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.

  • 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
    Learn More
  • Wastewater and Stormwater Utility Revenue

    In many communities, water, wastewater, and stormwater utilities are partnering with park agencies to build green infrastructure in parks to meet their regulatory requirements. Cities, their wastewater and stormwater utilities, and their flood control districts are required to limit stormwater volume and pollutants under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA). Water utilities can meet their regulatory requirements, and avoid significant financial penalties, by investing in green infrastructure, gray infrastructure, or some combination of both.Water utilities may prefer investing in green over gray infrastructure. It is often less expensive and offers additional quality of life, environmental, and health benefits, which make it easier for utilities to “sell” necessary ratepayer increases.In order to partner with a water utility on green infrastructure, it is essential to find projects that meet their regulatory requirements and the community’s park and greenspace needs. Other partners that can be critical to building a successful program include school districts, park agencies, departments of the environment, nonprofit land trusts, and park conservancies.Many cities and wastewater utilities operate under an EPA consent decree that establishes clean water milestones to be reached over 20 years in order to avoid financial penalties. Some utilities have negotiated green infrastructure investments in their milestones.Examples of water utilities partnering on park and green infrastructure investments is critical to convincing water utilities it is not only a viable, but an advantageous approach.

    Typical Grant Amount
    Varies
    Accessibility of Funds
    Very Difficult
    Match from other sources
    Varies
    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition, Operations/Maintenance
    Eligibility for Accessing Funds
    Defined by local government
  • Hazard Mitigation Grant Program

    This program helps communities implement hazard mitigation following a Presidential Major Disaster Declaration to reduce the risk of loss of life and property in future disasters. Funds can be used for land protection, aquifer storage and recovery, floodplain and stream restoration, flood diversion and storage, or green infrastructure methods to manage flood and drought conditions. Applicants must have a Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) approved mitigation plan before applying.

    Typical Grant Amount
    Over $1,000,000
    Accessibility of Funds
    Very Difficult
    Match from other sources
    25%
    Park Funding Use
    Capital/Land Acquisition
    Learn More
  • Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program

    This program provides flexible grants for recovery from Presidentially declared disasters, especially in low-income areas. Congress may appropriate additional funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program as Disaster Recovery grants. Since CDBG Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) assistance may fund a broad range of recovery activities, Department of Housing and Urban Development can fund the creation of parks and green infrastructure in low-income areas to increase community resilience.

    Typical Grant Amount
    Over $1,000,000
    Accessibility of Funds
    Very Difficult
    Match from other sources
    Supplemental to other disaster funding
    Eligibility for Accessing Funds
    State governments, Local governments, Nonprofits (planning grants, not construction)
    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