Improve your local park
Our cities are becoming denser and denser (hurray!) as more people flock to them for the community building and economic benefits they provide. In the heart of these cities lies small oasis’s of green space, outdoor activities, and refuge from the hustle and bustle of our cities. I am talking, of course, about our local parks. It’s more important than ever that we provide safe, beautiful, useful parks in our local communities.
Many of our cities have parks set aside, but they’re in disrepair or they are not seeing their full potential. The communities around these parks are the best ones to decide how they should be upgraded and used, not city officials. But many local residents don’t voice their opinions to their local officials, and as a result see their local parks go unused and fall further into disrepair.
Video: Parks Build Community
Push your city council to spend money for big improvements or just focus more on upkeep of your local park.
Parks fulfill a diverse set of needs. Whether it’s a nature preserve to get away from the bustling city, a safe playground for your kids, or a bustling Coney Island style active park, parks serve as a getaway from your day to day life. There couldn’t be much more of a difference to your communities quality of life then between living next to Yosemite national park or having a quaint community playground in your neighborhood. Researchers have long looked at how parks influence quality of life and economic growth.
Research has shown that increasing trees in a park increases the time urban residents spend there, improved their appreciation of the park, and increases their social ties to their community. It also improves home prices, raises tax revenues and attracts knowledge workers and retirees, according to the American Planning Association.
Parks are great, I love parks. But the park is doing fine, there’s no need to waste precious tax dollars to improve it. We need to focus on other priorities as a city first.
Our neighborhood believes this is the right thing to do. Our local park is falling into disrepair, and it’s hurting our housing prices and quality of life. There is an unmet need in our neighborhood that needs to be addressed with this park.
How To Pass It
This depends on what level of improvement of maintenance you’re looking to accomplish. For small improvements or upgrades, below let’s say $20,000, you would go through your municipal staff and maintenance department. These are things like fixing a broken water fountain or getting more cleaning and maintenance staff. These are small things that allow for better upkeep of the park.
For maintenance improvements you should go through your parks department to request the funding and time. It would be useful to have your city council member involved in this to pressure staff to take the request more seriously. It may be that there is no more money in the budget for parks improvements for the year, which means it must be budgeted in parks budget for the coming year.
Large improvements are called “capital projects” and must go through the political process to accomplish. Consider these things like building a new playground, or making your park more accessible for the disabled.
Capital projects likely requires an allocation from your city council. This would need to be placed in the city budget for the upcoming year.
What You Can Do
Start by building a coalition or neighbors and businesses to press your issue to the city. Whether it’s pressing park staff or your city council members, showing your community is largely in favor of this initiative is critical to it being passed. Staff and council members receive emails and phone calls all the time for pet issues with local parks, it’s easy to disregard if you don’t build a coalition around your idea.
Go to your neighborhood association, homeowners association, local church, and other neighborhood groups and build a list of people interested in joining your cause. Website like nextdoor.com have their problems, but they’re great at organizing people at a hyper local level.
Once you have a coalition send emails, make phone calls, and schedule a meeting to press your issue. Once you’ve gotten this the process isn’t over, however. You need to follow up during budget time to ensure your item is in the final budget. If not, have your engaged coalition write emails, make phone calls, and press your city council members to move to add that item to the budget.
- How Can I Improve My Park? – New York Partnership for Parks
- Park Advocate Handbook -National Recreation and Park Foundation