COALITION OF 200+ ORGANIZATIONS CALL ON PRESIDENT-ELECT BIDEN AND VICE PRESIDENT-ELECT HARRIS TO SUPPORT FUNDING FOR PARK ACCESS AND QUALITY IN NEXT STIMULUS

December 16, 2020
Washington, DC

Dear President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris, 

On behalf of the over 200 undersigned organizations representing millions of Americans, we urge you to include an emergency investment of $500 million for local parks in any stimulus or economic recovery package your Administration should put forward.    

During the coronavirus pandemic, the outdoors have taken on a whole new importance. Parks are where we turn for exercise, fresh air, and finding respite from anxiety and grief. But in too many communities, parks are too few and far between, unwelcoming, rundown, or unsafe. Elsewhere, open space is blocked by locked gates and “No Trespassing” signs. 

Just as America’s great outdoors have never been more in demand than they are during the pandemic, the consequences of park inequities—for our health, resilience, and prosperity—have never been more acute. COVID-19 is a wake-up call: the time to address the long-standing gaps in outdoor access and quality has come. As it formulates a plan for relief and recovery, your Administration can lead the way.

Investing $500 million in local parks will have lasting benefits for public health. Scientific research finds that parks, green space, and outdoor activity reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, and improve physical health. During COVID-19, the health benefits of parks are more important than ever, and the effects of park inequities have never been more severe—especially as access to other physical activity opportunities and infrastructure is restricted. Physical activity is one of the most important things a person can do to help curb obesity and weight gain, and lower chances of developing or worsening chronic conditions—all underlying medical conditions that put one at increased risk from COVID-19. Too often our ability to be active is directly linked to our surrounding environment. 

This emergency investment will also allow critical upgrades to our green space infrastructure and help mitigate climate change. Parks improve community health and climate resilience by reducing flooding, absorbing air pollution, and filtering stormwater to keep rivers and lakes cleaner. Green, shady parks also protect people from rising temperatures, and can reduce the deadly “urban heat island effect” by as much as seven degrees.   

Additionally, funding local parks will bolster local economies that have been badly weakened by the pandemic. Local parks are responsible for 1.1 million jobs in the U.S., generating over $166 billion in economic activity. Already this year, 56 percent of parks and recreation agencies have seen their budgets cut, and the National League of Cities found that 71 percent of local governments planned to significantly cut future parks budgets. As the report notes regretfully, “cuts to parks and recreation services in particular will negatively impact economic reopening, as many families rely on local summer camps and programs for affordable childcare and youth enrichment during the summer months that likely will not be available.” Parks need to be a priority, not an afterthought, and our local communities need help. 

A $500 million investment in local parks would meaningfully reduce long-standing park inequities that plague our communities. Today, over 100 million people in the U.S., including 28 million children, do not have a quality park or green space within a 10-minute walk of home. A recent analysis by The Trust for Public Land finds parks serving primarily nonwhite populations are half the size of parks that serve majority white populations and serve five times more people per acre.  

Communities without adequate parks tend to be the same ones that suffer from unemployment, a lack of affordable housing, under-resourced schools, and a shortage of healthy food access. Inequities in these social determinants of health put Black, Hispanic, and Native American people at increased risk of preventable health conditions, many of which increase the risk of contracting and dying from COVID-19.  

An investment in parks for under-resourced communities would be in keeping with the leadership you both have shown for outdoor equity. As a U.S. Senator, Vice-President Elect Harris was the lead sponsor for the Outdoors for All Act and increased investments for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLP). That program, funded through the longstanding Land and Water Conservation Fund, prioritizes shovel-ready park development and acquisition projects that expand outdoor recreation in urban communities lacking parks, engages public-private partnerships, creates jobs, and stimulates local economies.  

An emergency investment of $500 million in local parks through an emergency ORLP program could be immediately put to use at 500 targeted, locally prioritized park sites across the country. The Trust for Public Land estimates we can preserve up to 100,000 at-risk seasonal jobs or create at least 8,000 new jobs, all while generating $1.37 billion in economic activity. By prioritizing projects in communities that have suffered from a history of disinvestment and discriminatory policies, and who have shouldered a disproportionate burden from COVID-19, this funding would represent a big step toward the healthier, more equitable, more resilient future that every American deserves.  

We believe access to the outdoors is a right that belongs to all. As you prepare your stimulus or recovery package that will help the economy, create jobs, invest in critical infrastructure, and address historic inequities, we ask that you include emergency funding for local parks.  

Sincerely,  

National Supporters 

Access Fund 

America Walks 

American Heart Association 

American Hiking Society 

American Planning Association 

American Society of Landscape Architects 

American Trails 

Appalachian Trail Conservancy 

Burton Snowboards 

Children & Nature Network 

City Parks Alliance 

Clean Water Action 

Conservation Lands Foundation 

Great Old Broads for Wilderness 

Hispanic Access Foundation 

KaBOOM! 

