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.

  • Zoning Strategies

    Zoning strategies allow a city to benefit from the real estate industry and use the funds for capital or maintenance projects. Two zoning strategies of interest include: Incentives and bonuses: Offering developers and property owners zoning incentives to incorporate public amenities into their development plans or contribute to a special park endowment or public improvement fund. Transfer of Development Rights: The Transfer of Development Rights (TDR) allows property owners to sell the development rights from their land for use on another. The original site is then protected as an open space under a conservation easement.

    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition, Operations/Maintenance
  • Development Impact Fees

    Growth pays for growth, the saying goes, ant these one-time fees are assessed on residential or commercial development to fund public infrastructure, including parks.

    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition, Operations/Maintenance
  • Enterprise Funds and Revenue Generating Activities

    Funding park and recreation programs by revenue-generating activities decreases access to parks and programs for low-income residents. Equitable-access strategies include: Free Park and Recreation Passes for members of households that qualify for TANF and SNAP benefits. Voluntary Fees are suggested donations for use. Those who can afford the donation contribute; those who cannot are not obligated. Scholarships are less effective, because few residents access them and volunteer programs in exchange free access can burden already-stressed families. Programming Fees Charging fees for usage of park programs—skating, golf, fitness centers, camps, concerts—is a common strategy for raising non-tax revenue.

    Park Funding Use
    Operations/Maintenance, Programming
  • Programming Fees

    Charging fees for usage of park programs—skating, golf, fitness centers, camps, concerts—is a common strategy for raising non-tax revenue.

    Park Funding Use
    Operations/Maintenance, Programming
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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