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4 Reasons to #OptOutside and be Thankful for Parks

Parks are where people gather on weekends to relax, exercise, play, and connect with their community. They are where children first experience nature. But beyond their role in recreation and social well-being, city parks also help grow local economies, create new transportation options, combat crime, and reduce environmental impacts such as storm water runoff.

On Black Friday, November 25, REI is suggesting everyone #OptOutside and we agree. Here are a few reasons why we think it’s a great time to give thanks for your local park!

PrintParks Keep Us Healthy
Parks are an ideal place for movement, providing the room needed for running, walking, sports, and other active pursuits, which are all things we need to do to live longer, healthier lives. And to work off that Thanksgiving dinner.

Parks Keep Our Air and Water Clean
In addition to creating a habitat for urban wildlife, tree cover in parks improve the air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and pollutants. And a park’s green infrastructure — like vegetation and grassy areas— helps clean our water by capturing and filtering stormwater runoff.

PrintParks Improve Economies
It’s no secret that people love living near parks. Not only do parks raise property values, a good park system spurs local investment and can attract a better workforce by offering an excellent quality of life.

Parks Bring Communities Together
Parks can connect individuals of all ages and backgrounds by providing a space for them to meet and get to know each other. They’re a natural meeting space, whether you’re warming up for a group run, playing pickup basketball, or celebrating a neighborhood birthday party.

Interested in learning more? Download our new infographics and make the case for urban parks!

The Neighborhood Park: An Underused Oasis

by Deborah A. Cohen and Catherine J. Nagel

This commentary originally appeared on Parks & Rec Business on November 9, 2016.

In theory, a neighborhood park serves everyone, but the mere presence of a park does not guarantee people will use it. There’s a gender gap and an age gap when it comes to park use, according to a national survey conducted of more than 170 neighborhood parks in 25 U.S. cities, stretching from coast to coast.

The RAND Corporation study released in May analyzed how parks are designed, managed, and used, providing a rare snapshot of these public spaces. The primary goal was to learn how these spaces might encourage people to routinely engage in physical activity—a health behavior that extends life and prevents chronic diseases.

The study determined that park usage is highly dependent upon certain factors: the number of people who live within a mile of a park (leading to greater usage); its size (the larger the park, the more people using it); and the breadth of programming (offering more facilities and supervised programs yielding more users).   Continue reading

City Parks in the News

Catherine Nagel, Executive Director of City Parks Alliance, writes about the need to fund park development and management, the importance of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and thanks Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell for her leadership in supporting urban parks in her latest opinion, For Most Americans, Their Closest Park is a City Park. The piece was published in City Parks Blog and Medium.


The Mayors for Parks coalition recently released a statement inviting Presidential candidates to answer questions about how they plan to support urban parks and recreation. The Clinton campaign responded with an outline of Secretary Clinton’s plan to increase federal investment in urban parks by creating a new American Parks Trust Fund, funding the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR), and providing an additional $10 million annually to AmeriCorps. The Trump campaign has not responded to the coalition’s request.


Next City published 5 Ways U.S. Cities Are Paying for Parks, a piece that highlights some of the innovative ways agencies and communities are paying for the development and management of urban parks. The piece quotes Catherine Nagel, saying “it’s heartening to see how the growing demand for parks is driving innovative approaches to funding.” This article is part of a series of sponsored posts by City Parks Alliance.

Stonewall National Monument

By Molly Anderson and Beth Porter, National Park Service

I believe our national parks should reflect the full story of our country, the richness and diversity and uniquely American spirit that has always defined us – that we are stronger together, that out of many, we are one.

gettyimages-543309146With this statement, on June 24, 2016, President Barack Obama brought Stonewall National Monument into the national park system. For the first time, a national park officially recognizes the struggle that LGBTQ Americans have faced to secure equal rights under the law. Christopher Park, the Stonewall Inn, and the adjacent block of Christopher Street in Greenwich Village received this designation because of the role these locations played in the 1969 LGBTQ rights uprising. This event signified a turning point in the LGBTQ rights movement; a vocal group of activists refused to accept the prevailing societal sentiment that homosexuality was illegal and immoral.   Continue reading

If It Doesn’t Have a Bench, Is It Still a Park?

This article has been adapted from the September 2016 issue of Parks & Recreation Magazine, the official publication of the National Recreation and Park Association. Through its pursuit of key issues, trends, and personalities, the magazine advances American parks, recreation, and conservation efforts. You can read the full-length article here.

This is the first post in a three-part series on park benches. 

Think about the last time you visited a park. What did you do? Did you just pass through, or did you stay a while? Did you bring a book, your dog, a Frisbee? Did you sit down? Or did you want to sit, only to find that your single option was the ground?

In 2013, the city of Norfolk, Virginia removed almost 70 benches from three small city parks. The benches weren’t in disrepair and they weren’t in a bad neighborhood. In fact, they were located in the revitalizing historic community of Ghent, and, if anything, were more than popular. Unfortunately it was the wrong kind of popularity. Following complaints of loitering, drinking, fighting, and even prostitution, the benches vanished.

3-carrying-bench-picture

Norfolk residents Carlton Pillar, left, and Gary Morton bring their own bench to a meeting about removals. Resident complaints had led to benches being taken out, but many others voiced outrage over the lack of seating. Photo credit: Hyunsoo Leo Kim, The Virginian Pilot

Continue reading