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The WPA & City Parks

Marker in Reverchon Park, Dallas

Marker in Reverchon Park, Dallas

With Congress considering a stimulus bill that included a last minute amendment to prohibit “community parks” from receiving any funds, we thought it would be interesting to review some of the news coming from around the country highlighting the federal funding that went towards city parks during the Great Depression.

The Works Progress Administration was the federal agency in the 1930s that employed more than eight million people around the country, with the purpose of putting them to work and creating jobs. Many of the projects undertaken by the WPA helped create, rehabilitate, or improve city parks, and newspapers around the country are mentioning those projects today as the country considers a large stimulus package. Here’s a sampling:

  • The Dallas Morning News reports that the city’s parks benefited greatly from WPA projects, and that most parks were touched in one way or another. Workers built pavilions, picnic shelters, playgrounds, foot bridges, trails, comfort stations and recreational buildings.
  • MinnPost reports the Minneapolis Park Board was a major recipient of WPA funds, and that the “labor-intensive improvements at park and parkway sites provided a good fit for the federal program, with its emphasis on small-scale construction projects that could be implemented quickly…….Seventy five years later, many of these improvements are still in place at sites such as Minnehaha Park, Theodore Wirth Park and Victory Memorial Drive.
  • The Sioux City, Iowa Journal reports that the WPA undertook several projects in city parks, including park shelters in the city’s Stone Park, a bandshell in Grandview Park, improvements at four other parks and a swimming pool.
  • Business First of Columbus, Ohio notes that residents still can see the lasting legacy of the WPA’s projects in the area, including a caretaker’s cottage and improvements to the city’s 24-acre Schiller Park.

In addition, other WPA projects include New Orleans’ botanical garden in City Park, the rehabilitation and improvement of many parks in New York City, the development of Lincoln, Nebraska’s Pioneers Park, programs and projects in Seattle’s parks, and many more projects that would require weeks of research to locate and tally.

Parks were one of the key areas where money could be allocated to create jobs and improve the public infrastructure of the country at the same time. That seems to meet the goals any stimulus package is meant to deliver today as well.

One Response

  1. […] cut out were directly related to people doing work, and job creation. (They certainly did so in the 1930s WPA.) Most people would probably say that parks are “green,” especially if money is spent […]

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