Just before the Thanksgiving holiday, I traveled to Clarksville, Tennessee to attend Clarksville Parks and Recreation’s ribbon cutting ceremony for Valleybrook Park. This park received a huge revitalization, including new playgrounds, restrooms, a pavilion and more, thanks to a $477,000 federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Disaster Resilience grant. Valleybrook Park had been suffering from severely reduced capacity since the 2010 Tennessee floods that devastated the region. By reopening this beautiful urban oasis just steps from downtown, Clarksville is bouncing back, and they’re showing it off to federal elected and administration officials through the NRPA Park Champion initiative — a tool for empowering NRPA members to invite their federal elected and administration officials to events.
Federal officials in attendance at the ribbon-cutting were U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Deputy Assistant Secretary of Economic Development Steven Rawlinson and Field Representative John Clement from Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn’s office. Director of Clarksville Parks and Recreation, Jennifer Letourneau, used tools and resources from the Park Champion initiative to ask them to join the ceremony. Also present at the ribbon cutting ceremony was Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan, Clarksville city councilmembers, local media and children from the nearby Tabernacle Christian School, who were excited to be the first to try out the new playgrounds.
The Valleybrook Park opening was the first time Deputy Assistant Secretary Rawlinson had visited a CDBG site. HUD handles the CDBG program at the executive level, so having the Deputy Assistant Secretary out to the ribbon cutting showed him how CDBG, a $3.3 billion program that provides over $100 million in funding to local parks and recreation every year, is investing in a happier, healthier, more economically vibrant Clarksville. Although the day of the ribbon-cutting was thankfully beautiful and free from any calamitic weather events, Clarksville residents recalled how in the spot we were standing, floodwaters from 2010 would have come up above our head. CDBG dollars were essential in allowing Clarksville to finally bring the park back to full capacity.
Students from a nearby elementary school get to be the first to try out the new playground equipment.
The Trump Administration targeted CDBG for elimination in the President’s budget earlier this year, so it’s critical to show members of Congress, administration officials, local officials and community members alike how important CDBG is to providing quality green space and recreation opportunities for everyone in communities across the country.
Do you have a CDBG-funded project, another federally-funded project, or simply an exciting event coming up? Take a page from Clarksville’s book and draw national attention to your agency through the Park Champion initiative by inviting your federal elected and administration officials. It’s easy to get started with the Park Champion Advocacy Toolkit!
Jayni Rasmussen is NRPA’s Advocacy and Outreach Manager.