About Us

Leveraging the Power of City Parks

City parks play a vital role in the social, economic, and physical well-being of America’s cities and their residents. Nearly 80 percent of the American population lives in urban areas (Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016). As cities continue to grow, planners, elected officials, and community advocates are taking a fresh look at parks and their potential to help address critical urban infrastructure and public health issues.

City parks provide access to recreational opportunities, increase property values, spur local economies, improve safety, and mitigate stormwater runoff and other environmental threats. Parks are now recognized as powerful tools for urban communities and local economies to help drive more vibrant and equitable cities.

The mission of City Parks Alliance is to educate and elevate a diverse constituency to leverage the power of parks in shaping equitable, resilient, and thriving cities.

Our vision is that everyone in urban America will have access to high quality parks and green spaces that are clean, safe, and vibrant.

Our Values

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Equitable Access

We believe that everyone living in urban areas should have equal access to quality parks that provide diverse, affordable recreation opportunities in clean, safe, and healthy environments. All city park visitors should have park and recreation choices that enrich their quality of life and cultural connection to beautiful places and vibrant experiences.

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Equitable Funding

We believe that park and recreation budgets can be used more strategically to address racial and economic equity. We share best practices and help local and national park leaders develop creative solutions to meet the need for both capital and operations funding that includes building cross-sector connections for securing investment and leveraging resources.

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Workforce Equity

We support implementing hiring policies, building cultural competency, and nurturing leadership that results in a workforce of park and recreation field staff reflective of the diverse communities they serve with upward mobility for all.

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Community Participation

We believe local voices—through public partnerships with community-based organizations—are essential to creating vibrant places and recreational services. We provide support and strategies for developing community-inspired policy and programs that serve and reflect the diversity of park users.

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Evaluation Standards

We strive to support park and recreation service delivery with an equity lens by sharing standards and assessment tools for data collection and measurement to help prioritize investment in underserved communities and to measure racial diversity within organizations that serve those communities, including City Parks Alliance.

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Equitable Urban Systems

We work to show the value of park and recreation places and programs in addressing cities’ broader equity challenges with other community development issues such as affordable housing, environmental justice and resiliency, youth development, incarceration reduction, food security, and transportation options.

Download our values statement here.

City Parks Alliance History

2000 – 2006

City Parks Alliance Established

City Parks Alliance is established in 2000 by a nationwide group of urban parks administrators and advocates as an outgrowth of the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund’s Urban Parks Initiative in the 1990s. Early workshops and conferences focused on partnerships, advocacy, and recreation.

  • 2005

    Parks, People, and Power Workshop Held

    An advocacy training workshop in partnership with the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society is held in Philadelphia, PA. Subsequent workshops are held in Boston, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.

  • 2005

    It Takes a Partnership: Urban Parks in the 21st Century Conference Held

    City Parks Alliance organizes urban parks conference in partnership with the National Association for Olmsted Parks and Buffalo Olmsted Parks Conservancy, Buffalo, NY.

  • 2006

    Urban Park and Recreation Summit Held

    City Parks Alliance hosts Urban Parks and Recreation Summit in partnership with National Recreation and Park Association and The Trust for Public Land, Chicago, IL.

2007 – 2012

First Strategic Plan Adopted

City Parks Alliance expands it federal advocacy work with its first “Day on the Hill” in Washington, DC in 2009 and participates in the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors in 2010. City Parks Alliance establishes a research partnership with Georgia Institute of Technology – School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, holds our first Urban Park Study Tour in Chicago, IL, and organizes the first Greater & Greener international urban parks conference.

  • 2009

    Red Fields to Green Fields Launched

    The Red Fields to Green Fields National Research Program, led by Georgia Institute of Technology School of Civil and Environmental Engineering, evaluates the potential impacts of converting financially and/or physically distressed commercial real estate to greenspace and parks.

