Trust for Public Land Unveils Groundbreaking New Report That Spotlights Parks as a Powerful Tool for Combatting Polarization and the “Loneliness Epidemic”
Additionally, a $1 Million Donation from the Walmart Foundation Supports a New Community Parks Pilot Program in Eight Cities Across the Country
San Francisco, CA – Today, Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced the release of a groundbreaking new report, “The Common Ground Framework,” [Report] which emphasizes the pivotal role of parks as catalysts for community-building, social connectedness and civic action. The Report challenges the misperception that parks are mere luxury amenities. Instead, this research positions greenspace as both critical social infrastructure and an effective tool for building a stronger sense of community.
“The Common Ground Framework” provides a visionary blueprint that empowers elected officials, park practitioners, and community advocates to reimagine the potential of their local parks and green spaces. By adopting this framework, communities can transform their parks into inclusive and vibrant social hubs, fostering social connection, bridging divides, and promoting civic engagement.
“Parks have the potential to bring our country together at times when so many forces pull us apart,” says Cary Simmons, TPL’s Director of Community Strategies. “Our communities across the country are facing alarming levels of polarization, social isolation, and loneliness, but our report highlights greenspace solutions that work. By leveraging parks as social infrastructure, we can create beautiful outdoor spaces that bring people together, spark dialogue, and empower residents to get more involved in their communities.”
Following the release of “The Common Ground Framework,” TPL is launching a new pilot program with support from the Walmart Foundation in the following eight cities: Fayetteville, AR; Greeley, CO; Des Moines, IA; Lexington, KY; Baton Rouge, LA; Raleigh, NC; Buffalo, NY; and Cleveland, OH.
These cities will have the opportunity to revitalize their local parks, strengthen community bonds and empower residents to shape their local public spaces. The Walmart Foundation has generously donated more than $1 million in support of a new community parks pilot program, which will support TPL’s collaboration with local stakeholders and communities to implement initiatives at local parks that further the goal of creating vibrant, inclusive spaces for all.
“Community resilience grows when people feel they belong, and physical spaces and in-person interactions are key to fostering social connection and trust,” said Julie Gehrki, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at the Walmart Foundation. “We look forward to learning more about how thriving community parks can lay the foundation for stronger, better-connected communities through Trust for Public Land’s pilot program.”
“We are incredibly grateful for the support of the Walmart Foundation,” continued Simmons TPL’s Director of Community Strategies. “Their generous donation will significantly enhance our efforts to transform parks into vehicles for building greater social connectedness and we look forward to working together to make a lasting impact on communities across the nation.”
Evidence has shown that parks function as shared spaces for people of diverse backgrounds and beliefs to come together to help mend the social divides and isolation that challenges our nation. TPL’s “On Common Ground” initiative is a broad and ambitious research and advocacy strategy, with aims to leverage America’s city parks for their capacity to mitigate the impacts of polarization, social isolation, and discrimination.
TPL is pursuing its advocacy and implementation together with key partners. One such partner is the national non-profit, Welcoming America, whose mission is to support communities building a welcoming society where all people, including immigrants, can fully contribute and shape our shared prosperity.
“Welcoming America is proud to partner with the Trust for Public Land to ensure that our public spaces reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of our communities and create the conditions for all of us to come together as neighbors. When we design our public spaces to be welcoming for everyone — including people with immigrant backgrounds — we create the foundation for healthy communities and a healthy democracy. We look forward to working with TPL on implementing the paper’s findings so that parks and green spaces can continue fostering a sense of belonging for all,” stated Rachel Perić, Executive Director at Welcoming America. “When we invest in the development and upkeep of these spaces, we are investing in the social unity, well-being, and overall quality of life in our communities. Let’s embrace the transformative influence of parks and green spaces as we work towards a more connected and harmonious society.”
Key findings and recommendations from “The Common Ground Framework” include:
Parks are ideal settings for social connection:
- Green spaces serve as inclusive gathering places, fostering a sense of belonging among community members.
- Engaging the community in green space planning strengthens social ties and promotes collaborative decision-making.
- Community-led activities in green spaces facilitate connections and shared experiences among residents.
Parks can help communities bridge divides:
- Green spaces act as neutral ground, bringing together individuals from diverse backgrounds and across social divides.
- Community engagement in green space development encourages cooperation and inclusivity.
- Parks that reflect the identities of diverse user groups, incorporating murals and other cultural elements, promote unity and understanding across lines of difference.
Park engagement is civic engagement:
- Green spaces provide platforms for civic participation and community voice.
- Community engagement in green space initiatives enhances residents’ sense of ownership and empowerment.
- Parks serve as vibrant hubs for community events, workshops, and education, fostering dialogue and civic skill development.
TPL invites individuals and organizations to join in this pivotal movement toward realizing the full potential of parks as social infrastructure. Together, we can create inclusive communities that thrive on the foundation of robust park systems. For more information on “The Common Ground Framework” and TPL’s initiatives, visit www.tpl.org/common-ground.
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.
About Philanthropy at Walmart
Walmart.org represents the philanthropic efforts of Walmart and the Walmart Foundation. By focusing where the business has unique strengths, Walmart.org works to tackle key social and environmental issues and collaborate with others to spark long-lasting systemic change. Walmart has stores in 20 countries, employs more than 2 million associates and does business with thousands of suppliers who, in turn, employ millions of people. Walmart.org is helping people live better by supporting programs to accelerate upward job mobility for frontline workers, advance equity, address hunger, build inclusive economic opportunity for people in supply chains, protect and restore nature, reduce waste and emissions, and build strong communities where Walmart operates. To learn more, visit www.walmart.org or connect on Twitter @Walmartorg.
About Welcoming America:
Welcoming America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that leads a movement of inclusive communities becoming more prosperous by ensuring everyone belongs. We believe that all people, including immigrants, are valued contributors and vital to the success of our communities and shared future. Through the Welcoming Network, we work to help communities develop the roadmap they need to create welcoming policies and share new approaches to inclusion to create an environment where everyone can truly thrive.