Trust for Public Land Celebrates 50 Years of Connecting Everyone to the Outdoors

In honor of Trust for Public Land’s 50th anniversary of preserving and enhancing the outdoor places that fuel collective health and represent our nation’s rich array of lived experiences, the organization is embarking on a year of community investments and impact.

TPL will host a gathering at Cipriani 25 Broadway in Manhattan, transforming the space into an outdoor oasis indoors, to recognize several organizations for their contributions to closing the outdoor equity gap and renew its commitment to connecting everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. TPL is honoring its 50-year legacy by addressing the national outdoor equity gap, prioritizing strong partnerships with Indigenous communities, and preserving sites that represent Black history and culture to ensure our nationally protected outdoor places tell the full American story.

With 100 million people, including 28 million children, lacking a park or green space within a 10-minute walk from home, there is much work to be done to close this significant access gap in America. The disparities are worse for people of color and low-income communities, which is why, in the U.S., zip code is often a better indicator of public health and lifespan than genetic code.

“From protecting vast stretches of open space to revamping schoolyards, trails, and parks, TPL has always strived for equity, inclusion, and access for everyone,” said Diane Regas, president and CEO of Trust for Public Land. “In 2023, we will reflect on our organization’s first 50 years of impact while looking ahead to the important work still to be done. At this exciting 50-year milestone, we are doubling down on our work to foster connected, healthy communities through access to nature.”

The Baird family has been selected as the recipient of Trust or Public Land’s Golden Compass Award for Leadership in recognition of the impact and lasting legacy they have imparted on TPL’s mission through an extraordinary history of support. Members of the family were instrumental in the creation of the Bloomingdale Trail at The 606 Chicago, funders of trail creation in Aspen, Colorado, and most recently, leaders in the successful passing of the Cook County Forest Preserves referendum. They have also been crucial advisors and advocates for the important role that parks play in communities nationwide on members of TPL’s National Board of Directors.

The TPL People’s Champion Awards recognize the indispensable role a community leader, local organization, or community partner has made to ensure that a shared vision for public lands and spaces is achieved. Awardees will receive a $10,000 grant from TPL’s Equitable Communities Fund to support their efforts in connecting everyone to the outdoors in their communities.

TPL is recognizing two organizations, Mantua Civic Association (MCA) and United Parks As One (UPO), and the roles they have played in creating public spaces that address community needs. In the Mantua neighborhood of West Philadelphia, MCA uses the 37th and Mt. Vernon Playground as an anchor in the community. Since completion of the park in 2017, MCA has utilized the space as a platform for food distribution, voter information, and community engagement. UPO was founded in 2011 through the collaboration of dedicated Newark community leaders who saw a need for a community-led, collaborative effort that could help create, steward, and activate open spaces in Newark communities. UPO has become a leader in the areas of park stewardship, programming, and community engagement in the city. In partnership with TPL and the City of Newark, it offers the ten-week Park Rangers Summer Environmental Enrichment Program to provide Newark youth with job skills and increase their awareness of environmental issues, their community, and themselves.

“Trust for Public Land is proud to support these two incredible organizations and honor the work they’ve done and will continue to do to improve quality of life for all residents through creating space and opportunities for communities to organize, learn, play, and thrive,” added Regas.

Reflecting on 50 years of Impact

In the early years of TPL, most of the work was focused on the San Francisco Bay Area—the organization was instrumental in the creation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the largest urban parks in the world. TPL proudly partnered with the Black Panthers to acquire dozens of vacant properties and transform them into miniparks, gardens, and playgrounds. That work evolved into the Urban Land program, which spread across the country to New York, where we transformed hundreds of vacant lots into community gardens. This helped to “unpave” the way to even more ambitious efforts, like our Community Schoolyards™ program where TPL incorporates featured elements designed by students into each transformed schoolyard, empowering young people and giving them a sense of ownership over these spaces.

TPL’s 50 years of impact can also be seen and experienced in iconic national treasures such as Zion, Yosemite, and Saguaro National Parks and along our National Scenic Trails, including the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, and Ala Kahakai. TPL has helped to conserve more than a dozen sites of significance that represent Black history and culture—including the childhood neighborhood of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Atlanta, now a National Historic Park.

The organization has forged strong partnerships with Indigenous communities, helping to protect or return more than 200,000 acres of ancestral lands, including Alakoko Fishpond on the island of Kaua‘i, and Kashia Coastal Reserve on Northern California’s legendary coastline. TPL is also in the process of revitalizing schoolyards on tribal lands in places like Chiloquin, in Klamath County, Oregon, to both serve as dynamic playgrounds for students and as gathering spaces for the community.

TPL has also worked hand in hand with communities to create cherished neighborhood parks like Cook Park in Atlanta’s historic Vine City district, Boeddecker Park in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, the vibrant Midway Peace Park in St. Paul, Minnesota, as well as the series of parks along Five Mile Creek Urban Greenbelt in Dallas, Texas.

All told, TPL has worked with local, state, and national partners to preserve nearly 4 million acres and create or enhance more than 5,364 community parks, putting quality green space within a 10-minute walk of nearly 9.4 million people.

“I couldn’t be more excited and honored to host the kickoff celebration for TPL’s anniversary year in New York City,” said Carter Strickland, VP Mid-Atlantic and New York State Director. New York has been a proving ground for so much of Trust for Public Land’s nationwide impact. We’ve connected 5.3 million people to a park within a 10-minute walk of home, preserved 124,000 acres that are now available for public enjoyment, including the only stretch of the Appalachian Trail accessible by train, and have transformed 225 schoolyards. Community residents, park advocates, and of course our governmental leaders are key to creating quality park space, and we’re thrilled we’ll be joined with so many of our partners at our kickoff event.”

TPL is proud to recognize the sponsors for this event, CITI, Steve and Sue Baird, Jim and Kitty Mann, and The Durst Organization. Trust for Public Land will be hosting community events and celebrations throughout 2023 across the U.S. To learn more about the organization’s 50-year impact and for information about events in your community, visit tpl.org.

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About Trust for Public Land

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,364 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $93 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.4 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org.