Interior Announces $150 Million for Increasing Park Access in Urban Areas – So What Does That Mean for Youth and Families?

Today, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced $150 million in funding for the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program, as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s newly-released America the Beautiful initiative. Since 2014, ORLP (a program of the Land and Water Conservation Fund) funding has enabled urban communities to create new outdoor recreation spaces, reinvigorate existing parks, and support connections between people and nature in economically underserved communities.

OAK is thrilled to see ORLP get the support for which we’ve been advocating since the program’s inception. At $150 million, this is the most funding the program has ever offered, a huge testament to the tireless work of OAK’s members, partners and supporters. So what does this historic investment mean for children, youth and families?

 According to this 2020 special report from OAK member Trust for Public Land (TPL), more than 100 million people – including 28 million children – do not have a park within a 10-minute walk of home. Even when kids do have access to parks, the quality and size of the park varies greatly by who lives in the surrounding community; another study from TPL in 2020 showed that parks serving primarily nonwhite populations are half the size of parks that serve majority white populations – and they’re five times more crowded.

This disparity has been especially evident during the COVID-19 pandemic, with families desperate for a reprieve from isolation indoors, seeking out their close-to-home outdoor spaces. That’s why the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) program is so critical. As one of the very few grant programs that focuses on providing resources specifically for underserved urban areas, it’s a critical lifeline for communities looking to improve outdoor access for all families.

This funding will allow communities to:

  • Acquire land to build new parks (or expand existing ones) that meet the needs of children and families in the community.
  • Improve park features like playgrounds, including by making them safer and more accessible for children and caregivers with disabilities.
  • Hire staff to provide programming for children and keep the parks and facilities clean and maintained.

As Secretary Haaland put it in her announcement of this funding earlier today, “Every child in America deserves to have a safe and nearby place to experience the great outdoors.”

OAK is excited to see the difference this round of ORLP funding makes for communities across the country, and to continue working with Congress and the Administration to build a future in which every child is able to safely explore and develop relationships with the natural world.

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