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.

  • Environmental Workforce Development and Job Training Grants

    This program allows nonprofits, local governments and other organizations to recruit, train, and place unemployed and under-employed residents of areas affected by the presence of brownfields. These green jobs reduce environmental contamination and build more sustainable futures for communities. The program requires that training be provided in Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response for all participants, so it may not be appropriate for all workforce development programs.

    Typical Grant Amount
    Up to $200,000
    Accessibility of Funds
    Accessible
    Park Funding Use
    Operations/Maintenance
    Eligibility for Accessing Funds
    Nonprofit organizations, local governments and government entities, State governments, Tribal governments, Workforce Investment Board, Colleges and Universities
    Learn More
  • Green Acres Program State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection

    The Green Acres Program, funded through a Corporate Business Tax, has worked with public and private partners to protect 700,000 acres of state open space and outdoor recreational facilities. Through its Local and Nonprofit Assistance Program, Green Acres provides matching grants and low interest loans to local governments and nonprofits. Most grants require a 50% or 75% match, but those in densely urbanized cities or towns only require a 25% match. Reflecting its “Parks Where the People Are” priority, Green Acres uses a ranking system weighted toward highly or densely populated communities. As part of a “Brownfields to Greenfields” initiative, Green Acres also encourages communities to remediate contaminated sites for safe public use and enjoyment.

    Typical Grant Amount
    Varies; recent award amounts have ranged from $250,000 to $1,500,000
    Match from other sources
    Varies from 25% to 75%
    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition
    Eligibility for Accessing Funds
    Local governments, Nonprofit organizations
    Learn More
  • LWCF Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program (ORLP)

    The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) Program, created in 2014, is an urban park grants program funded through the Land & Water Conservation Fund. The ORLP offers nationally competitive grants to support the creation or significant renovation of state or locally-owned parks and other outdoor recreation spaces located in urban areas. Funded projects help the public access or re-connect with the outdoors, and specifically target economically disadvantaged neighborhoods that lack adequate parks and recreational opportunities.
    The fifth application round with $150 million available is now closed. Projects serve densely populated Urban Areas as defined by the Census Bureau (populations of 50,000 or more). Grants range from $300,000 to $5,000,000. The ORLP is run through the state LWCF lead agencies.  The National Park Service hopes to announce the fifth-round awardees by spring of 2022.

    Typical Grant Amount
    $500,000
    Match from other sources
    100%
    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition
    Eligibility for Accessing Funds
    Local governments, Tribal governments, Districts
    Learn More
  • 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
    Learn More
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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