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

icon box image

Brownfields

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

icon box image

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.

icon box image

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.

icon box image

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.

icon box image

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.

icon box image

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.

  • General Fund

    A city’s general fund pays for most capital and operating expenses. The revenue comes primarily from property taxes and elected officials allocate the funds to city functions through the annual budget process. Parks and recreation funding can, therefore, vary, influenced by local politics, a city’s economic fortunes and the engagement of citizens in the budget process.Parks and recreation departments are often the first to have their budgets slashed and the last to see them increased. Park advocates and nonprofits play an important role in ensuring consistent funding for parks year to year. Cities with strong nonprofits and organized advocates tend to have the most stable public funding for parks. For more information on making the case for parks and building a strong network of park advocates, see Other Resources below.
    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition, Operations/Maintenance, Programming
  • General Obligation Bonds

    A general obligation bond (GO bond) allows local governments to borrow money. It is a municipal bond backed by the credit and taxing power of the issuing jurisdiction. General obligation bonds rely on the investor’s trust that a municipality will repay its debt through taxes on residents. The city can use the revenue to fund parks and repaying with tax revenue. General obligation bonds are approved by elected officials through the legislative process or by citizens by ballot measure, according to local and state laws.

    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition
  • Sales and Use Taxes

    Sales and use taxes can be passed by legislatures or by popular vote. Some jurisdictions allocate a certain percentage of local or state sales taxes to parks, while others pass specific sales tax measures dedicated parks and Special Park Districts. With any new tax measures, additional legislation might be required to prevent tax revenue from simply replacing general fund dollars—a zero-sum game.General sales taxes apply to a broad base of goods. Substantial revenue, therefore, can be generated with a relatively low tax rate, keeping the per-household burden low. Sales taxes are regressive, however, and have a greater impact on low-earners, particularly when applied to essential goods, such as food and clothing. So called “sin taxes,” are a subset of sales taxes imposed on commodities or activities that are perceived to be unhealthy or have a negative societal effect±—cigarettes, gambling and alcohol for instance. Critics contend that these taxes also disproportionately affect low-income families.

    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition, Operations/Maintenance, Programming
  • Property Taxes

    Many jurisdictions opt to levy taxes on the value of personal property, to fund parks and recreation initiatives. State laws vary whether revenue from property tax levies can be used for operating costs or capital investments. Property tax levies can be passed through legislative initiative or tax referendum.

    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition, Operations/Maintenance, Programming
Load More

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.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Additional Equitable Funding Research