Planners Take a Stand for Parks, Place-Based Initiatives on Capitol Hill

Each year, planners attending APA’s Policy and Advocacy Conference cap off their time in Washington with a trip to Capitol Hill. They go to advocate for federal programs that make possible good planning in their communities. This important annual event connects legislators with planners in their states and districts and promotes APA’s Legislative Priorities.

Planners met with more than 100 senators and representatives yesterday to discuss federal appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year, the continuation of support for federal place-based programs that promote good planning, and the importance of support for urban parks and the Land and Water Conservation Fund.


Advocates began the morning with a briefing on APA’s legislative priorities and three asks for the day. They heard from Advocacy Guru Stephanie Vance on best practices and tips for making the most of face-to-face meetings with legislators. First timers to the Hill gained valuable insights into making the case for issues that are top of mind for planners.

Midway through Planners’ Day, participants convened in the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center for a two-part series of congressional briefings. These meetings underscored the need for federal funding for programs that build healthier, more active, and just communities.

Speakers at the Congressional Luncheon on Capitol Hill addressed the importance of city parks and discussed ways to increase federal investment in urban park planning and development. Whit Blanton, Executive Director of the Pinellas County Metropolitan Planning Organization, opened the luncheon and introduced U.S. Representative Kathy Castor (D-FL-14).

Rep. Castor has a long history of advocating for urban park investment and other planning policy priorities as an elected official. At the luncheon, she outlined how parks have revitalized her district. In addition, she highlighted the lack of federal funding currently going to urban parks and urged planners to continue to tell their legislators how important parks are to building strong, healthy, vibrant communities.

Following Rep. Castor's remarks, staff at APA partner organizations talked about their work to advocate for urban parks. Catherine Nagel with the City Parks Alliance outlined the health, economic, environmental, and social equity benefits parks bring to urban areas. Joel Pannell of the Trust for Public Land outlined the work his organization is doing on the ground to help communities apply for grants to plan and develop urban parks. And Dave Tyahla with the National Recreation and Park Association addressed the current status of federal legislation to prioritize funding for city parks.

Picking up on many of the themes mentioned in the briefing before it, the congressional briefing on planning and public health provided a magnified view of the work being done at the intersection of planning and public health. Scott Ulrich, from Columbus, Ohio, discussed the impact of APA’s Plan4Health, a project funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A planner in a public health department, Scott bridges both sectors — and works to elevate the importance of the built environment when it comes to preventing chronic disease. During the Plan4Health project period, the coalition worked on numerous strategies, including a strategic plan to connect the regional trail system and increase access to parks. After the funded period, the work continues with new fitness stations and a Walk with a Doc program to support residents as they make healthy choices and visit their urban parks.

Planners who weren’t able to join in person at Planners’ Day were encouraged to do their part from home by signing and sending action alerts to their elected officials. If you weren’t able to send your alert yesterday, we encourage you to do so through the end of this week. Find our action alerts on parks and place-based initiatives in our Legislative Action Center.

When the sun set on Planners’ Day, one thing was certain — planners from across the country succeeded in becoming one loud voice for federal support of planning. Thank you to the more than 200 dedicated and passionate advocates who traveled to D.C. or wrote from home to tell their planning stories. Together we will continue to push for policies that make great communities happen!

About the Author

Emily Pasi is APA's communications and outreach associate.

Top image: Planners pose for a photo in front of the U.S. Capitol Building after taking part in Planners' Day on Capitol Hill. Photo by Mike Johnson.

September 21, 2016

By Emily Pasi