Federal Funding for City Parks


Easy access to parks, green spaces, and recreation opportunities is critical to the well-being of urban communities. From improving the health and wellness of residents to creating a healthier physical environment, city parks are vital to helping America’s cities thrive and remain competitive. Yet funding for these public assets is not meeting the growing demand.

City Parks Alliance advocates and develops policies for greater federal investment in city parks, is at the forefront of identifying new funding sources and strategies to ensure equitable allocation of park funding throughout cities, and highlights grant opportunities that leaders can access to support their local parks.

COVID-19 emergency relief for small businesses and nonprofits is available through the CARES Act.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Created in 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is one of the most effective, bipartisan funding programs for parks today supporting more than 44,000 projects in 98% of the nation’s counties. The LWCF is funded through revenues from offshore oil and gas drilling royalties, a portion of which is matched by state and local contributions – increasing the return on investment without using federal tax dollars. LWCF funds leverage private investment, spurs economic development and tourism, and provides close-to-home recreational opportunities.

On March 12, 2019, LWCF was permanently authorized as part of S. 47, the John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act. The law also protects 2.3 million acres of wilderness and other public lands and is one of the largest conservation packages in a decade. City Parks Alliance continues to support full and dedicated funding of LWCF.

The Great American Outdoors Act

On August 4, 2020 the Great American Outdoors Act was signed into law. The bill provides $900 million in permanent and dedicated annual funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and invests up to $9.5 billion to address priority repairs in our national parks and other public lands.

Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program

The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLP) is a LWCF program that was created in 2014. The ORLP is a nationally competitive grant program that delivers funding to urban areas – jurisdictions of at least 50,000 people – with priority given to projects located in economically disadvantaged areas and lacking in outdoor recreation opportunities. These awards help urban communities address outdoor recreation deficits by supporting projects in cities and densely populated urbanized areas that create new outdoor recreation spaces, reinvigorate existing parks, and form connections between people and the outdoors.

The fourth application round is now open. Grants range from $300,000 to $1,000,000. Each state can submit up to four proposals. Pre‐applications due from State lead agencies on July 10, 2020. Grants.gov – Opportunity Number P20AS00029. View more information on how to apply for the grant here.

Examples of ORLP Grants:

States Depend on the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Full and dedicated LWCF funding is essential to help cities and states develop new or revitalize existing parks, green spaces, and recreation opportunities.

Arizona Peralta Regional Park

LWCF funds are critical for Pinal County to create Peralta Regional Park, which will provide trail connectivity to the Lost Goldmine Trial and Lost Dutchman State Park. The project needs $2,500,000 in LWCF funds.

Arizona Granite Dells

This outcrop of 1.4 billion-year-old granite spires and domes is a mecca for wildlife watchers, rock climbers, hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, and boaters. The project needs $750,000 in LWCF funds.

Parks as Infrastructure

Parks, by their nature provide dual infrastructure benefits in cities. With growing urban populations and aging infrastructure, local governments and their city planners are taking a fresh look at parks as a wise investment of municipal resources to address our greatest urban challenges—from stormwater management and reducing public health costs to economic revitalization and job growth. Investing in parks and green infrastructure in cities improves resilience, drives private investment, and helps American cities remain competitive.

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City Parks Alliance is leading a national initiative to research, curate, and disseminate innovative strategies and models for funding parks and green infrastructure in low-income communities.


We’ve compiled stories and strategies from 11 American cities who have leveraged city parks to create positive, lasting change in the social, economic, and physical well-being of their residents.