Green Communities Center

Great Urban Parks Campaign

APA, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), and the Low Impact Development Center created resources to improve environmental and social outcomes in underserved communities through green infrastructure in local parks.

Project Overview

Green infrastructure is becoming the go-to economical and environmentally friendly solution to ensure resilience in extreme weather situations, moving beyond aging, "gray" stormwater management systems. Local parks are ideally suited for green infrastructure approaches, which improve and enhance public spaces to benefit the social, environmental, and economic aspects of a community.

This two-year project supported on-the-ground projects in local communities and developed resources and training programs on green infrastructure for park, recreation, and planning professionals. It specifically focused on dealing with gentrification and improving social equity.

This expansion of the Great Urban Parks Campaign (an ongoing collaboration between APA and NRPA) involved two simultaneous strategies: pilot projects and evidence-based educational resources to increase knowledge on how to implement green infrastructure projects to maximize multiple benefits.

Planning for Equity in Parks With Green Infrastructure

APA produced three briefing papers that summarize policy issues around green infrastructure and parks to help public officials, planners, and parks professionals make decisions and formulate local policies.

This paper explores how ecosystem services provided by green infrastructure projects in new or existing parks can advance social equity goals provided that planners, park professionals, and public officials plan collaboratively with residents and act to mitigate environmental gentrification.

Work Products

Financing Green Infrastructure Projects

This briefing paper examines the unique characteristics of public green infrastructure projects that, when compared to traditional gray infrastructure, require special consideration in the budget process and may lend themselves to innovating funding strategies.

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Green Infrastructure and Park System Planning

This briefing paper explores how green infrastructure can be integrated into park system planning, thus providing an overall framework and direction for implementing green stormwater infrastructure in parks to benefit underserved communities

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Resource Guide for Planning, Designing, and Implementing Green Infrastructure in Parks

This guide draws on lessons learned from the Great Urban Park Campaign pilot projects and provides basic principles, inspiration and ideas that can help planners, designers and decision makers equitably integrate green stormwater infrastructure into parks and park systems across the country.

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Great Urban Parks Campaign Case Studies: Design and Building

The August 2016 Great Urban Parks Campaign grants awarded Park Pride, the Parks and People Foundation, Environmental Learning for Kids, and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy a total of $1.75 million in support of green infrastructure projects in Atlanta, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Denver. The grant awards issued to Park Pride (Atlanta) and Environmental Learning for Kids (Denver) were used to develop new public parks, and those issued to the Parks and People Foundation (Baltimore) and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy were used to revitalize existing parks. All four projects included significant green infrastructure elements.

This case study looks at lessons learned in the design/build process from green infrastructure projects in Denver, Pittsburgh, and Atlanta.

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Great Urban Parks Campaign Case Studies: Engagement

This case study looks at lessons learned in the community engagement process from green infrastructure projects in Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

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Great Urban Parks Campaign Case Studies: Partnerships

This case study looks at lessons learned from green infrastructure projects in Denver and Atlanta.

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Great Urban Parks Campaign Case Studies: Funding

This case study looks at lessons learned in the funding process from green infrastructure projects in Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

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Green Infrastructure Improves Communities

This video explains the need for the Great Urban Parks Campaign and shows how using parks for green infrastructure is a creative and cost-effective alternative to gray infrastructure that allows nature to filter pollutants from rain water, reduce storm water issues and give communities access to more green space.

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New Resources for Green Infrastructure Stormwater Management in Parks

This webinar focuses on key recommendations and findings on how to envision, plan, finance, and implement green stormwater management projects in parks and other public lands, especially projects that are designed to benefit underserved communities. It highlights how to manage an effective and thorough community engagement process.

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Green Infrastructure and Social Equity

This webinar focuses on best practices, strategies and case studies for planning and implementing green infrastructure projects in parks, with a special focus on connecting to communities and empowering underserved communities.

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Collaboration, Funding, and Community Engagement

This webinar is intended for parks and water utility administrators, landscape architects, representatives of community organizations, and anyone interested in building a new collaborative approach to green infrastructure projects that go beyond the functional benefits of capturing and treating stormwater to engaging and empowering communities for the benefit of all.

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Small-Scale, Low-Cost Green Stormwater Management Projects for Parks and Public Lands

The cost of designing, installing and maintaining larger scale green stormwater infrastructure (GSI) projects can often be daunting for park agencies and other public lands managers. This free webinar will give you the information you need to know on how you can easily and simply design, install and maintain low-cost small-scale green infrastructure stormwater projects in parks and public spaces.

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Tools for Trees: Better Stormwater Management and Livability

Trees can provide multiple benefits in the landscape especially when utilized in new and retrofitted stormwater management installations. This webinar introduces a free interactive web-based tool developed by the National Association of Regional Councils and the U.S. Forest Service that will help you maximize the value of trees in stormwater management. Join national experts in green infrastructure design for an intro to this exciting new tool that enables strategic placement of trees to improve stormwater management.

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NPC17: Green Infrastructure in Parks for Underserved Communities

NRPA's Rich Dolesh and APA's Jennifer Henaghan presented a conference session at NPC17 that summarized the intent of the project as well as the work plan.

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Background Research

On March 10–11, 2016, nearly 40 thought leaders from across the country gathered at Southpoint Energy Institute in Atlanta to discuss how to maximize social and environmental benefits of green infrastructure in parks in underserved communities. The group participated in panel discussions; small group work; tours of Atlanta parks; and review of model projects from Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. To inform the discussion, APA prepared a brief summary of existing research on the topic as well as case studies.

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Convening Summary

Following the convening, NRPA and LIDC prepared a report summarizing the two days of discussion. Breakout session highlights included key recommendations for green infrastructure planning, design/operations, social equity/engagement, partnerships, and funding/financing.

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This project was made possible by a grant by the JPB Foundation to NRPA. NRPA partnered with APA and LIDC to conduct research, host a convening of thought leaders, solicit and select pilot projects, and develop a suite of educational resources.