The world has changed unimaginably over the last year. But through the tumult of these challenging and uncertain times, two forces will see us through: nature and community. We’ve collected our Park Bench Chats on these topics for you to watch below and hope you’ll join us for future events and be a part of these insightful and timely conversations. 

Park Bench Chat: ParkScore index unveiling - A new look at park equity across America

The Trust for Public Land ParkScore® index is the national gold-standard comparison of park systems across the largest 100 cities in the United States.

This special edition Park Bench Chat unveiled the new rankings and, provided a data-driven look at park equity across America’s largest cities, highlighting the extent of disparities in park space along racial and economic lines.

When: Thursday, May 27 at 8:30 a.m. PT/11:30 a.m. ET

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President and CEO Diane Regas was joined in conversation with Trust for Public Land experts including Director of Innovation and Strategy Linda Hwang, Equity Director Ronda Chapman, Director of Community Health Sadiya Muqueeth, and Climate Program Director Brendan Shane.

Inspired by the national awakening on racial justice and The Trust for Public Land’s longstanding commitment to equitable park access and quality, the 2021 ParkScore® index includes measures of park equity for the first time in the study’s ten-year history. The panel discussed this year’s rankings, which highlight deep disparities along racial and economic lines; ways parks and recreation departments stepped up to provide critical community infrastructure during the pandemic; and how, despite their vital health and climate benefits, park systems nationwide are under serious threat, facing years of deferred maintenance and underinvestment. They also shared how we can quickly turn this around and bring parks and green space to communities where they are needed most.

Park Bench Chat: Harnessing the power of design for healthier, resilient and just cities

Thank you for joining us for a Park Bench Chat bringing together leaders in the movement to put our cities to work for community, social justice, health, and climate resilience. 

This Earth Month, Trust for Public Land President and CEO Diane Regas was in conversation with Dana Bourland, vice president of the Environment Program at The JPB Foundation and author of Gray to Green Communities: A Call to Action on the Housing and Climate Crises; and designer, urbanist, and spatial justice expert Liz Ogbu, founder and principal of Studio O, which, in partnership with communities, leverages design to catalyze and sustain social impact.

When: Wednesday, April 21, 2021 at 11 a.m. PT/2 p.m. ET 

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Cities only cover two percent of the earth’s surface, but they are home to 85 percent of the population. And in America, our cities need work. With its long history of prejudiced policies, our housing system is both a symptom and a cause of persistent racial disparities. And residential buildings in the U.S. account for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, making housing one of the key drivers of climate change. During this Park Bench Chat, Regas, Ogbu and Borland discussed how thoughtful, collaborative design can lay a foundation for a more just and equitable future. They also discussed a new model for cities that prioritizes climate resilience, health, and access to quality parks and green space.  And they shared tactics for ensuring public spaces enable social connection and cultural expression.

Dana Bourland

Dana Bourland
Author and Vice President for the Environment at the JPB Foundation

Dana works at the intersection of issues related to health, poverty and the environment. She is the author of “Gray to Green: A Call to Action on the Housing and Climate Crises” published by Island Press. Dana led the creation of the Environment Program at JPB with a focus on transitioning to a just, equitable and clean energy future, increasing access to the benefits of nature, detoxifying the built and natural systems, and strengthening the field of environmental justice. Prior to JPB, she served as Vice President of Green Initiatives for Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit dedicated to design-forward affordable housing. A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Dana is a graduate of Harvard’s Graduate Program in Real Estate and holds a Master of Planning Degree from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, Univ. of Minnesota. Dana served as a resident at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center and was named one of Fast Company’s Most Influential Women Activists in Technology.

Liz Ogbu

Liz Ogbu
Designer, urbanist, and spatial justice activist

Liz is a global expert on engaging and transforming unjust urban environments. From designing shelters for immigrant day laborers in the U.S. to a water and health social enterprise for low-income Kenyans, Liz has a long history of working with communities in need to leverage the power of design to catalyze sustainable social impact. Currently, she continues that work through Studio O, a multidisciplinary consulting practice, of which she is Founder and Principal. Liz has previously held several academic appointments including at UC Berkeley, Stanford’s, and UVA. She also previously served as the Droga Architect-in-Residence in Australia, investigating urban marginalized populations and community development practices in the country. Her honors include Global Fellow, TED Speaker, Aspen Ideas Scholar, Senior Fellow of the Design Futures Council, and one of Public Interest Design’s Top 100. She earned architecture degrees from Wellesley College and Harvard University. 

Diane Regas

Diane Regas
President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land

An internationally recognized conservation leader, Diane Regas joined The Trust for Public Land in the spring of 2018 as president and CEO. Prior to The Trust for Public Land, Diane worked for more than a decade at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), most recently as executive director, where she helped EDF advance solutions that promote prosperity for all people and for the planet. She guided work to improve ocean health, stabilize the climate, reduce toxins in everyday products, and promote collaboration and partnerships. Prior to EDF, Diane served at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, working under both Democratic and Republican administrations as the top civil servant protecting our nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays.  Diane earned her A.B., M.S. in energy and resources, and J.D. at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Diane enjoys hiking, cycling, diving, camping, and spending time in nature with her husband, children, and granddaugter. 

