IN THE LATE 1970s, as the population in our urban areas began to grow, there developed an increased need for recreational programs and infrastructure. As a result, in 1978 Congress passed the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR). For over three decades, the UPARR was the only source of dedicated funding specifically for the construction and rehabilitation of urban parks.
As a matching grant program, UPARR served as a catalyst for local investment and helped cities to make recreation centers safe, rebuild deteriorating urban parks, and develop innovative methods to leverage existing resources to serve larger populations and meet new demands. Over the life of the program, UPARR did much to enhance safety and recreation opportunities throughout our country. According to the National Park Service, from 1978 through 2002 the UPARR program awarded nearly $272 million for 1,461 grants to 380 local jurisdictions in 43 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Unfortunately, support for UPARR began to dwindle in the late 1990s and by FY2003 Congress stopped funding the program. The termination of funding came at a time when urban areas were once again seeing population growth and were faced with aging infrastructure from the 1950s and 60s that posed significant safety risks.
In 2009, Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ) met with NRPA members from New Jersey during NR-PA's Legislative Forum. After hearing the recreational needs that existed in his district and in the state of New Jersey, Representative Sires committed to leading the charge for renewed dedicated funding for urban parks and recreation. Only a few short months after the Legislative Forum, Representative Sires introduced the Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities Act (H.R. 3734) to invest in the health and well-being of communities across the United States from the standpoint of economic recovery, environmental protection, increased physical activity, as well as providing safe and affordable places for recreation. At NRPA's urban summit in October, 2009, Rep. Sires re minded agency officials from throughout the Administration the importance of investing in urban parks and recreation, and the positive contribution these resources provide to communities.
Parks and Recreation spoke with Sires about his passion for urban parks and recreation and how he has emerged as a champion for this cause.
What role did parks along with recreational programs and facilities play in your childhood?
When I was a young child, my family left Cuba for New Jersey. Since English was not my first language, it was difficult to make friends and communicate with others. I always went to the local parks to play basketball and it was there that I was most comfortable. My experiences helped me to understand the importance of maintaining parks, particularly in urban areas.
When you were mayor of West New York, New Jersey, you worked to ensure adequate funding for parks and recreation. In October of 2009, you introduced the Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities Act (H. …