|Zion National Park. Photo by author.|
You’ve heard the refrain many times before: If Congress doesn’t act by x date, y funding for z programs will be cut. Well, the song remains the same for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), whose funding over the last 50 years has provided more than $4 billion in matching grants for projects such as parkland acquisition and facility development, including the acquisition of California’s Big Sur coast and Harpers Ferry in West Virginia. The fund sunsets in September if Congress does not act in time.
Fortunately, the City Parks Alliance (CPA) has released an excellent report on the subject detailing the variety of benefits that come from investing in our state and urban parks: promoting public health, generating jobs, attracting residents and businesses, leveraging private-sector investment, and lowering infrastructure costs for cities. Of course, not all benefits are measurable, like beauty, but they underly what we quantify.
Since 1965, the LWCF State and Local Assistance Program has provided more than 42,000 matching grants to state and local governments for locally supported projects for state and local parks, playgrounds, urban wildlife refuges, greenways, trails, and open spaces. The fund's act designated that a portion of receipts from offshore oil and gas leases be placed into the fund annually for state and local conservation, as well as for the protection of national parks, forests, and wildlife areas. This hasn't always worked according to plan due to--you guessed it--diversion of funding.
Here’s just a sample list of the work the LWCF has helped accomplish:
- Acquisition of more than 7 million acres of land
- Underwriting of the following projects:
- Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Montana
- New York City's Central Park
- Golden Gate Park in San Francisco
- Custer State Park in South Dakota
- Harpers Ferry in West Virginia
- California's Big Sur Coast
- Thousands of local playgrounds, soccer fields, and baseball diamonds
Congress must act now to secure a permanent reauthorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund before it expires in September 2015. The value of our parks has been quantified. So let’s put our money where our stats are.
Read More About the Value of Parks and the LWCF
- Benepe, Adrian. “Please Sir, May I Have Some More. Congress Should Provide Crucial Funding to City Parks.” Huffington Post: January 23, 2015.
- City Parks Alliance report on the value of the LWCF: “A Smart Investment for America’s Economy.”
- Dunlap, Mark. “Public Parks, Poor Funding, Corporate Sponsorship.” eCivis Blog: May 21, 2014.
- Gametime playground funding assistance: http://www.gametime.com/grant/apply/
- LCWF Coalition website: http://www.lwcfcoalition.org/about-lwcf.html
- National Park Service’s overview of the LWCF: http://www.nps.gov/lwcf/index.h
- Richardson, Kim. “Parks as Catalysts for Economic Development.” eCivis Blog: April 16, 2014.