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Giving thanks for our city parks

It’s the busiest travel day of the year as I write this, and I’m looking out from my window at the Trust for Public Land offices in Boston over the historic Granary Burying Ground and its amazing canopy of trees which is a historic park and a very popular tourist destination in its own right. I can see people walking along the paths, looking for final resting places of John Hancock, Sam Adams and Paul Revere.  At some point, we’ll hear tour guides in colonial dress talking about the site and its place in history.  It’s great to have a window seat overlooking a city park, given my work at the Trust for Public Land.

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2017 has been filled with highs and lows, but I’m thankful for my job – researching trends, best practices and the many ways that park agencies continue to care for our urban park systems. Since late September, we have been conducting our annual city parks survey which provides the data for creation of our two big annual “publications” – City Park Facts – an almanac of the parks systems of the 100 largest U.S. cities as well as the ParkScore Index , a ranking of the park systems of those same 100 largest U.S. cities.

For the first time this year, we’re surveying several hundred non-profit park foundations and conservancies that work hand in hand with the city, county, state and federal agencies that operate, maintain and program our 2 million acres of parks in our 100 largest cities. For the nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population that lives in those cities, parks are both natural refuges as well as playgrounds for 60 million people who live in those 100 largest cities, as well as millions more in the communities that surround them.

It takes a lot of work to keep our parks and public spaces in good working order. And, a string of natural disasters have challenged our parks agencies in a number of communities for sure. Severe wind, rain and flooding have knocked parks, trails and indoor facilities out of commission for weeks and months.  Park agency employees have lost cars, their homes, and personal possessions. Tons of debris and silt have clogged waterways and linear parks with flooding. National parks, preserves and forests in Florida and Puerto Rico have been severely damaged. And then, there is the cycle of drought and flood that parts of the U.S. experience with seasonal regularity, often resulting in the loss of homes, loved ones and beloved public spaces.

That said, we as a country continue to rise to the challenge and look for ways to donate, volunteer and vote for our parks. As Adrian Benepe, SVP at the Trust for Public Land noted in a recent Huff Post piece, voters in 26 communities approved $1.5 B in bonds for parks and conservation in November elections. In both Houston and south Florida, people contributed to funds to help park staff who lost their homes and possessions with donations – over $95,000 raised in Houston and thousands raised for National Park Service staff in south Florida and the keys.

In addition, many Americans contribute their time (16.4 million hours donated to the 100 largest U.S. city parks systems in 2016 alone), and donate funds to both public and non-profit parks agencies. Here’s two things you can do for your own parks over the next week.

First, while the day after Thanksgiving is usually known as Black Friday (when the holiday shopping season begins officially) is also known as #OptOutside day, begun by REI three years ago when they decided to close all of their stores and give their employees a day off. I am planning on going on a hike, myself, but it can be any activity and if the weather is cooperating where you live, you should too!  Bring your family, friends, dogs. Take photos. Tell others. (My helpful tip – bring a trash bag and pick up any trash or recycleables that you find along the way.)

The second day is next Tuesday, November 28, as known as #GivingTuesday. Started by the 92nd Street YMCA in NYC, it is a global day of giving, with many parks and environmental non-profit organizations participating.  Please consider a donation to The Trust for Public Land and the City Parks Alliance (the two parks non-profits that bring you this blog) as well as the many great parks foundations and conservancies doing work in our cities and communities across the US. They need your help more than ever.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your parks!

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The author (Charlie) and one of his hiking partners (foster dog Remy)

Introducing ParkServe

In coordination with the launch of the 10-minute walk to a park campaign, The Trust for Public Land is pleased to introduce ParkServe.  You need to check it out: http://parkserve.org.

Parksserve home page

This is the main ParkServe page.  Just type in the name of your city, town or community and if we have it mapped, we’ll show you results.

The Trust for Public Land’s ParkServe® builds on the success of ParkScore®, taking the measure of 10-minute walk park accessibility to cities and towns across America. Upon completion of phase one in the spring of 2018, the first-of-its-kind ParkServe® platform will include the locations and 10-minute walk service areas for all parks, playgrounds and natural areas offering public recreational opportunities in 13,931 cities, towns, and communities in the US. The release on October 10, 2017 includes data for 7,691 cities, towns and communities, covering 67% of the US population.

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We searched for Arlington, MA which is next door to Boston and Cambridge MA.  This is the top half of the results page.

The ParkServe® platform enables The Trust for Public Land and our partners with tools to determine where to site future parks with an emphasis on focusing resources in underserved neighborhoods. The platform provides information about park systems and the associated percentage of city, town and community residents within a 10-minute walk of a park. This percentage is also further broken down through several demographic lenses: race/ethnicity, age, and income. Lastly, the ParkEvaluator™ is built into the ParkServe® platform, which gives users the ability to draw in a potential park on a map and immediately see the population within a 10-minute walk. For each city, town, and community, the ParkServe® team has identified optimal potential park sites, which show approximate locations where parks would have the biggest impact on the number of people served.

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This is the bottom half of the results at a glance page for Arlington, MA in ParkServe.

The ParkServe® platform is a powerful resource for The Trust for Public Land and our partners to make sure our collective park resources are going into the places where parks are needed the most. In the second phase of ParkServe®, the team plans to build out the database to include information on park amenities, park quality, and park usage, as well as information on how well each park is providing green infrastructure and public health benefits. We will also be creating more applications for planners and community members to use for planning and capturing community-generated data. We would love your support so stay tuned for these exciting advancements!

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You’ll see this expanded map and detailed results if you click on the “explore and map parks” orange button.

A special thank you to ESRI, Mindshare Labs Inc., TRW GeoServices Company, Async GIS, Blue Raster LLC, USGS, Unique Places LLC, Rocky Mountain Wild and Patricia Jenkins for making this work possible.

arlington-demos

Here’s the demographics you’ll see for each city, town or community (as well as Ethnicity

Frontline Park: Western Gateway Park

WGPthmbEach month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. This month, City Parks Alliance has named Western Gateway Park a Frontline Park.  Continue reading

Please take our ParkScore survey

Do you have a few minutes?

Can you take our ParkScore survey?

The Trust for Public Land has produced ParkScore for the last six years and we’re looking for feedback as well as informing it’s future directions.  Please take a few minutes and complete our survey – and thank you!

ParkScore badges_Instagram_2017_1 Minneapolis

ParkScore badges_Instagram_2017_2 St. Paul

And if you’re unaware of ParkScore, please check it out. The Trust for Public Land puts out an annual ranking of park systems of the 100 largest US cities.

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Let’s Pass a Law to Fund Urban Greenspaces

By Nanette Barragán (D-San Pedro)

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There’s nothing like greenspace for improving our quality of life.

Unfortunately, too many families and children are denied access to a neighborhood park. They may also lack recreational facilities like basketball courts.

Greenspaces and outdoor recreation aren’t luxuries. The most livable cities are dotted by parks, and they return countless health and economic benefits. Recreation brings out people from across the community. Urban open spaces make areas more appealing to live and invest in.

Continue reading