Latino Outdoors 

League of Conservation Voters 

National League of Cities 

National Recreation and Park Association 

National Wildlife Federation 

Natural Resources Defense Council 

Outdoor Afro 

Outdoor Industry Association 

Outdoor Recreation Roundtable 

PeopleForBikes 

REI Co-op 

Seed Your Future 

Sierra Club 

Student Conservation Association 

The Trust for Public Land 

The Venture Out Project 

The Wilderness Society 

Vet Voice Foundation 

Winter Wildlands Alliance 

 

Regional and Local Supporters  
 

A Philip Randolph Square Neighborhood Alliance 

ActiveSGV 

Akron Parks Collaborative 

Angler's Covey 

Asian Pacific Islander Forward Movement 

Austin Outside 

Austin Parks Foundation 

Austin Youth River Watch 

Avid4 Adventure 

Bernalillo Community Health Council 

Big City Mountaineers 

Big Reuse 

Blunn Creek Partnership 

Bronx River Alliance 

Brookfield Civic Association 

Brooklyn Parks and Open Spaces Coalition 

Buffalo Bayou Partnership 

Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy 

California Geographic Alliance 

California Invasive Plant Council 

California Mountain Biking Coalition 

California Outdoor Recreation Partnership 

California Park & Recreation Society 

Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood 

Center for Climate Change and Health 

Central Park Conservancy 

Charles River Watershed Association 

Charleston Parks Conservancy 

Chelsea Waterside Park Association 

Circuit Trail Conservancy 

City of Cripple Creek 

City of Gilroy California Parks & Recreation Commission   

City Parks Foundation 

ClimatePlan 

Community Nature Connection 

Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association 

Coney Island Beautification Project, Inc. 

Conservation Voters New Mexico 

Court Square Civic Association 

Creating Common Ground 

David Brower Center 

Draper Commons LLC 

Drew Gardens 

East New York 4 Gardens Inc 

Edgemere Coalition Community Garden 

Elmhurst Supporters of Parks 

Emerald Necklace Conservancy 

Environmental Defense Center 

Environmental Volunteers 

Fairmount Park Conservancy 

Fresh Creek Nature Association 

Friends of 4 Parks Alliance 

Friends of Allley Pond Park 

Friends of Art Park Alliance 

Friends of Astoria Heights Park 

Friends of Bushwick Inlet Park 

Friends of Carroll Park 

Friends of Corlears Hook Park 

Friends of Dallas Parks 

Friends of Elton and Linwood Playgrounds 

Friends of Governors Island 

Friends of Inwood Hill Park 

Friends of Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens 

Friends of MacDonald Park 

Friends of Mill Ridge Park 

Friends of Pelham Bay Park 

Friends of St. Andrew's Playground 

Friends of the East River Esplanade` 

Friends of the High Line 

Friends of the Los Angeles River 

Friends of the Public Garden 

Friends of Valle de Oro National Wildlife Refuge 

Friends of Waterfront Seattle 

Front Range Climbing Company 

Georgia Outdoor Recreation Coalition 

Georgia Trails Alliance 

Get Outdoors Nevada 

Girl Scouts of Greater New York 

Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy 

Great Rivers Greenway 

Great Springs Project 

Green Map System 

Groundwork Richmond 

GrowNYC 

HerpDigest 

Hike for Life 

Historic House Trust of New York City 

Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival 

Hoosier Environmental Council 

Houston Parks Board 

Hunters Point Parks Conservancy 

Hutchinson River Restoration Project 

Inclusion Outdoors 

Jacob H. Schiff Playground Neighborhood Association 

Kelly Street Garden 

Klamath County 

Leʻalani S. Boykin Consulting 

Lewis H. Latimer House 

Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc. 

Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust 

Los Angeles Parks Foundation 

Los Padres Forest Watch 

Louisville Parks Foundation 

Loving The Bronx 

Lowelifes Respectable Citizens' Club 

Lower East Side Ecology Center 

Marcus Garvey Park Alliance 

Memphis River Parks Partnership 

Mile High Youth Corps 

Millennium Prevention, Inc. 

Milton Garden Club 

Minneapolis Parks Foundation 

Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz 

National Association for Olmsted Parks 

NatureLegacies 

New York Building Congress 

New York League of Conservation Voters 

New York Restoration Project (NYRP) 

New Yorkers for Parks 

Newport Bay Conservancy 

Newtown Creek Alliance 

NYC Audubon 

Oakland Parks and Recreation Foundation 

Old Stone House & Washington Park 

Olympia Parks, Arts, and Recreation 

Outdoor Advocacy Project 

Outdoor Outreach 

Parent Child Relationship Association 

Park Pride 

Pease Park Conservancy 

Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society 

Phoenix Zones Initiative 

Pike Peaks Climbers Alliance 

Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance 

Pistil Designs 

Pogo Park 

Portland Parks Conservancy 

Randall's Island Park Alliance 

Red Hook Conservancy 

River Heritage Conservancy, Inc. 

Rockaway Initiative for Sustainability and Equity (RISE) 

Rocktown Adventures 

Rocky Mountain Field Institute (RMFI) 

Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy 

San Diego Mountain Biking Association 

San Jose Parks Foundation 

Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association 

St. Andrew's Playground 

Tahoe Mountain Sports 

Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District 

The Bronx is Blooming 

The New York Turtle & Tortoise Society 

The Trail Foundation 

Time Square Alliance 

Trails and Open Space Coalition 

Trinity Park Conservancy 

Upper Green Side 

Van Cortlandt Park Alliance 

Victor Main Street (VMS) Program 

Volunteers for Springfield Park, Inc 

Washington Recreation and Parks Association 

Washington Trails Association 

Waterfront Alliance 

West 80s Neighborhood Association 

WildCare of Western New York 

WOLF School 

Youth Transportation Organization (Yoots)