Park Bench Chat: Preserving Black history for a more equitable future

Thank you for joining us for a Park Bench Chat about the growing movement to preserve and lift up a more accurate, equitable public memory of America. We were in conversation with Keith Weaver, Trust for Public Land board member and executive vice president of Global Policy and External Affairs for Sony Pictures Entertainment; and Brent Leggs, executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund and author of Preserving African American Historic Places. They shared insights about places that tell the story of Black life in America, highlighting centuries of activism, achievement, creativity, and community. And we discussed how equity in historic preservation revitalizes communities, enriches our culture, and helps shape a more just and prosperous future for all.

Keith Weaver

Keith Weaver

Keith Weaver is a national board member and chair of the Black History and Culture Sites Advisory Council at The Trust for Public Land. As executive vice president for Global Policy and External Affairs with Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE), Keith oversees all community affairs, as well as government and public policy activities globally. He develops the legislative and regulatory agenda that supports the business strategies and initiatives across all divisions, including other U.S. operations, Sony Music, Sony Electronics, and Sony Computer Entertainment. Prior to joining SPE, Keith was the staff director of the California State Senate Redistricting Office. He also served as regional manager of Community and Government Relations for Kaiser Permanente and as a staff member for former State Senator Herschel Rosenthal. Previously, Keith chaired the California State Film Commission and served as vice chair of the board of Neighborhood Commissioners for the City of Los Angeles. 

Brent Leggs

Brent Leggs

Brent Leggs is the executive director of the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. Envisioned as a social movement for justice, equity, and reconciliation, the Action Fund is promoting the role of cultural preservation in telling the nation’s full history, while also empowering activists, entrepreneurs, artists, and civic leaders to advocate on behalf of African American historic places. A Harvard University Loeb Fellow and author of Preserving African American Historic Places, which is considered the “seminal publication on preserving African American historic sites” by the Smithsonian Institution, Brent is a national leader in the U.S. preservation movement and the 2018 recipient of the Robert G. Stanton National Preservation Award. His passion for elevating the significance of Black culture in American history is visible through his work, which elevates the remarkable stories and places that evoke centuries of black activism, achievement, and community. 

When: Tuesday, February 23, 1:00 p.m. PST/4:00 p.m. EST
Topic: Preserving Black history for a more equitable future

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Parks Unite Us: Creating social change through parks and community

Thank you for joining us on December 8 at 2:00 p.m. ET/ 12:00 p.m. MT/11:00 a.m. PT for a Park Bench Chat with corporate and advocacy leaders to discuss addressing social inequalities through philanthropic investments in communities, brand positioning, and fostering more welcoming and inclusive environments outside, within the workplace, and beyond.

Parks have always been our common ground, but during the pandemic, they are a lifeline.  And yet today, 100 million people—including 28 million kids—do not have a quality park or outdoor space near home. Even more troubling, parks serving primarily American Indian, Asian, Black, Hispanic, and Pacific Islander populations are half the size of parks that serve mostly white populations, and serve five times more people. 
Communities without adequate parks often also suffer from high unemployment, higher rates of asthma, obesity, and heart disease, a lack of affordable housing, underperforming schools, and a shortage of healthy food.   ​ 
As representatives of some of the world’s largest and most influential brands, the business sector can play a pivotal role in addressing these disparities and creating a more inclusive society. 
For our next Park Bench Chat, Trust for Public Land volunteer, philanthropist, and retired Apple senior executive Val Cole was joined in conversation with Luis Benitez, vice president of global impact for The VF Corporation, parent company of The North Face, VANS, Timberland, and other lifestyle and apparel brands; Cheri Carter, Vice President of Boeing Global Engagement for The Boeing Company; and Wendy Feliz, founding director of the Center for Inclusion and Belonging at the American Immigration Council. 
They discussed how the corporate sector can address systemic inequalities through investments in communities and parks, how brands can effectively communicate their commitment to diversity and equity, and ways corporate America can lead in fostering a more welcoming and inclusive environment for all.

When: Tuesday, December 8, 2020 – 11:00 a.m. PT/ 12:00 p.m. MT/2:00 p.m. ET
Topic: Parks Unite Us: Creating social change through parks and community

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Solutions for wildfire, climate change, and voting “green” this election

The climate crisis is taking a grim toll on American communities in 2020. Fueled by record heat and drought, fires have charred 7.7 million acres, mostly in the West, killing more than thirty people and demolishing thousands of homes and businesses. With more than a month left in the hurricane season, the Atlantic has already spun out twice the average number of hurricanes, threatening 90 percent of the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast. In August, a 70-mph windstorm flattened 43 percent of Iowa’s corn and soybean crop, a punishing setback for Midwestern growers who are still struggling to recover from historic flooding in 2019.

The fight against climate change will require commitment, leadership, and collaboration at every level of society. On Monday, October 26, 2020, Trust for Public Land CEO and President Diane Regas sat down with California State and Area Director Guillermo Rodriguez, Northwest Director David Patton, and Colorado and Southwest Director Jim Petterson. They discussed the devastating impacts of the recent fires and how they are working hand-in-hand with communities to ensure climate resilience. And as Americans head to the polls during a contentious and consequential election season, panelists shared insights and information about climate-smart policies voters can support at the ballot box.

