How the National Park Service Can Support Outdoor Recreation Projects in Your City

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This is a guest post by Jonathan B. Jarvis, Director of the U.S. National Park Service.

In April, I traveled to San Francisco to announce the National Park Service Urban Agenda during the Greater Greener Conference presented by the City Park Alliance. Our Urban Agenda establishes a framework for strategic alignment of parks, programs and partnerships that will better serve communities.

As the National Park Service moves into our second century, we recognize that our first century was about bringing people to the parks, but the next century will be about bringing parks to the people. In order to do this, we need a strong network of federal, state and city parks and conservation lands – woven together to maximize their recreational, ecological, economic and social values – so that each person can find a park and benefit from the enjoyment, education and inspiration offered by public lands.

On July 22, I am back in San Francisco for the U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting, where I’ll have another opportunity to invite mayors to connect and collaborate with the National Park Service. The launch of the NPS Urban Fellows program in 10 cities is a new approach to our work in cities, but we have not abandoned our effective programs that have long helped local municipalities and partners in urban areas.

National Park Service staff from the Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program continues to help create close-to-home recreation opportunities and conserve natural and cultural resources. The RTCA program works with local partners to achieve many goals – engaging youth, enhancing recreation opportunities, supporting livability, improving health, and enhancing property values and quality of life.

Through the RTCA, the National Park Service has provided assistance to more than 8,000 community-led projects throughout the country.

Our nationwide staff of planners, landscape architects and collaboration experts helps to catalyze support for community projects that connect parks with the people and communities around them.

The RTCA program is accepting applications through August 1, 2015, for help planning and facilitating a wide range of projects, such as:

  • Developing close-to-home parks and greenways
  • Managing community-led visioning, planning and design
  • Facilitating public involvement
  • Building sustainable partnerships
  • Engaging youth through outdoor recreation skill-building and conservation stewardship
  • Planning for trails, landscape conservation, water trails, river restoration, green transportation and tourism

RTCA projects are always in motion, and you can view a list of current projects in your state on the National Park Service website.

The Urban Agenda, Urban Fellows program, and RTCA are all integral pieces of the effort to improve and expand infrastructure for the next generation. Unfortunately, a significant part of our work to protect green space in urban areas through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) is in jeopardy.

LWCF Program legislation expires September 30, and Congress must act now to extend its future. The LWCF Program provides matching grants to states and local governments for the acquisition and development of public outdoor recreation areas and facilities. The program is intended to create and maintain a nationwide legacy of high quality recreation areas and facilities and to stimulate non-federal investments in the protection and maintenance of recreation resources across the United States.

Land and Water Conservation Fund grants boost local economies and support jobs in the outdoor recreation and tourism industries. Every $1 invested in land acquisition through the Land and Water Conservation Fund generates a $4 return on the investment for communities.

Since the inception of the Fund, over $4 billion has been made available to state and local governments and over 40,000 projects have been funded in every state throughout the nation.

On all fronts, the myriad of programs that improve quality of life for Americans must be protected and supported by mayors, local elected officials, and all engaged citizens who wish to leave a rich inheritance of public lands to those who will come after us.

(Photo: National Park Service)

Jonathan_Jarvis_150x183About the Author: Jonathan B. Jarvis began his career with the National Park Service in 1976 as a seasonal interpreter in Washington, D.C. Today, he manages that agency whose mission is to preserve America’s most treasured landscapes and cultural icons. Managing the National Park Service on the eve of its centennial in 2016, Jarvis has focused on several key areas that are critical for the future: enhancing stewardship of the places entrusted to the Service’s care; maximizing the educational potential of parks and programs; engaging new generations and audiences, and ensuring the welfare and fulfillment of National Park Service employees. His blueprint for the agency’s second century, A Call to Action, calls for innovative, ambitious, yet practical ways to fulfill the National Park Service’s promise to America in the 21st century.