The Parks and Green Stormwater Infrastructure Initiative

In September 2023, City Parks Alliance launched a new initiative to help parks and water practitioners better collaborate on green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) in park systems in ways that can provide access to new green spaces and recreation, enhance climate resilience and protect biodiversity, improve public health and social equity, and provide fiscal benefits.

Working with the US Water Alliance and the Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange, and with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we invited a cohort of parks and water agency leaders from eight cities to inform how to increase collaboration between these two sectors and address historic inequities. The cohort will share experiences and ideas about successes and overcoming barriers to broader collaboration on developing GSI in urban parks and how to harness the myriad benefits it can bring.

Over the next two years, we will highlight successful examples of GSI projects in urban parklands, with the hope of inspiring the creation of even more multi-benefit projects. We will also identify and address systemic barriers to better collaboration between parks and water agencies and their partners and share tools, resources, principals, and promising practices to unlock the suite of benefits GSI in parks can provide, all informed by practitioner experience.

An open green space in Tuscon, AZ
GSI basin with native trees and shrubs at CSM Martin R. “Gunny” Barreras Memorial Park, Tucson, AZ

Our Cohort

The Parks and Green Stormwater Infrastructure Initiative cohort includes Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Seattle, and Tucson. Our members represent the following agencies and organizations:

  • Atlanta Department of Watershed Management
  • Boston Office of Green Infrastructure
  • Boston Parks and Recreation Department
  • Harris County (TX) Flood Control District
  • Houston Department of Public Works
  • Houston Parks Board
  • Willow Waterhole Greenspace Conservancy (Houston, TX)
  • Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District
  • Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority
  • Pittsburgh Department of City Planning
  • Raleigh Stormwater
  • Raleigh Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources Department
  • Seattle Public Utilities
  • Seattle Parks and Recreation
  • Tucson Water
  • Tucson Parks and Recreation Department
A large group of people posing

About GSI

What is GSI?

Traditional “gray” infrastructure—the gutters, sewers, and tunnels that move water away from homes and buildings during storms—can cause flooding, water pollution, and the urban heat island effect. “Green” stormwater infrastructure (GSI), on the other hand, uses plants and soils to manage water during and after storms. It can also include permeable pavement and other systems for filtering, capturing, and storing stormwater. GSI has other benefits, too, like increasing green space, boosting climate resilience, filtering air and water pollution, and creating green jobs.

GSI in Parks: A Win-Win Solution

Parks (and other green spaces managed by parks agencies) represent some of the largest natural areas in urban places and are publicly owned sites for potentially implementing GSI. While parks promote health by providing spaces for physical activity, social connection, time in nature, and stress reduction, they also combat extreme heat and provide community hubs during emergencies. Integrating GSI into park systems is a true multi-benefit solution. But despite alignment on a number of policy goals, parks are presently underutilized for GSI due to a number of barriers and challenges.

The Importance of Equity

Due to a legacy of discriminatory policies and planning practices, African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, and people who live in low-income, urban neighborhoods have less access to parks and green spaces than people who live in more affluent or predominantly white areas. One result is that marginalized communities are disproportionately impacted by flooding, extreme heat, and pollution. Equity-focused projects, policies, and funding tools that increase GSI in parks in high-need communities can advance environmental justice and promote public health.


Learn From Our Cohort

Additional Resources

Our Partners

The logo for the U.S. Water Alliance
The logo for Green Infrastructure Leadership Exchange

Support is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of the Foundation.


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