PA Mayors Petition State Congressional Delegation for $500 Million Investment in Local Parks

June 30, 2021
Harrisburg, PA

More than a dozen Pennsylvania mayors joined The Trust for Public Land, and a coalition of more than 300 nonprofits, community groups, and companies calling for a $500 million investment in local parks to address access equity in urban communities.  

“Parks add value to cities,” said City of Altoona Mayor, Matt Pacifico. “There are economic, environmental, community and public health benefits that parks provide, but they also increase the livability and vibrancy of our cities. I hope that Congress recognizes the importance of these critical amenities and invests in local parks and recreation as part of any infrastructure package that moves forward.” 

The coalition is pushing for Congress to pass the Parks, Jobs and Equity Act within the American Jobs Plan, which would create an estimated 8,000 jobs and $1.37 billion in economic activity if enacted. The policy would fund more than 1,000 new or upgraded parks, providing health and climate benefits to urban communities that disproportionately have lower access to local parks and green spaces.  

“Parks and open spaces proved vital to our personal and community well-being during the pandemic,” said City of Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace. “Where there were amenities, they were appreciated.  When absent, it was more acutely affected.  Continued investment matters.  Playing, finding rest under a shade tree, connecting with nature – this is what we are advocating for.” 

The call for the investment in local parks follows a dramatic increase in park use during the COVID-19 pandemic, which exposed the inequity of park access across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. During the pandemic, 9 in 10 Pennsylvanians reported participating in some outdoor recreation activity in the past year, however our cities face shortages in providing close-to-home access to high quality outdoor and recreational spaces. Nearly half of all Pennsylvanians lack close to home outdoor recreation access within a 10-minute walk of their home. 

“We’ve seen over the past year just how valuable parks and nature are to the mental and physical well-being of our residents and this legislation would fund new park projects to give more people access to these spaces,” said Owen Franklin, Pennsylvania State Director for The Trust for Public Land. “Creating safe and accessible outdoor spaces for all is not only the right thing to do, but it builds healthier and more climate resilient communities.” 

Research shows that investing in green space helps mitigate climate change and the deadly “urban heat island effect” that disproportionately affects low-income communities. Parks improve community health and climate resilience by reducing flooding, absorbing air pollution, and filtering storm water to keep rivers and lakes cleaner. Parks, green space, and outdoor activity reduce anxiety, stress, and depression, and improve physical health. 

DCNR, which manages state parks and provides grants for expanding local recreation opportunities, has reported a 26 percent increase in park visitors year-over-year in 2020. Midway through 2021, park usage continues to show growth over 2020’s record numbers. 

“We are pleased see to the increase in visitors at our parks and we recognize the need to expand access to parks in Pennsylvania cities where there are fewer recreation opportunities and green spaces,” said Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “This proposal addresses our most pressing immediate needs and lays a foundation for continued growth, improving environmental conditions in urban areas, and helping promote positive physical and mental health.” 

Federal funding provides parks with resources to plan, acquire land, create education opportunities, purchase capital, sponsor new programming and more, which would expand Pennsylvania’s existing outdoor economy. Outdoor recreation in Pennsylvania annually provides $29.1 billion in consumer spending, 251,000 direct jobs, $8.6 billion in wages and salaries, and $1.9 billion in state and local tax revenue. 

Click here to read the full letter to the Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation. 

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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 near 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