From Gotham Gazette:
Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would provide federal funding for urban parks and recreation for the first time in eight years.
The Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities Act (H.R. 3734), introduced by Rep. Albio Sires of New Jersey, reflects the current thinking that parks and recreation are integral to broader efforts to rebuild the economic and social fabric of cities.
At the same time, the Obama administration has created a partnership among federal agencies to promote urban sustainability and Congress is considering a number of bills to promote smart growth, bicycling, walking, mass transit, green infrastructure, historic restoration and the reduction of carbon emissions. Together, these initiatives signal new level of federal interest in improving the quality of life in cities.
"We need to look at the ways in which we can improve and enhance the communities where we all live, work, learn and play to truly address national issues such as climate change, water conservation and obesity," said Stacey Pine, chief government affairs officer at the National Recreation and Parks Association. The association, a national not-for-profit dedicated to advancing park, recreation and conservation efforts, played a key role in developing the Livable Communities Act. It is lobbying to move the bill through Congress, together with other members of the Urban Park Coalition, which includes national planning, bicycling, conservation, sports, health, youth and other organizations.
As numerous studies have shown, well-maintained and used parks increase real estate values in the surrounding area and generate tourism and other economic activity. Access to parks and recreation also improves the physical and mental health of residents, lowers crime, connects children to nature and brings neighbors together. By cooling and filtering the air, absorbing stormwater runoff and providing habitat for migrating birds and other wildlife, parks and natural areas make a city more environmentally sustainable.
The Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities Act ties funding for parks and recreation infrastructure to revitalizing communities, improving public health, reducing crime and promoting economic development. The bill authorizes spending $445 million over 10 years in grants to states, local governments and community-based non-profits to rehabilitate existing parks and recreational facilities and construct new ones. The Department of Housing and Urban Development would administer the program.