“Parks make our cities work.” I shared those words at a press conference in late November on the steps of the US Capitol building, calling for passage of the Outdoors for All Act. The legislation would codify much-needed funding for park projects in underserved urban communities. It has yet to pass Congress but is the closest to becoming law since City Parks Alliance began building support for an urban parks bill eight years ago, and we are hopeful it will become law in early 2024.
The legislation is a great example of the City Parks Alliance team in action, keeping a long-term view on the ever-evolving needs for parks and our nation’s cities. Cities cannot work without safe, resilient, and equitable parks, and our mission is deeply rooted in that philosophy.
With the support of our amazing network of member organizations and our generous donors, we’ve had another successful year. A few highlights include:
Expanding Network: Our network grew to nearly 400 member organizations in 2023, representing 38 states and four countries.
Learning & Capacity Building: More than 2,900 participants joined our 15 virtual programs, which included skill-building workshops, webinars, and peer conversations. Together, we explored new ideas and strategies for equitable park planning, technology in parks, climate resiliency, community engagement, and more.
Hands-On, Experiential Learning: Thirty-five people from 14 states and Canada were immersed for three days in St. Louis, MO, experiencing the power of parks as restorative infrastructure during our St. Louis Park Study Tour.
Power of Partnerships: We built new powerful partnerships, expanding our reach and efforts to adjacent sectors. In 2023, we joined forces with the Prevention Institute, US Water Alliance, and Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange to expand our programming on park equity and green stormwater infrastructure.
National Leadership: With 17 new mayors joining in 2023, we expanded our Mayors for Parks Coalition, who are all passionate champions for the power of parks and partners in our work to expand federal funding for urban parks.
Planning for the Future: Our Board of Directors adopted a new strategic plan, charting a course post-pandemic. Over the next five years, we will create more opportunities to network, share ideas, and showcase successful strategies for parks as city-building tools. And we’ll focus on taking the conversation beyond traditional stakeholders.
We’re not slowing down as we head into 2024. We’re excited about Greater & Greener 2024, hosted by our partners in Seattle from June 21–25. The conference program, which will be announced in February, will be a hands-on learning lab and a place for honest conversations across sectors, all working in the urban parks space.
And we have a busy year of virtual programming planned. We’ll explore new ideas and strategies around managing technology and data in parks, addressing concerns over green gentrification, managing the urban tree canopy, and best practices and innovation for green stormwater infrastructure and parks, and continue offering training for building stronger partnerships.
Thank you for all you do to support urban parks. Practitioners and advocates like you are vital to our work and to our cities. We wish you joy and happiness in the new year, and many opportunities to enjoy nature in your neighborhood.
Executive Director, City Parks Alliance