Equitable Park Funding Hub

The Equitable Park Funding Hub provides easy access to information on a variety of funding sources relevant for parks and recreation in low-income communities and communities of color, and highlights the partnerships required for successful funding.

Parks, trails, and nature support public health, workforce development, local economies, the environment, and community cohesion. And yet historic disinvestment has left many communities with the greatest need with the least access to quality parks and recreation opportunities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse and has shined a spotlight on park inequities. Now more than ever, high-quality parks and public spaces in disadvantaged communities require creative and wide-ranging partnerships to unlock local, state, federal, and private funding sources.

As many state and federal funding sources in the Hub are competitive, require match dollars, and often cannot cover maintenance or programming, stable local public funding is essential for a successful and equitable park system. Local funding enables communities to ensure investments promote equitable impacts and address local disparities.

This Hub highlights select federal, state, and local funding programs that can be particularly effective at funding parks and green infrastructure in low-income communities. It is not intended to be a comprehensive source of funding opportunities, but a starting point with examples and case studies.

The Equitable Park Funding Hub is the result of a two-year collaborative research effort between the City Parks Alliance, Groundwork U.S.A., and the Urban Institute. Support for this work was provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Explore Equitable Funding Strategies for Parks and Green Infrastructure

The Equitable Park Funding Hub is a living resource intended to be a starting point for researching funding strategies with examples, case studies, and links for further information.

  • Explore each funding area in depth with links below, or use the sorting feature to help you identify the funding sources that may best match your needs.
  • We invite you to help us make this Hub stronger by sharing your experiences applying for, and implementing programs with these funding sources. Share your experience below.

Funding Areas

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Brownfields

Brownfields contribute to blight and prevent reinvestment in economically distressed communities. Transforming them into parks can drive reinvestment and improve community health.

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Climate Resilience

Parks, trees and nature play an important role in cooling neighborhoods and building resilience to natural disasters. Communities of color often lack the greenspace needed to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

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Community Development

Increasingly, community reinvestment efforts are leveraging the benefits of parks to create vibrant, healthy, and livable neighborhoods with access to jobs and affordable housing.

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Conservation Funding

Conservation funding can be used to create equitable access to park and recreation amenities, which is critical to improving the health and quality of life of residents in low-income communities.

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Local Funding

Stable, local public funding is essential for a successful and equitable park system. It is the primary source for critical maintenance, operations and programming.

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Stormwater Management

Parks and green infrastructure enable cities to manage stormwater, clean waterways and reduce flooding through nature-based strategies, reducing the need for expensive investments in pipes and tunnels.

EXPLORE PARK FUNDING

Use this tool to filter, sort, and learn about funding opportunities and potential partnerships.

  • Massachusetts Community Preservation Act

    The Community Preservation Act (CPA) helps Massachusetts cities preserve the character of their communities. It allows communities to create a local community preservation fund for open space protection, historic preservation, affordable housing, and recreation. To date, 177 municipalities in the state have adopted the CPA. Each year, the municipality is required to spend at least 10% of its annual CPA revenues on each category — open space, historic preservation, and affordable housing. The remaining percentage can be used towards any of the funding categories. Over 2,500 parks, playgrounds, and other outdoor recreation projects have been funded by the CPA.The CPA statute also created a statewide Community Preservation Trust Fund, administered by the Department of Revenue, that provides distributions each year to communities that have adopted the CPA. These annual disbursements incentivize communities to pass a CPA.
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  • New Markets Tax Credits

    New Markets Tax Credits finance projects that have social and economic benefit for low-income communities, including public housing authorities, schools, and community-based nonprofits. They attract private capital into low-income communities with tax credits in exchange for investments in Community Development Entities (CDEs).They are complex, can be difficult to set up, often have high legal fees, and they need to generate a revenue stream to be viable, but for large projects in low-income communities, tax credits can be a significant source of funding. The park projects funded so far have included parks and recreation centers in Cincinnati, Ohio, Washington, D.C., and Pensacola, Florida.As with all significant investments in low-income communities, existing residents should be involved in the planning and decision-making to ensure they benefit from the investments.Opportunity Zones,1 are a new federal tax incentive to encourage investment in recreation facilities and other park-like properties. However, because they are meant to support businesses (ideally ones that appreciate in value), it may be challenging to use them to directly improve public access to parks and green space. Given the current newness of the program, it’s too early to review their use in practice.

    Typical Grant Amount
    Over $1,000,000
    Accessibility of Funds
    Very Difficult
    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition, Operations/Maintenance, Programming
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  • Community Development Block Grants

    The US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs) invests in urban communities to increase quality, affordable housing, improve community living environments, and expand economic opportunities. CDBG investments must benefit people of low and moderate incomes. As such, they can be a good source of funding for equitable park investments.Under CDBG, public and nonprofit park leaders need to partner with local community development organizations and the city agency that manages the CDBG funds. Cities must develop a Consolidated Plan that sets local investment priorities and the projects need to meet the priorities outlined in the Consolidated Plan.Because of their flexibility, CDBG funds have been tapped by many park systems. From 2010 through 2018, CDBGs funded nearly $900 million in parks and recreation projects. CDBGs can also provide for maintenance and operations, youth employment, and other park-related investments. The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) Act included $5 billion in funds for CDBG, an increase of $1.7 billion over the previous year’s funding.

    Typical Grant Amount
    Varies by State
    Accessibility of Funds
    Accessible
    Match from other sources
    Varies by State
    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition, Operations/Maintenance, Programming
    Eligibility for Accessing Funds
    Local governments
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Share Your Experience

This Hub highlights select federal, state, and local funding programs that can be particularly effective at funding parks and green infrastructure in low-income communities. It is not intended to be a comprehensive source of funding opportunities, but a starting point with examples, links to additional information, and case studies.

We invite you to help us make this Hub stronger by sharing your experiences applying for and implementing programs with these funding sources.

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Additional Equitable Funding Research