The planning, designing and implementation of green infrastructure in individual parks and park systems can further enhance the quality of life for surrounding communities through increased health, environmental, social and economic benefits. In order to better support the park and recreation profession to advocate for and receive necessary investments, NRPA has identified green infrastructure and how it can be supported and implemented in local parks as a top legislative priority.
Through our creation of a green infrastructure policy working group — which gathers national green infrastructure leaders to strengthen the case for green infrastructure at the federal level — NRPA has become a leading voice on Capitol Hill in advocating for parks as optimal spaces for equitable green infrastructure development. To build on this leadership and create a federal policy agenda for advancing green infrastructure in parks as a solution to climate change and health inequities, NRPA has developed the Greener Parks for Health initiative.
In partnership with the Willamette Partnership, NRPA conducted extensive research, including a policy scan at the federal, state and local levels, and an in-depth assessment of the park and recreation field, including cross-sector workshops and key informant interviews to better understand the barriers and opportunities to advance green infrastructure in parks. This background information informed the recently released Greener Parks for Health suite of resources, which offers all the tools and solutions park and recreation professionals need to communicate about, advocate for and institutionalize green infrastructure in parks to improve community well-being, especially in communities facing environmental, health, economic and social injustices.
In addition, it highlights unique policy areas at the federal, state and local levels that can be used or explored to support these projects. As a national organization representing park and recreation professionals on Capitol Hill, it is our goal to act on the federal policy recommendations laid out in the Greener Parks for Health Policy Action Framework.
Last month, we shared these findings with Congress to spark interest and illustrate the ways that parks are vital to keeping our communities healthy. While Congress has done an exceptional job of funding green infrastructure in the past through things like the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, we challenged them to think creatively about other policy areas to provide resources for green infrastructure, like using Medicare financing to implement green infrastructure projects in parks that lead to positive health outcomes for local communities. This innovative thinking was highly praised, and something that NRPA will continue exploring over the next three years.
The federal policy recommendations are just a small portion of the Greener Parks for Health resources; they specifically highlight policy recommendations that your state and local community can consider to improve access to green infrastructure, and I would encourage you to consider them for your community. If you feel your local officials still need to hear about why they should support green infrastructure, we have messaging tools and tailored actions for key audiences that can help you gain support before exploring shifts in policies to better allow for these projects.
While these strategies for implementing green infrastructure won’t happen overnight, continuing the conversation with policymakers on all levels will continue to make the case that green infrastructure is vital, especially as disparities in our nation’s political and social systems continue to be underscored, the negative effects of climate change continue to increase, and demand for more equitable park access grows.
Kyle Simpson is NRPA’s Senior Government Affairs Manager.