When: Monday, October 26, 2020 – 12:30 P.M. PT / 3:30 P.M. ET
Topic: Solutions to wildfire, climate, and voting “green” this election
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Highlights from past Park Bench Chats

Outside for all: Investing in parks to build community power 

The Horace M. Albright Lecture in Conservation - Presented in partnership with the UC Berkeley Rausser College of Natural Resources 

Park Bench Chat #6

What does conservation have to do with community? Everything, says Diane Regas. As President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land, Regas leads a national nonprofit dedicated to using parks and public land as a means to create healthier, stronger neighborhoods. Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has pioneered a “land for people” movement, working alongside communities nationwide to create and advocate for the parks and open spaces everyone needs and deserves. In this time of public health emergency, economic freefall, and worldwide demand for systemic social change, America’s parks, trails, and open spaces are more vital than ever—providing spaces for respite, exercise, recreation, and community assembly. And yet, great parks are not distributed equally, and too often the people who need parks the most have the least access. On August 26, 2020, Regas delivered UC Berkeley's Rausser College Albright Lecture in Conservation.  She was joined in conversation with community leaders Taylor Toynes, Executive Director of For Oak Cliff in Dallas, and Teresa Bendito, co-founder of Parque Padrinos in Wenatchee, Washington. They discussed how great parks can unite us, amplify our voices, and create community power.

When: Wednesday, August 26, 2020 – 1:00 P.M. PT / 4:00 p.m. ET  
Topic: Outside for all: Investing in parks to build community power 

Reimagining Community Resilience

This is turning out to be the hottest year on record, as the pandemic is straining our health system and economy to the breaking point.  Although the effects of these tandem crises are felt across the country, they are not felt equally: both climate change and COVID-19 have proven to be deadlier for low-income communities and communities of color.  Thank you for joining us on July 13 for a conversation with Dr. Jalonne L. White-Newsome, senior program officer for the Kresge Foundation’s portfolio on Climate Resilient and Equitable Water Systems, and Abbey Cofsky, managing director for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s work to promote healthy, equitable communities. Trust for Public Land President and CEO Diane Regas moderated a discussion on the important role for conservationists in addressing racial inequities, public health, and climate change, and how to support communities and leaders as they reimagine the future.

When: Monday, July 13, 2020 – 2:00 p.m. PT / 5:00 p.m. ET
Topic: Reimagining Community Resilience
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Rising to the Challenge: Supporting Communities Through Crisis

Thank you for joining us on June 29 at 4 p.m. ET for “Supporting Communities Through Crisis,” a conversation about the coronavirus pandemic, its economic fallout, and the ongoing realities of structural racism and violence against people of color in America—and the many ways Americans are organizing to empower and care for the people and communities who are most affected. Trust for Public Land Ohio State Director Shanelle Smith Whigham shared what she’s learned as she leads a coalition that’s providing 60,000 masks to Cleveland residents in need. She was in conversation with Cecilia Muñoz, vice president for public interest technology and local initiatives at New America. Her recent book More than Ready chronicles her rise as one of the first Hispanic senior leaders in the White House and offers advice and inspiration for women of color in leadership. Trust for Public Land President and CEO Diane Regas moderated. 

When: Monday, June 29, 2020 – 4:00 p.m. ET
Topic: Supporting Communities Through Crisis

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The Great American Outdoors Act: Vital to recovery and our future

We’re at a turning point for parks and open space in America. Parks have emerged as essential to healthy, resilient communities during the pandemic, but the crisis has also laid bare the dire inequalities in outdoor access across the nation. Right now, we’re on the brink of a defining legislative victory: securing full and dedicated funding to the Land and Water Conservation Fund. This has been a generation in the making and could transform the outlook for outdoor equality across the country.

On Thursday, May 14, Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), coauthor of the Great American Outdoors Act, joined Lise Aangeenbrug, Executive Director of the Outdoor Industry Association, and Trust for Public Land National Board Member Lucas St. Clair for a Park Bench Chat on the Great American Outdoors Act.

We discussed the urgency of this moment, how to advocate for parks and public lands in your community, and what to watch for in the weeks to come as the nation weathers the pandemic and begins to invest in recovery.

When: Thursday, May 14, 2020
Topic: The Great American Outdoors Act: Vital to recovery and our future
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Staying safe outdoors during COVID-19

On Earth Day, Trust for Public Land CEO and President Diane Regas and Director of Community Health, Sadiya Muqueeth DrPH, MPH, joined Nooshin Razani, MD, MPH, founder and Director of the Center for Nature and Health at the University of California, San Francisco, for an online conversation about health and nature in the time of COVID. They shared stories from their neighborhoods and discussed the latest guidance on the vital role nature can play in keeping our minds and bodies healthy amidst the global pandemic, and shared information about how families can stay safe in the outdoors.

When: Tuesday, April 22, 2020
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Topic:  Nature and community in the time of COVID-19
When: Tuesday, April 7, 2020
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