CEQ Chair Brenda Mallory, Congresswoman Strickland Visit Tacoma Green Schoolyard

Today, the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), Brenda Mallory and Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (WA-10), will visit Jennie Reed Elementary to tour the future green schoolyard. This schoolyard, to be renovated by Tacoma Public Schools, The Trust for Public Land and MetroParks Tacoma, will offer students and the surrounding community safe, close-to-home green space.

“Tacoma has the largest park access gap in the state of Washington and our Schoolyards program, starting here at Jennie Reed Elementary, can help bring green space to within a 10-minute walk of more than 40,000 residents across the city,” said David Patton, Northwest Area Director for The Trust for Public Land. “We’re thrilled that Chair Mallory and Congresswoman Strickland are able to visit the schoolyard and hope this project can inspire municipalities across the country to engage in similar efforts.”

In 2020, The Trust for Public Land partnered with MetroParks Tacoma and Tacoma Public Schools to pilot a green schoolyards program to benefit Tacoma’s eastside neighborhoods. The Trust for Public Land is also working with researchers from the University of Washington and Seattle Childrens Hospital to quantify the impacts that schoolyard greening has on issues of academic performance, social cohesion, and behavior in schools, as well as a community audit on physical and perceptual barriers to access between community members and the new schoolyard sites.

In Washington, Tacoma has the greatest potential to improve 10-minute walk access by advancing green schoolyard projects. If all Tacoma public schools are open, accessible and activated, 10-minute walk access would increase citywide from 69 percent to 88 percent.

“We know that the impacts of the climate crisis are felt more acutely by low-income communities and communities of color,” said Chair Mallory. “As part of our efforts to reduce these impacts, we must take steps to create safe outdoor opportunities in nature-deprived communities, while increasing outdoor recreation access. Projects like those happening here at the Reed Elementary Green Schoolyard embody the principles of the American the Beautiful Initiative and are examples of the types of partnerships we need to increase greenspaces in a just and equitable way for all.”

The CEQ Chair will hear directly from student designers about why their new Community Schoolyard will help address some of the biggest environmental issues facing their community. Reducing inequitable access to parks and greenspaces is a key focus area of President Biden’s America the Beautiful Initiative, a locally-led, nationally-scaled effort to conserve and restore at least 30 percent of our nation’s lands and waters by 2030. Chair Mallory serves as the chair of the America the Beautiful Interagency Working Group.

“Sustainable infrastructure like the green schoolyards project at Reed Elementary can help students thrive, address environmental justice, and make lasting improvements in our communities. I applaud the Trust for Public Land, MetroParks Tacoma, and Tacoma Public Schools for their efforts, and look forward to working with CEQ Chair Mallory, the Biden Administration and community partners to increase green spaces in our underserved neighborhoods,” said Congresswoman Strickland.

“We live in one of the most beautiful regions on the entire planet, yet far too many folks, including a lot of young people, don’t have adequate access to green spaces in their neighborhoods,” said Rep. Kilmer. “That’s why I’m proud to be partnering with the Biden Administration and Rep. Strickland to continue to support projects like the Reed Elementary Green Schoolyard – which aims to increase green space access for kids and adults alike in Tacoma. Programs like the Tacoma Green Schoolyards program and the American the Beautiful Initiative will help more people have access to the parks and green spaces that are important to our physical and mental well-being — and to our communities.”

Jennie Reed is one of two Tacoma schoolyards that The Trust for Public Land is helping to renovate this year, and four more are set to begin next year. The school enrolls 450 students and will bring a high-quality park within a 10-minute walk of 644 nearby residents in South End Tacoma. New green infrastructure put in place at Jennie Reed—trees, rain gardens, and bioswales—is designed to prevent flooding of the playground area and the soft, natural surfaces will greatly improve acoustic conditions and air quality on the school grounds to combat their close proximity to Interstate 5.

“Access to play spaces and nature is important for kids. It impacts their emotional health, their physical health, and their overall academic outcomes,” said Dr. Josh Garcia, Superintendent of the Tacoma Public Schools. “This Green Schoolyards partnership is yet another example of how Tacoma comes together for our kids, and for our community. Together we are better.”

The Trust for Public Land is working across the country to transform vacant schoolyards into community havens. In a recently-published report, “Community Schoolyards® Projects: A Game-Changing Solution to America’s Park Equity Problem,” The Trust for Public Land details how transforming underused asphalt schoolyards into vibrant public parks that stay open to neighbors after school and on weekends brings significant health, equity, and education benefits to students and communities. With over 90,000 U.S. public schools across 2 million acres of land, there is tremendous potential for closing the park access gap. Notably, The Trust for Public Land’s analysis found that opening all public schools to local communities during non-school hours would give nearly 20 million additional people in the U.S., including 5.2 million children, access to park space within a 10-minute walk of their home.

Parks are an essential part of improving public health, protecting vulnerable communities from the impacts of the climate crisis, and building strong community cohesion. Yet, nationally, 100 million people, including 28 million kids, do not have access to a quality park within a 10-minute walk from home. Closing this gap is a core tenant of the Administration’s America the Beautiful initiative, which is led by Chair Mallory.

The Trust for Public Land released a groundbreaking report detailing significant inequities in park space and distribution. Across the 100 most populous U.S. cities, residents of neighborhoods where the majority of people identify as Black, Hispanic and Latinx, Indigenous and Native American, or Asian American and Pacific Islander have access to an average of 44 percent less park space per capita than residents of neighborhoods that are majority white. Residents of low-income neighborhoods have access to 42 percent less park space than residents of high-income neighborhoods. Community schoolyards are a critical tool to close this gap.

About The Trust for Public Land 

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.