  • 2011

    First Urban Park Study Tour Hosted

    More than thirty participants from across the country attended the inaugural city park study tour, which highlights unique public/private park partnerships in Chicago, IL. Subsequent park study tours explore park and recreation systems in Los Angeles/Irvine, Denver, Toronto, and Cleveland.

  • 2012

    Inaugural Greater & Greener: International Urban Parks Conference Hosted

    Held Greater & Greener: Re-Imagining Parks for 21st Century Cities in New York, NY. More than six hundred participants attended the first Greater & Greener conference. Future Greater & Greener conferences in San Francisco, Twin Cities, and Denver help the program grow into the leading international conference for urban parks.

2013 – 2016

Focus on Advocacy and Research

City Parks Alliance launches the Mayors for Parks Coalition that focuses on federal funding of city parks. Outdoor Recreational Legacy Partnership federal grant program launches with a focus on urban park funding. City Parks Alliance develops new research partnerships, draws more than 1,000 participants to Greater & Greener in San Francisco, CA, and hosts the first international park study tour in Toronto, Canada.

  • 2013

    Mayors for Parks Coalition Launched

    The Mayors for Parks Coalition, a bipartisan coalition of mayors from large and small cities, advocates for federal funding to support strong park systems. The Coalition grows to more than fifty mayors.

  • 2013

    National Study of Neighborhood Parks Initiated

    The RAND Corporation and City Parks Alliance lead the first ever National Study of Neighborhood Parks to identify the degree to which America’s neighborhood parks encourage physical activity.

  • 2014

    City Workshops Program Launched

    City Parks Alliance and Michigan Recreation and Park Association hosted the first ParkXChange City Workshop in Flint, MI. Professional facilitators lead the workshops, drawing on the experience of leaders around the country through a tailored curriculum. Additional workshops are held in Birmingham; Boston; Detroit; Kansas City, MO; Saint Paul; San Jose; and Traverse City, MI.

2017 – 2019

Advocacy and Research Tools Expanded

City Parks Alliance releases new advocacy and research tools, research and member resources to better equip communities to leverage the power of parks to address critical urban infrastructure and public health issues. City Parks Alliance also launches the Funders Learning Network and a new research project with Urban Institute and Groundwork USA focusing on funding parks and green infrastructure.

  • 2017

    City Parks: America’s New Infrastructure Released

    City Parks Alliance produces and distributes City Parks: America’s New Infrastructure video series. The five-part series documents the multi-functional benefits of urban parks and transportation, resilience, health and economic benefits for cities. The videos are based on research conducted by the Georgia Institute of Technology School of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

  • 2018

    Active Parks, Healthy Cities Published

    Active Parks, Healthy Cities distills the findings of the National Study of Neighborhood Parks into four major recommendation categories: programming, design, marketing and outreach, and measuring park use. The report curates multiple case studies for each of the four major findings from cities of different sizes and geographies for park and recreation professionals, health organizations, advocacy groups, and others to replicate.

  • 2019

    Funding Parks and Green Infrastructure

    City Parks Alliance leads a national research effort to curate and disseminate innovative strategies and best practices for funding parks and green infrastructure with particular interest in their benefits for low-income communities. Partnered with the Urban Institute and Groundwork USA. The first product from the partnership will be published in the summer 2019.

Framework for Change

City Parks Alliance’s Framework for Change outlines how we elevate the importance of city parks and equip park leaders to become agents for change in their communities.

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Problem Statement

Parks and recreation are underutilized as levers for change in cities.

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Our Areas of Work

Convening, research partnerships, knowledge facilitiation, expertise clearinghouse, professional development, advocacy.

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Near-term outcome

Leading-edge thought, enhanced member capacity, informed decision makers.

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Intermediate Outcomes

Public and private stakeholders collaborate to invest in and optimize the benefits of urban parks and recreation.

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Long-term Outcomes

Communities are equitable, healthy, green and engaged. Cities are economically-competitive and resilient.

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Ultimate Impact

More vibrant and equitable cities.