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City Park Facts 2018: the impact of park partners – nonprofits and volunteers

<This is an excerpt from City Park Facts 2018: the year in parks, focusing on parks non-profits and volunteers and the incredible role they play in our 100 largest U. S. cities. You can download your copy of City Park Facts from www.tpl.org/10minutewalk >

Park partners: nonprofits and volunteers

One way to ease funding pressures on agencies and add more money into the mix is through private and philanthropic dollars. While past editions of City Park Facts reported on a select group of parks conservancies, this year’s report includes a more robust depiction of the role these groups play. We identified more than 160 nonprofits in the 100 largest cities, and collected data to determine just how big a factor these groups are in urban park systems.

For the purpose of this report, nonprofit park organizations are those qualifying under
section 501(c)3 of the federal tax code. These organizations can be citywide advocacy or partnership organizations, or be focused on a specific park or group of parks. These
groups are often called “conservancies” or “friends of” groups. They typically
have a working relationship with one or more public park agencies and contribute
funding, volunteers, and advocacy to their park systems. Outside the larger cities, park
nonprofits are often small, with a staff of one to two people and a host of volunteers
working to support their efforts.

Over the past year, these groups spent roughly $500 million on public parks in the
largest 100 cities, including on programming, capital improvements, maintenance, and
operations. As a result, contributions by these nonprofit partners made up 6.2 percent of
the total spending on parks and recreation in the past year. Furthermore, an additional
$433 million in value was contributed in volunteer time to both public and nonprofit
parks agencies in the past year. With public and nonprofit dollars combined, a total of just over $8 billion was spent on parks in the most recent fiscal year.

Increasingly, more parks agencies—both public and nonprofit—are working with volunteers to provide recreation programs, support efforts in planting, watering and weeding, and even for assistance in constructing capital projects. Over the past year, nearly 1.1 million volunteers contributed 16.9 million hours in work to the park systems of the 100 largest U.S. cities. Put another way, it is like adding another 8,330 full-time positions to these parks and recreation agencies.

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Buffalo Olmsted Parks, Buffalo, NY

City Park Facts 2018: Spending in the 100 largest cities

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City Park Facts 2018 was released by The Trust for Public Land on August 22, 2018.  Published annually, its an almanac of information on public park systems of the 100 largest U. S. cities.  20 percent (65 million people) of the U. S. population lives in these cities.

The combined public parks agencies reported a total of $7.5 billion in spending, up from the $7.1 billion that we reported in 2017. This trend is likely a result of department budgets being rebuilt slowly as cities recover from the Great Recession of 2008. The median figure that the 100 largest cities spend per resident on parks and recreation is $83, when looking at public and private spending combined, and $82 per person of public agency dollars.

Further, 167 parks non-profits operating in the 100 largest U. S. cities spent an additional $500 million on public park programming, operations, maintenance and improvements.

Combined, over $8 B was spent to manage  22,764 parks covering more than 2.1 million acres inside the 100 largest U. S. cities.

There’s a lot more in this year’s City Park Facts report, including our “year in parks” executive summary, 99 individual city profile pages and all data collected available for download. Download a copy of City Park Facts 2018 at www.tpl.org/10minutewalk

Send us your comments, questions or suggestions at ccpe@tpl.org

The Importance of Public Space

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The following blog from Nelson Beckford, Senior Program Officer, A Strong Neighborhood Saint Luke’s Foundation, was originally published on Let’s Talk Philanthropy: a blog by Philanthropy Ohio.  

By definition, a public space is a social space that is open and accessible to people. Streets, public squares, plazas, parks and beaches are examples of public spaces. These spaces are a social utility or public good because they:

  • Promote democracy, inclusion and social cohesion allowing people from various socio-economic backgrounds to share common ground to celebrate, recreate, to remember, to reflect or protest.
  • Define a city or neighborhood, think Golden Gate Park, Public Square, Washington Square Park – the spaces are reflections of the values, culture and history of a place. Ditto with the simple neighborhood park.
  • Promote active living; when people live close to a park or trail, they walk more.

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These are just a few of reasons that drove the Saint Luke’s Foundation along with Philanthropy Ohio to form the Public Space Community of Practice. The members represent the full spectrum of public space work from funding, research, land disposition, land acquisition, planning, design and programming. The goal of the group is broad but simple: to reflect and learn from the multiple efforts happening in Cleveland around public spaces.

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We opened our first gathering with this check in question: “Public Spaces are important because____.”  From there we did some context setting, framing and highlighted public space efforts happening at various scales and across sectors, from a memorial pocket in honor of a police officer – Derrick Owens – killed in the line of duty, to a large-scale intergenerational playscape. We also gave a sneak preview of the landmark research effort – National Park Study – conducted by City Parks Alliance, the National Institute for Health and the RAND Corporation.

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Stay tuned for more information and/or opt in for one of the few remaining seats available on the Philanthropy Forward ‘17 “Why Parks Matter” learning tour where we will explore parks and public spaces that work and those that could better serve their nearby residents. If you haven’t registered, click here to sign up.

I challenge foundation staff and board to reflect on how our work (regardless of type of funding priorities/focus) touches on or is influenced by public spaces. As a member of society, take a moment to think about the value you, your family or neighbors get from the public spaces. Discuss.

 

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

New Public and Private Funding Strategies for Urban Parks

By Catherine Nagel. Originally published: Meeting of the Minds 

Across the country, urban parks are enjoying a renaissance. Dozens of new parks are being built or restored and cities are being creative about how and where they are located. Space under highways, on old rail infrastructure, reclaimed industrial waterfronts or even landfills are all in play as development pressure on urban land grows along with outdoor recreation needs.

These innovative parks are helping cities face common challenges, from demographic shifts, to global competitiveness to changing climate conditions. Mayors and other city officials are taking a fresh look at parks to improve overall community health and sense of place, strengthen local economies by attracting new investments and creating jobs, help manage storm water run-off,  improve air quality,  and much more. When we think of city parks holistically, accounting for their full role in communities, they become some of the smartest investments we can make. Continue reading