Urban Parks

Urban Parks

Parks help keep a city healthy, but too many have been allowed to decline. Wallace supported public-private partnerships to spur reinvestment in open spaces.
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The Issue

As places to play and learn and as public spaces where people come together, parks are essential to the health of urban communities. In many cities where parks have been left to decline, public-private partnerships have emerged to spur reinvestment in open spaces.

The Response

The Urban Parks initiative sought to improve the quantity and quality of city parks for public use, particularly in low-income neighborhoods, and to broaden urban leaders’ understanding of the importance of parks to the health and vitality of cities. Grants totaling $38.6 million supported 19 public-private partnerships in 17 cities to create parks in under-served neighborhoods, promote urban reforestation, restore landscape and bring new activities to parks. Wallace supported national and regional forums to share lessons on park development and its contribution to communities. In 2000, $3 million in final grants went to support urban park collaborations, physical improvements, and intergenerational activities, and to help establish a national organization, the City Parks Alliance, to represent urban parks and possibly provide a network for encouraging informal learning through park projects around the country.

The Results

The Urban Parks Initiative:

  • Secured 350 acres of new parkland and 50 miles of new greenway trails, restoring 300 acres of existing parkland and pulling together more than $150 million in public/private commitments.
  • Drew new visitors through innovative activities, grounded in careful study of park use.
  • Shared lessons of effective park development with the broader field through publications and Urban Parks Online. In 2001, The Urban Institute published Public Use of Urban Parks: A Methods Manual for Park Managers and Community Leaders.
  • Helped build a network of park practitioners and city mayors, the foundation-supported City Parks Forum

Research That Emerged From This Work

The Public Value of Urban Parks

Understanding Park Usership

Urban Parks as Partners in Youth Development

Our Grantees