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Brooke Bragger

Ten ways parks can foster more welcoming communities

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Everybody needs a place to call home, where we feel like we belong and are welcome. But today, too many of our neighbors experience exclusion, isolation, harassment, and even violence on the basis of their identity. 

When we welcome and include everyone who calls America home, we bring out the best in our community, our nation, and ourselves. That’s why we’re proud to be part of Belonging Begins With Us, a national campaign dedicated to fostering a more welcoming nation where everyone feels that they belong, regardless of their background or where they were born.

Parks foster healthier, more equitable, more resilient communities. “Whether on the basketball court, at the neighborhood playground, or out on trail, parks and public lands create opportunities for people to connect with each other and build the inclusive communities we all deserve,” says Trust for Public Land President and CEO Diane Regas. “Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has drawn on the power of parks to foster a more welcoming nation, where everyone feels they belong.”

It's up to all of us to welcome new arrivals in our communities. Want to be part of the change? Here are some ideas about how our friends and neighbors are using parks to build stronger bonds with neighbors. We hope these stores inspire you to take action!

1. Dig in at a community garden.
Meet the small but mighty group of volunteers grow food for neighbors in need at this Connecticut open space: 400 years old, a Connecticut farm still feeds the hungry

2. Host a pop-up park photo booth.
In Tennessee, a photographer helped frame a new way of welcoming families to their neighborhood park: Family photo day in Chattanooga park: “We see you. You belong here.”

3. Throw an outdoor party.  
After a busy harvest season, farmworkers in Wenatchee, Washington, gathered to enjoy the fruits of their labors: Farming community celebrates harvest, with a cherry on top

4. Get your hands dirty.
Pitching in to clean up their shared public space strengthened connections between South Los Angeles neighbors: Meet the Equipo Verde: allies for alleys

5. Take your marks.
Sometimes, all it takes is some friendly competition to bring people together: On these trails, it's not whether you win or lose—it's how you run the race

6. Find your cause.
To save a treasured open space in the fast-growing Portland metro area, one woman brought together neighbors, elected officials, and even her musical idol, Joni Mitchell: Pave paradise? Not on her watch

7. Join a sports league.
New arrivals in this Florida community meet and make friends over twice-weekly games of pickleball: A sport for “athletes of all kinds”

8. Have a socially distanced picnic.
Check out these: Recipes for your next barbecue, from growers we know and love

9. Play pickup soccer.
Read about kids who moved to the U.S. from all corners of the globe getting together each summer to compete in "the beautiful game": In a global city, this tournament is a warm welcome

10. Get organized.
Creating more welcoming communities doesn't happen all by itself. Take a lesson from a professional change-maker: What does a community organizer do?

Trust for Public Land supporters are helping create welcoming shared spaces in communities from coast to coast. Find out more about how parks unite us, and be part of the movement to make sure everyone has a great park close to home.

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