Organizations that support parks and park partnerships
Updated: Mar 1, 2022
(Performance of a classic movie theme by Too Many Trombones at the Rose Kennedy Greenway, June, 2015)
If you've been reading my posts, you've probably come away with the conclusion that public parks funding, management, advocacy, and collaboration occurs at a very local level.
Since public parks are funded primarily by local tax dollars, usually through a town, city, or county, the partnerships that have grown to support those efforts are usually local as well. As I mentioned in my "Who Funds Parks?" post, 93 percent of all funding for parks is from public sources, and 7 percent is from partnering nonprofit organizations. Most public park agencies struggle to see 1 percent of a given city or state budget, which is why partnerships take on such importance. Parks nonprofits in New York City are waging a campaign for one penny of every tax dollar to be dedicated to parks right now.
This story isn't anything new, nor is the campaign to get more public funds to support our public parks.
The bottom line is collaboration and additional funding can make a huge difference in our parks.
That said, there are a small number of larger nonprofits that work to raise the issues of parks funding, operation, maintenance, and programming. Each of these organizations has a different focus and they do share great information and resources. (Full disclosure: I have worked for, or in collaboration with, all of these organizations.) I list them alphabetically, along with reasons why I recommend them to people and organizations working to build, operate, and program public parks across the United States.
The City Parks Alliance is a national nonprofit focused on urban parks. Its members are made up of public parks agencies, parks nonprofits, funders, and professionals who work to develop, improve, program, and fund public parks. They host a variety of educational sessions, work to fund research and analysis (of park usage, funding and partnerships), and host what I think is the best parks conference in the United States, the biannual Greater and Greener Conference, which is hosted by a different city every two years. Due to the continuing pandemic, they postponed the 2021 conference to June 18-21, 2022 in Philadelphia. You should attend, it usually sees around 1,000 attendees and the sessions, discussion, and networking opportunities are all worth the expense. Registration opens shortly.
The Institute for Urban Parks at the Central Park Conservancy draws on the conservancy's history in urban park management and public-private partnerships to provide leadership, training, and capacity building for public and nonprofit park organizations, leaders, and advocates. Their urban park roundtables, held both virtually and in-person, are a great way to learn about current trends, issues, and concerns. The next roundtable is on February 24, 2022 from noon to 5 pm and is a virtual, free event. Additional in-person roundtables are planned for St. Louis in the spring and Los Angeles in the fall.
The National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) is the national association for parks and recreation professionals as well as public park agencies in the United States. They cover a wide variety of issues and topics in their programming and in their publications and perform research and analysis on trends, challenges and current issues. They provide training and certification for park professionals as well as accreditation for city and county park systems. They have tens of thousands of members and member agencies and produce (in most years) an in-person multi day conference and trade show that draws 8,000+ attendees. The 2022 conference is slated for September 20-22, 2022 in Phoenix. If you want to get a sense of the top issues, concerns as well as trends and challenges facing the public parks and recreation world, visit NRPA's website.
The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit that protects land and builds parks across the USA, as well as advocating for equitable access to parks through their research and analysis of city park systems, with a key focus on walkable access to a park, through the 10-minute walk campaign. Their annual ParkScore Index compares the parks and recreation systems of the 100 largest cities in the United States. The companion ParkServe Index provides park access information for nearly 14,000 urbanized areas across the United States, which encompass eighty percent of the population. An easy way to get started is to look up your city and see how you compare.