Partnering with City Parks Alliance for Strong Urban Parks

Kaylin PeacheyPark Partner Stories
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area
Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

Imagine the perfect day outside — the sound of the birds, the shade of a tree, the rejuvenated feeling of connecting with nature. Time in nature is widely documented as an important way to reduce stress, get active and connect with family and friends. Many people know how healthy a visit to our parks can be, but few realize that for the 80 percent of Americans living in urban or metropolitan areas, city parks are their closest contact with nature!

Well-known urban national parks include Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in Atlanta; Biscayne National Park in Miami; Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in Chicago and Anacostia Park in Washington, D.C. While other urban parks may be lesser-known, they all play important roles in their communities. The National Park Service manages over 40 urban parks, and these parks provide important access to nature and recreation and serve critical functions related to transportation, stormwater mitigation, and economic growth.

“As cities become more densely populated or work to attract and retain residents, elected officials, public agencies, planners, and community advocates are taking a fresh look at parks and their potential to help address critical urban infrastructure and health issues,” said Catherine Nagel, executive director of City Parks Alliance.

The lighthouse at Biscayne National Park surrounded by bright blue waters
Carol McGunagle, Share the Experience

City Parks Alliance, an independent membership organization that focuses exclusively on urban parks, is working to strengthen parks and their communities by harnessing the power of partnerships, cross-sector collaboration, and community planning. Since its founding in 2000, City Parks Alliance has been actively building a strong network of urban park supporters and supplying the high-quality research necessary to advocate for the creation, programming and maintenance of city parks.

Between 2014 and 2016, City Parks Alliance and RAND Corporation conducted The National Study of Neighborhood Parks, a research project that identified how neighborhood parks in America’s cities encourage people to be more physically active. Data collectors observed park design and behaviors in 175 neighborhood parks in 25 cities across the country. Key findings of the report included the discovery that girls are less likely to spend time in parks and that parks with walking loops had a higher senior citizen visitation rate than those that did not have one.

In its newest study, City Parks Alliance explores how cities are leveraging the power of parks, innovation and partnerships to encourage people to be more active.

Anacostia Park

National Park Service

City Parks Alliance also leads and serves a network of diverse organizations that encompass the greater world of parks, from neighborhood groups to government agencies, championing high quality urban parks throughout the nation. Their biennial conference Greater & Greener is the leading international conference for urban park leaders, city planning and design professionals, public officials, advocates, funders, and innovators. In the past, conferences have centered on issues like greenspaces, urban infrastructure, and public health.

The Mayors for Parks Program, a bipartisan coalition managed by City Park Alliance, advocates for urban parks including support of the Land and Water Conservation Fund and the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program. The coalition recognizes that parks help grow local economies, increase property values, and attract businesses, workforces, and private capital that make metropolitan areas competitive in today’s global economy.

The National Park Foundation is a proud member of City Parks Alliance. In fact, it was at a City Parks Alliance conference in 2012 that a small group of National Park Service leaders identified the foundational elements of a new agenda, whose core principles – relevancy, collaboration, and One National Park Service – were created to help NPS reach new audiences and build stronger connections to Americans living in urban areas. Thus, the work of City Parks Alliance was integral in the creation of the National Park Service’s Urban Agenda.

“Partnering with City Parks Alliance has been a truly rewarding and impactful experience. They embody the spirit of collaboration, and they approach their partnerships with respect, intelligence and joy,” said Chrystal Morris Murphy, National Park Foundation senior vice president of community partnerships.

Cities bustle with life, constantly transforming alongside their populations. Continuously growing, the importance of urban parks becomes ever clearer — providing a haven for locals and visitors seeking a return to nature, while also providing several benefits to their cities and regions. The next time you explore your city, remember to #FindYourPark/#EncuentraTuParque. It may only be a few city blocks away!

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