also have this handy PDF with the benefits of facilitated recreation to share with your networks, administrators, and more.

Reimagine Recreation: We need your support and input!

The USDA Forest Service is looking to us and other facilitated recreation providers to be part of a conversation about Reimagining Recreation and help chart a shared path forward.

This engagement is a continuation of the Reimagine Recreation: Knowledge-Sharing Workshop, which was held from July 18-20, 2023, and connected with over 80 partner organizations.  To garner further support and input on the topics, members of the Coalition for Outdoor Access, America Outdoors, and the National Forest Recreation Association have been invited to be a part of a dedicated follow-up engagement to expand Forest Service knowledge around specific challenges and opportunities facing the recreation special use permit holder community.

The purpose of the workshop is to learn from one another’s experiences, illuminate shared interests, and create a space for recreation special use permit holders and staff to speak openly around three key topics:

  • Equity and Access in Action: Improving access and equity to the outdoors.
  • Cross-Boundary Collaboration: Making recreation systems easier; Removing barriers which limit or prevent facilitated access.
  • From Recreation to Conservation: Leveraging the power and passion of recreationists to protect federal public lands and waters.


Meeting Information

  • Day: Wednesday, October 4, 2023
  • Time: 1 pm – 3 pm Eastern, 11 am – 1 pm Mountain
  • Format: Virtual, over Microsoft Teams LINK
  • Contact: Ben Johnson, National Recreation Special Uses Program Manager for a meeting invitation (

Your voice is critical to ensure that we are all working together to improve access, remove barriers, use the power of our organizations to support, take care of, and protect our federal lands and waters.

No groups are better suited to provide the necessary inputs to help move the needle than the members of the Coalition for Outdoor Access, America Outdoors, and the National Forest Recreation Association.

Please join us for this effort!

2023 Outlook for the SOAR Act

The Coalition for Outdoor Access’ highest policy priority is passage of the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act, or SOAR Act. The SOAR Act is the product of more than eight years of collaboration between a broad community of stakeholders and Members of Congress. It would help fix the federal recreational permitting process that creates barriers for people to experience the outdoors. 

In March 2023, the SOAR Act was reintroduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative John Curtis (R-UT) and Representative Joe Neguse (D-CO). The bill, H.R. 1527, is nearly identical to the version introduced in the previous session of Congress. 

In the Senate, the SOAR Act was reintroduced by Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) as S. 1630. The SOAR Act was also included in a larger package of outdoor recreation bills, the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act, or AORA (S. 873). The Senate version of the SOAR Act that was included in AORA contains several significant improvements over the previous versions of the SOAR Act. You can learn more about the changes in this slide deck.

AORA unanimously passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee in May 2023 and awaits action by the full Senate. Meanwhile, the House Natural Resources Committee intends to pass their own package of outdoor recreation bills in the fall of 2023, including the SOAR Act. 

The Coalition for Outdoor Access supports the Senate version of the SOAR Act that is included in AORA, and continues to work with our champions in the House and Senate to advance the AORA language. We anticipate that the most likely vehicle for passage of the SOAR Act is through passage of AORA, and eventual reconciliation with the House. We’ll keep you updated as this process continues. 

AORA Passes Senate Committee

The Coalition for Outdoor Access is excited to share that our top legislative priority, the Simplifying Outdoor Access for Recreation Act (SOAR Act), unanimously passed out of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. This bill will improve the federal recreational permitting process for outfitters, educational organizations, and community groups to access public land. The SOAR Act was included in a larger package of outdoor recreation bills, the America’s Outdoor Recreation Act (AORA), S. 873.

On May 17, 2023, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a markup of AORA and 18 other public lands, recreation, and energy bills. AORA passed out of the Committee by a voice vote, and will now move to the Senate floor for full consideration. The bipartisan bill was celebrated by Senators on both sides of the aisle. 

Read more about the markup: