Urban parks advocates from across the country traveled to Washington, DC this spring to lobby members of congress in support of city parks. Some key drivers for legislation throughout the year will include green infrastructure for wet weather management, urban revitalization, jobs, and energy savings.
In addition to meetings with individual representatives, the Alliance for Community Trees and City Parks Alliance combined with Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz (PA-13) to host a congressional briefing about the positive effect of urban greening on property values, infrastructure efficiency, economic growth, and public health.
The group of 60, assembled from cities, nonprofits, and universities, asked representatives to support four specific programs:
1) The Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities Act (H.R. 709): This act was formerly known as UPARR, and is aimed at rehabilitating and improving urban parks to revitalize communities through economic development, improved public health, stronger connections with nature, and reduced crime.
2) USDA-Forest Service Urban and Community Forestry Program (Interior Appropriations): Consistent with the President’s 2012 budget, the group requested $32.4 million in funding for baseline technical, financial, research, and educational services that help thousands of communities in every state assess, manage, and optimize the benefits of trees in urbanized landscapes.
3) Land and Water Conservation Fund (Interior Appropriations): LWCF is a program administered by the National Park Service that is funded through receipts from offshore oil and gas leases, rather than taxpayer money. Consistent with the President’s 2012 budget, park advocates asked for $900 million in funding, including $200 million for state and local matching and competitive grants.
4) America’s Great Outdoors: The basis for a 21st century conservation agenda, AGO listening sessions engaged 10,000 citizens across the country and formed a goal to “create and enhance a new generation of safe, clean, accessible parks and community green spaces” through strategic urban initiatives. Funding would come from LWCF.
The message brought to congress was timely and important, but actions, as always, speak louder than words. As such, the briefing was followed by a celebratory tree planting a few blocks from Congress near Union Station. Continued backing by a strong coalition with a potent message can only help improve the prospects for this year’s legislation, which we hope will flourish along with the newly planted saplings.