City parks and green spaces play a vital role in the social, economic, and physical well-being of America’s cities and their residents. They provide access to recreational opportunities, improve physical and mental health, spur local economies, facilitate social cohesion, improve safety, mitigate storm water runoff, and provide protection from heat islands and other environmental threats.
The COVID-19 pandemic increased recognition of the crucial role that parks and green spaces play as they provide an outlet from the stress of indoor confinement. However, parks and green spaces are not equitably distributed across cities. Low-income communities and communities of color experience a range of negative effects from disinvestment, including the availability of quality parks. Green infrastructure is particularly needed in low-income neighborhoods and communities of color, which—due to historic housing discrimination and residential segregation—often are located in flood-prone areas; are exposed to disproportionately higher heat levels; air pollution and other environmental risks; and have fewer resources to prepare for and recover from extreme weather events and climate change.
We are looking for an organization to create a plan for a national initiative that would increase equitable access to parks and green spaces in small and midsize cities across the country. This is not a call for proposals for individual cities to participate in a program. Our goal is to ensure that the initiative will catalyze community led parks and green spaces, support more equitable funding and access to parks and green space, lead to park and green space features and programming that are inclusive, and advance climate resiliency in places disproportionately burdened by climate risks.