The ABCs of UPARR: The Nuts and Bolts of the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program. (History: UPARR at 25)

Parks & Recreation, January 2003 | Go to article overview

The ABCs of UPARR: The Nuts and Bolts of the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program. (History: UPARR at 25)


This year marks the 25th anniversary of the creation of the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR). Throughout the year, Parks & Recreation will highlight the history and accomplishments, and look at the future, of this crucial program. As we go to press, the continued legislative and executive branch support for UPARR is unclear. We hope that learning more about UPARR's history will motivate you to work with your federal legislators to ensure its future. This first installment of the UPARR at 25 series gives an overview of the program. Next month, we'll provide a behind-the-scenes look at how the program came into existence.

We invite NRPA members who have utilized UPARR grants to share your stories. Contact Scott Douglas at sdouglas @nrpa.org.

Although it was created in 1978, the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery program had its in the Land and Water Conservation Fund, established in 1964.

The 1964 law that created the Land and Water Conservation Fund established a funding source for both federal acquisition of park and recreation lands, and matching grants to state and local governments for recreation planning, acquisition and development. By 1970, growing demands on the fund led Congress to update its perception of the program. Legislators increasingly believed that the state grant program should give more emphasis to urban parks and recreation areas. The grant program should help acquire and develop recreation facilities within urban areas, not just nearby; and the federal side of the fund program should also contribute to meeting close-to-home recreation needs. Urban recreation was also getting renewed attention from the executive branch. In March 1978, President Carter announced a "new partnership" to conserve America's communities, representing a long-term commitment to community revitalization.

That year's National Urban Recreation Study noted that urban recreation needed help beyond land acquisition. After all, many urban areas had a rich history of parks and recreation spaces; the problem, increasingly, was deterioration of the already-built environment (parks and playgrounds). The study recommended creation of a grants-in-aid program to restore the built environment, help recreational authorities plan for future development and provide recreational services to economically stressed neighborhoods.

Accordingly, in November 1978, the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Act (UPARR) was signed into law as a stand-alone complement to the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Early Authorization

At its creation, UPARR authorized $725 million over five years. (Since its inception, UPARR has been responsible for more than $230 million in environmental education and recreation grants to economically distressed neighborhoods in 42 states. See the table on p. 70 for a breakdown of actual UPARR appropriations throughout the years.) Grants were made available for eligible cities and urban counties to:

* Restore facilities that had fallen into disuse or needed repair.

* Encourage innovations in recreation programming.

* Stimulate and support local commitments to recreation systems and maintenance.

* Improve the management and delivery of recreation services to urban residents.

At its inception, UPARR awarded three types of grants: rehabilitation grants, innovation grants and planning grants.

Rehabilitation grants provide capital funding to renovate or redesign existing close-to-home recreation facilities. They're matching grants (70 percent federal/30 percent local) that can be used for improving buildings, grounds and equipment; they can't be used to support routine operations and maintenance.

Innovation grants usually involve more modest amounts of funding aimed at supporting specific activities that either increase recreation programs or improve the efficiency of the local government to operate existing programs. …

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