Magazine article Parks & Recreation

NRPA and UPARR: How NRPA Helped to Bring about the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program. (History: UPARR at 25)

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

NRPA and UPARR: How NRPA Helped to Bring about the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program. (History: UPARR at 25)

Article excerpt

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.

Eric Redman's 1978 book, The Dance of Legislation, portrayed in great detail the exhaustive--and exhausting--work that went into passing a single piece of legislation. Redman was writing about the National Health Service Bill, but he would have found just as rich of a subject a few years later if he had written about the Byzantine path that led to the 1978 enactment of the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR). Throughout the dance of this particular piece of legislation toward passage, NRPA was intimately involved.

"There's no question that NRPA was the principal nonprofit group, conceptually and actively, in bring UPARR to life," says Barry Tindall, NRPA's director of public policy, who was NRPA's main point person on what became UPARR. "NRPA wrote the language in a piece of legislation that called for a study of the condition of urban recreation. It was that study that led to the creation of UPARR."

Starting With a Study

The study Tindall refers to came about because of increasing dissatisfaction with the scope of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), established in 1964. "When the LWCF landed on the scene, there was aggressive land acquisition and preservation activity," Tindall recalls. "LWCF didn't have much money, and the vast majority of what there was was going to suburbia. The suburbs hall the matching funds, the infrastructure and the statutes needed."

In addition, according to Tindall, "two-thirds of the state side of LWCF was going for development. The West didn't want more public land, but they wanted development on what they had. Pretty quickly, a lot of people started asking, `Hey, what about the cities?'" Working with coalition partners such as the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Foundation, NRPA set out to get congressional authorization for an urban-recreation needs assessment.

"The need for a special category for urban recreation was a pretty easy case to make," Tindall says. That was especially true because one of the 26 studies conducted by the Outdoor Recreation Resources Review Commission in the early 1960s had been about urban recreation, and had strongly highlighted the special needs of urban recreation. Given societal trends, those needs had only become stronger in the intervening years. In 1978, then, the 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.

Congressional Cooperation

Once the need for federal resources dedicated to urban recreation was reestablished, UPARR's path became especially circuitous, more a demonstration of the old saw about the undesirability of watching sausage and legislation being made than an example for a civics textbook. …

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