Urban Summit Distilled

Article excerpt

This White Paper summarized key points of NRPA's landmark Urban Summit.

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) convened an Urban Park Summit on September 22, 2009, in Washington, DC. The Summit brought together White House officials, key federal agency officials. Members of Congress, congressional staff, elected urban officials, and urban park directors in a day of dynamic roundtable and panel discussions to address critical needs and ernergingopportunities for America's urban parks. Discussions highlighted the critical role that urban parks play in solving many of the social, economic, and environmental challenges of our nation's cities and urban communities.

The purpose of the Summit was to seek support for urban parks in new White House national urban policy plans, and to secure Congressional and Administration support for new urban parks legislation. A secondary purpose of the summit was to bring together key federal agency representatives with directors of the nation's largest urban park systems and representatives of urban park advocacy groups for á dialogue about . the needs of cities and how urban parks can address critical challenges such as urban revitalization, youth development and employment, chronic disease prevention and other critical national priorities.

The Summit was intended to serve as a catalyst for maximizing the opportunities presented by an Administration that has clearly communicated its priorities for both economically revitalizing urban areas and developing comprehensive urban policy that integrates health, environment, jobs, transportation, and housing. The Summit advanced fresh thinking and new ideas for policies and legislation to incorporate urban park needs into the development of a comprehensive national urban policy as well as new perspectives on how to partner with the private sector.

Presentations by speakers and the resulting panel and roundtable discussions focused on the programs and policies that could revitalize America's urban areas and what must be done to build healthy, livable, sustainable communities. Recommendations include strategies and action steps intended to achieve the goals of the Summit.

Challenges

* Critical Need for Funding - Cities and urban counties are not able to meet the financial demand to restore andrehabilitate aging urban park infrastructure despite the economic, environmental and social benefits that high quality urban parks bring to cornmunities.

* Role of Federal Government- Urban parks significantly contribute to national goals for improving health, revitalizing urban cornnaunities, redeveloping economically depressed urban cores, and creating livable communities. All agreed that a federal role and adequate federal resources are critical to ensuring the benefits of urban parks. Urban parks deserve federal resources and funding just as much as other public sectors that already are receiving federal aid to solve national problems and achieve national goals such as federal investments in transportation infrastructure, natural resource conservation, and public health.

* Accountability for Results - Cities and urban counties must demonstrate they are meeting performance goals. Federal investments in cities and urban counties must show tangible, measurable results. Such investments must be leveraged by state and local matching funds. Funding should be contingent on performance,

* Equity - Urban areas that are most in need also often have the greatest needs for resources to solve social, environmental, and economic challenges. However, such areas often tend to receive fewer resources and federal assistance than more well off communities. Cities and urban counties are challenged to make all parks and recreation services available and accessible to all, regardless of residents' ability to pay.

* Health - One of the most important benefits ofurban parks and therefore one of the greatest opportunities for success is the significant role that urban parks play in contributing to individual and community health. …