Parks and recreational spaces bring immense health, economic, and social equity benefits to the communities they serve, but urban areas often lack adequate outdoor recreational space or the resources necessary to develop and maintain them.
Federal funding is critical to make sure parks have access to the resources they need to develop and protect green space and recreational facilities. The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been integral in providing matching state and local assistance grants to cities and other communities for park planning and development.
However, over the last decade or so, Congress has appropriated increasingly less funding to the LWCF state and local assistance program, meaning that little to no federal money currently trickles down to local communities to support these vital projects.
Phoenix, the host city for APA's 2016 National Planning Conference, is a place with a strong commitment to preserving open space and creating recreational opportunities for its residents to enjoy, and it has dozens of parks that have been created or maintained thanks to LWCF state and local assistance matching grant funding over the years.
One such place is Encanto Park, a 222-acre public outdoor space offering a wide variety of recreational opportunities to residents in the area.
In 1982, it received $125,000 in LWCF state and local assistance grant funding to help enhance access to community outdoor space and recreation.
In 2014, on the 50th anniversary of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell visited Encanto Park to promote and support continued LWCF contributions to plan, develop, and maintain urban and community parks.
Playgrounds and picnic areas with grills provide communal space for families and friends to gather, play, and enjoy being outside.
Paths provide trails for walking, jogging, and biking just blocks away from downtown Phoenix.
A sports complex in the park includes tennis courts, a swimming pool, fields, and outdoor exercise machines to help residents stay active and healthy.
To ensure residents in urban communities have access to the resources they need to continue to build high-quality parks and recreational facilities like Encanto Park, members of Congress must recognize the benefits these parks bring to the communities they serve and increase funding for state and local assistance grants through the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Top image: Urban fishing is a big attraction for local residents. Species available to fish in Encanto Park include rainbow trout, channel catfish, largemouth bass, sunfish, and white amur. All photos by Kirsten Holland.
About the Author
Kirsten Holland is policy associate at Advocacy Associates.