Green Communities Center

Great Urban Parks Campaign

Bringing Green Infrastructure to Underserved Communities

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

This two-year project supports on-the-ground projects in local communities and is developing resources and training programs on green infrastructure for park, recreation, planning, and other professionals. This expansion of the Great Urban Parks Campaign (an ongoing collaboration between APA and NRPA) involves two simultaneous strategies: education and pilot projects.

We are creating and disseminating evidence-based educational resources to increase the knowledge of park and recreation leaders and planners on how to implement green infrastructure projects to maximize multiple benefits. Resources include webinars, conference sessions, and a comprehensive resource guide for park leaders and planners to be rolled out beginning in late 2016.

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

"Parks play an important role in creating communities of lasting value," said APA President Carol Rhea, FAICP. "Incorporating green infrastructure into new or existing parks will enhance each community, making them more sustainable, equitable and resilient for current and future generations."

Traditional "gray" infrastructure moves stormwater to storm drains, sewers, or other constructed channels, carrying along with it pollutants and runoff from streets and sidewalks. Green infrastructure uses plants and other natural elements to slow the flow of water and allow it to gradually return to the ground or to creeks and river systems. Some of the more commonly known elements of green infrastructure are rain gardens, green roofs, constructed or restored wetlands, and native plants used as buffers along streams. Once in place, these natural elements can also serve as areas for active or passive recreation or environmental education and can increase wildlife habitat.

APA's role in this collaborative project supports APA's mission to provide leadership in the development of vital communities by advocating excellence in planning, promoting education and citizen empowerment, and providing the tools and support necessary to meet the challenges of growth and change.

Project Updates

August 2016

Grant Awards Will Support Green Infrastructure Projects in Four U.S. Cities

NRPA and APA are proud to announce the recipients of the 2016 Great Urban Parks Campaign grant. Park Pride, the Parks and People Foundation, Environmental Learning for Kids, and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy were awarded grants totaling $1.75 million in support of green infrastructure projects in Atlanta, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Denver.

Green infrastructure in urban parks is an efficient way to reduce flooding, improve water quality, improve wildlife habitat, and increase biodiversity, all while providing opportunities for access to nature and outdoor recreation in underserved communities. The grant awards issued to Park Pride and Environmental Learning for Kids will be used to develop new public parks in Atlanta and Denver, and the grant awards issued to the Parks and People Foundation and Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will be used to revitalize existing parks in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. All four projects will include significant green infrastructure elements.

"Green infrastructure is essential to social and environmental change, especially in underserved areas where water quality is a major concern," said NRPA President and CEO Barbara Tulipane. "That's why we are proud to award the Great Urban Parks Campaign grant, which will help showcase the social, environmental, and economic benefits of green infrastructure in America's urban parks and beyond."

"Parks play an important role in creating communities of lasting value," said APA President Carol Rhea, FAICP. "Incorporating green infrastructure into new or existing parks will enhance each community, making them more sustainable, equitable, and resilient for current and future generations.

Spring 2016

Great Urban Parks: Green Infrastructure in Underserved Communities

Background Research for March 2016 Convening of Thought Leaders in Atlanta

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.


Great Urban Parks Campaign: Green Infrastructure in Underserved Communities

Convening Summary Report

Following the event, 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.

The Arthur Langford Jr. Skatepark is now one of two of its kind located along the Atlanta BeltLine. The park is in an area that historically has been underserved with public amenities and, once the Atlanta BeltLine is complete, there will be direct access to the skate park from the trail.

Stormwater runoff and damaging flooding once plagued the area where Historic Fourth Ward Park now stands and its surrounding environs. The two-acre lake provides not only an arresting visual and natural gathering place, but also serves in a functional capacity as a stormwater detention basin.