Local Partnerships Build Resilient Park Access

By Rukmini Kalamangalam | Posted on July 21, 2023

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Pictured: Rendering of Yadkin River Park in Davidson County, North Carolina.

NRPA is partnering with Bobcat Company, a global compact equipment, innovation and worksite solutions brand, to advance our shared goals of building vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. Across 11 million acres of parkland in the United States, park and recreation professionals are hard at work building, preserving and protecting climate-ready parks. Through the park improvement grant program offered by Bobcat, we have distributed $250,000 to communities in Georgia, North Carolina, Washington, New York and Texas in support of park improvements and environmental resilience work.

In addition to funding, selected park and recreation agencies will have access to Bobcat equipment to support the project tasks. The agencies will be able to rely on local Bobcat dealers for their expertise on their projects, as well as in-kind equipment rentals.

Beyond the grant, Bobcat has offered each park and recreation department that applied for the grant — regardless of receiving the grant or not — a new Bobcat zero-turn mower to help them accomplish more for their community spaces.

Local parks and greenspaces were selected to implement shovel-ready restoration, beautification and enhancement projects with demonstrated community support. From hosting park walks with community members to administering community input surveys, park and recreation professionals are listening to park enthusiasts. Across the country, park professionals are navigating system-wide park plans with families that live near, play in and dream of vibrant parks. Environmental and community resiliencies are built together; by ensuring community input and investment in projects, we ensure that the beneficial impacts of these projects ripple out from the site of the park.

Learn more about each of the selected grantees below:

Grantee: The City of Stonecrest
Location: Stonecrest, Georgia

In partnership with the Arabia Heritage Alliance and the South River Watershed Alliance, the City of Stonecrest will create a trail at Everett Park, an undeveloped 68-acre area that will swell to over 100 acres with the future addition of adjacent land. This trail will open up previously inaccessible woodland space to residents and provide an ADA-compliant path through the park. This beautiful park is studded with native red and white buckeye trees, 100-foot oak trees and surprisingly little invasive plant life. The city and its partners have invested in community engagement by hosting a guided kayak ride down the South River, providing an opportunity to see the park from a different viewpoint.  This type of creative engagement will encourage people in Stonecrest to use the new trail, get to know the native wildlife and benefit from the proven benefits of being outdoors.

Grantee: Davidson County
Location: Lexington, North Carolina

Davidson County will repurpose unused land beside a highway by building a native bog garden. This site will be called Yadkin River Park. Using land donated by the Department of Transportation, park professionals will build an educational site where kids and adults alike can learn about the amazing properties of North Carolina’s plants. This site will function as a resource for citizen science projects and as a rain garden, protecting the surrounding community from adverse effects like water pollution and flooding. Community investment means schools are already planning field trips for when the bog garden will be finished. In addition, North Carolina Wildlife Resource Officers and the North Carolina Forest Service plan to hold their junior training classes and youth classes at the site.

Grantee: The City of Auburn
Location: Auburn, Washington

Auburndale Park is a diamond in the rough — at least the older adult community it serves thinks so. With this grant award, the City of Auburn is planning to resurface an old trail at the park — removing clunky asphalt and replacing it with crushed gravel. Bobcat equipment, such as excavators and skid-steer loaders, will be invaluable in this process. The gravel will be more responsive to the natural environment, not disrupting tree roots, and it will be accessible for people with physical disabilities. In surveys conducted by the city, 90 percent of residents identified more pathways/trails/sidewalks as a priority. The newly resurfaced trails will respond to that need and expand the pool of users who can comfortably enjoy the park. Auburndale Park recently installed a new playground structure, and between that and the new trails, it’s safe to say the new and improved version of the park will be well-attended.

Grantee: The City of Buffalo and Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust
Location: Buffalo, New York

For years, 22 acres of Houghton Park, which is now protected as a conservation easement, was used as a dumping ground. However, community members — tired of not being able to walk in the park safely — have decided not to stand for this any longer. Volunteer crews invited by the City of Buffalo and the Buffalo Niagara River Land Trust have already removed tires, mattresses and other surface-level debris. With funding from this grant, as well as the use of Bobcat equipment, such as excavators and loaders, the city and its community partners will be able to further these efforts by unearthing buried debris that is making the land unstable. Community members are excited to have a safe place for their children to play and for older adults to walk.

Grantee: San Antonio River Authority
Location: San Antonio, TX

The San Antonio River Authority plans to use grant funds to further develop Trueheart Ranch Park, a 351-acre park on the San Antonio River in southern Bexar County. They plan to create new trails, plant native species and construct a bioswale — all of which will help make the park more resistant to climate outcomes. A bioswale is a long channel or trench that has vegetation (such as grasses, flowers and shrubs) and soil, mulch or stones to slow down rainwater and filter out pollutants. This will reduce flooding and water contamination for residents around the park who are disproportionately low-income and people of color.

Wondering how to follow along with the progress of these amazing projects? Tap in as these agencies work to better resource and protect their community members. Ask how you can get involved with the trails and bioswales that your local parks may have in the works!

Rukmini Kalamangalam (she/her) is a program specialist at NRPA.