In the federal budget battle, cuts to park funding might not be obvious
All eyes are on Washington, D. C., this week in anticipation of the release of a first draft of the federal budget.
Early reports hint at deep cuts to critical conservation programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the lifeblood for parks and open space in America for more than 50 years. And there’s even more on the line for the land we love: budget decisions in a surprising range of other policy areas—such as housing, transportation, and even the arts—can impact the places we go to get outdoors.
Here are just a few of the programs we’ll be keeping an eye on as negotiations get underway on Capitol Hill—along with real examples of the parks and open spaces they’ve helped create and protect across the country.
Department of Transportation
Department of Transportation grants that reduce highway congestion and improve air quality sometimes do so by funding greenways, like The 606 in Chicago. Since its opening in June 2015, the park and trail system has become an outdoor mainstay for the Windy City, welcoming an average of 6,000 people a day. Many of them use the greenway—once an elevated rail line—to bike or walk to work and school instead of driving.
National Endowment for the Arts
Today, one in five residents of Aurora, Colorado, was born outside of the United States—a sign of the community’s history as an entry point for refugees and immigrants from around the world. The Trust for Public Land is helping the community expand and revitalize Nome Park on the city’s north side. Local artist Reven Swanson is collaborating with neighbors, community groups, and students and teachers from nearby Central High School to reimagine the park as a place of reflection, hope, community, and calm. Swanson’s custom artwork for the park was made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Superstorm Sandy crippled New York City in 2012. As part of the recovery, The Trust for Public Land is working with the city to plan, design, and build parks that will guard homes and businesses against stronger storms and rising sea levels. With a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, our GIS experts created a digital tool to help urban planners and policymakers determine where investment in “green infrastructure” will have the greatest impact.
Environmental Protection Agency
Parks often play a role in the Environmental Protection Agency’s strategies to ensure communities have clean air and water. In Bozeman, Montana, the East Gallatin River flows through a former industrial property that The Trust for Public Land helped purchase for the future Story Mill Community Park. A grant from the EPA helped restore the wetlands that act as a natural filtration system to keep water clean—and provide a place for outdoor education and recreation.
Housing and Urban Development
Newark’s growth and prosperity has always been closely linked to the Passaic River—but until recently, many residents were completely cut off from the waterfront. A grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program helped support the creation of Newark Riverfront Park, a game-changer in a part of the city where green space is hard to come by. Today the park hosts festivals and performances, yoga classes, chess, hip hop, and walking and boat tours: it’s a example of how one park can impact the health and vibrancy of a whole community.
It’s a long road to a final federal budget: we expect much deliberation in Congress in the months to come. That means that if you value open space in your community, you’ve got an opportunity to make your voice heard. Stay tuned to The Trust for Public Land’s Facebook page for opportunities to contact your elected officials about defending the many programs that make parks possible.