Investing in Equitable Urban Park Systems: Case Studies & Recommendations

Report | Equity
Investing in Equitable Urban Park Systems: Case Studies & Recommendations

City Parks Alliance is leading a national initiative to research, curate, and disseminate innovative strategies and models for funding parks and green infrastructure in low-income communities.

The seven case studies included in this document showcase cities that are leading the way in using data-driven approaches to ensure more equitable distribution of funding.

As a foundation to this work on funding and equity, City Parks Alliance commissioned Urban Institute to lead research about funding models and their equity considerations in U.S. cities of various sizes. The resulting report, Investing in Equitable Urban Park Systems: Emerging Strategies and Tools, was published in July 2019. It explores twenty funding models and their equity considerations in cities of various sizes across the country. Beyond new sources of funding, the research turned up a number of strategies that utilize an equity lens to shape funding decisions. City Parks Alliance has also partnered with Groundwork USA to identify a framework to help communities use these strategies successfully, to be released in 2020.

This work is made possible with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Equitable Funding Case Studies

City of Detroit Parks and Recreation

Detroit: Parks & Rec Improvement Plan


Learn about Detroit’s equity-focused park planning team, which used equity data to create an improvement plan for 40 neighborhood parks.

Pittsburgh Park Conservancy, Pittsburgh Parks and Recreation

Pittsburgh: Parks for All


An equitable investment plan was driven by data and coupled with residents’ input and priorities, resulting in the passage of a park tax referendum.

NYC Parks

New York City: Framework for an Equitable Future


NYC Parks analyzed capital investment data from the past 20 years and established long-term community partnerships that sustain investment in the city’s parks.

San Francisco Recreation & Parks, San Francisco Parks Alliance

San Francisco: Cal Enviro Screen 3.0


The approval of a park revenue measure drove the development of an equity analysis, which leveraged a statewide open data set provided by the EPA.

Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Philadelphia: Rebuilding Community Infrastructure


Rebuild, funded by a sugary beverage tax, aims to revitalize neighborhood parks, recreation centers, playgrounds, and libraries.

Minneapolis Parks & Recreation

Minneapolis: Community Outreach Department and 20-Year Neighborhood Park Plan


Minneapolis’ Community Outreach Department uses data-driven racial and economic equity criteria to close park funding gaps and distribute funds.

Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District (RPOSD)

LA County: Park Needs Assessment


Learn how a park needs assessment and an engaged community led to the passage of a new tax-based parks measure that provides funds to high-need.


  • Case Study

    The Brickline Greenway: Charting a Path towards Social Equity in St. Louis

    City Parks Alliance

    With cities everywhere focused squarely on equity issues right now, it is a hopeful time for those in St. Louis who’ve been advocating for, funding, and buildi…

  • Technical Tool

    Engage Protect Connect

    Engage, Connect, Protect highlights the need to create opportunities to engage with diverse youth as the next generation of environmental stewards through cult…

  • Technical Tool

    Groundwork Hudson Valley – Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application narrative

    In this proposal, Groundwork Hudson Valley seeks support from CDBG to restore public green space on the Saw Mill River and in a park adjacent to the proposed Y…