Why We Need to Pass a Law That Funds Urban Green Spaces

There's nothing like green space for improving your quality of life.

Unfortunately, too many families and children are denied access to a neighborhood park. They may also lack recreational facilities like basketball courts.

Green spaces and outdoor recreation aren't luxuries. The most livable cities are dotted by parks, and they return countless health and economic benefits. Recreation brings out people from across the community. Urban open spaces make areas more appealing to live and invest in.

Eighty percent of Americans live in urban areas. The Los Angeles congressional district I represent is all city, but everyone there (and across the country) should have access to a nearby park.

Fortunately, there's something we can do.

I'm introducing the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Grant Program Act (H.R. 2943), a bill that would protect a National Park Service program that promotes the development of greenspaces and recreation facilities in underserved parts of cities. This program has done things like transform degraded stormwater channels into greenways. It's converted a former industrial site into a sports field and playground. Wildlife areas have sprung up where deserted lots used to be. It's built trails, skate parks, and basketball courts.

U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán held a press event at the Port of Los Angeles recently to call attention to the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Grant Program Act of 2017. At right is Marc Yeber, vice president for public information, APA's California Chapter, who spoke on the essential role parks play in the fabric of local communities. Photo courtesy office of U.S. Rep. Barragán.

This worthwhile program needs congressional support to continue, especially when green efforts have come up against the chopping block in Washington, D.C.

My bill would dedicate up to $25 million from the federally administered Land and Water Conservation Fund toward these types of projects. The grants are paid for through revenue from oil and gas leases — not with taxpayer money.

This is the first bill I've introduced in Congress. That's how much green spaces are a priority for me. It has bipartisan support, including from my Republican cosponsor, Representative Michael Turner of Ohio.

Applicants to the program must be state or local government agencies, and they must provide matching funds, including from local nonprofits.

This program encourages partnerships across all levels of government and communities. It improves the lives of people located in primarily minority and underserved areas. And all sites created through its grants must be maintained and accessible for public for outdoor recreation use.

I've worked closely with park advocates to launch this bill. I'd like to thank the American Planning Association for its support, as well as other members of the Urban and Community Park Coalition, including the National Recreation and Park Association, the City Parks Alliance, and the Trust for Public Land. The Land and Water Conservation Fund Coalition, the Nature Conservancy, and the Wilderness Society have also endorsed it. So has the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

This bill is a chance to build communities and improve our cities. It's vitally important that it become law. Please let your member of Congress know you support green space access for all and the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program Act of 2017.

Top image: Looking out from City Park at the Denver, Colorado, skyline. Photo by Flickr user Ken Lane.

About the Author

U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán

U.S. Rep. Nanette Barragán represents California's 44th Congressional District, which includes the communities of Carson, Compton, Lynwood, North Long Beach, Rancho Dominguez, San Pedro, South Gate, Walnut Park, Watts/Willowbrook, and Wilmington.

July 14, 2017

By Nanette Barragán