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Why We're Committed to Ensuring Access to Parks for All by 2050

At 10 Minute Walk, we are working with city leaders across the US to make sure that 100 percent of people in US cities have access to safe, quality green space within a 10-minute walk by 2050.

If there’s one thing we know for sure — especially amid the challenges of today’s pandemic — it’s that people need parks. From Detroit’s 1,000-acre Belle Isle Conservancy to the tiny “parklets” of Oakland, CA, parks and nature have revealed themselves as critical to our ability to find respite, connect with others, and engage in civic discourse during this time of great stress and isolation.

In response to the surging demand for outdoor spaces, cities across the country have invested in creative ways to provide better, healthier access to parks and green space. In San Francisco, city officials converted closed public golf courses into public green spaces, and from Oakland to Providence, RI, cities have closed miles of streets to vehicles so that people can exercise and be active at a safe distance. Other cities are using parks as yoga studios and are increasingly exploring their use for outdoor classrooms.

All of these new ways of using space are shedding a light on the vital role that nature plays for people in our cities; but also how in certain communities, not all access to green space is created equal. Thankfully, through a network of locally connected partners and advocates — including mayors, city planners, public health advocates, policy experts and nonprofits — 10 Minute Walk, a nationally recognized effort led by The Trust for Public Land, is trying to change that. Together, our vision is simple: We want to make sure that 100 percent of people in US cities have access to safe, quality green space within a 10-minute walk by 2050. Committing to this 100 percent promise means several things – including clearing a safe path to existing parks, enhancing existing parks and green spaces, or creating brand new parks in neighborhoods that need them most. 

Public opinion only reinforces what we already know: A recent national survey found that 70 percent of city-dwelling Americans agree that local parks and green spaces have bene critical to their physical and mental wellbeing during COVID-19. Additionally, 71 percent said that their quality of life would improve if they had better access to parks and green spaces within a 10-minute walk of home.

To achieve this ambitious target, we work with leaders in US cities to raise awareness around the importance of parks and green spaces, and to make them top of mind for the people who are planning the future of our cities. Almost 300 cities are making this commitment, and many are showing significant progress towards their 100 percent goal, and doing so through very different initiatives. For example:

Denver, Colorado (90 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park)

Image credit: Guilherme Garcia/Unsplash

Denver is no stranger to environmentally friendly policies and sustainability leadership. For decades, the city has been an ambitious leader in the space; and recently issued a clear and measurable set of goals to promote sustainability and climate impacts, including a goal of reducing 80 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The city has also instituted a 20-year vision for the future of its parks and recreation programs, which is a centerpiece of its city plan. 

Additionally, the city approved a recent sales tax measure, which provides a creative funding mechanism to help create and care for parks sustainable for the long term. In 2019, the city estimated the fund will generate $37 million for acquisition, expansion and maintenance of parks, trails and open spaces; and the Mayor understands how each and every park that opens is part of a much larger effort. Local nonprofits are also playing a critical role in achieving these goals — including Bicycle Colorado, which is using 10 Minute Walk grant funding to empower youths and families to find safe routes to parks and schools in two Denver neighborhoods in need of greater access.

Tacoma, Washington (69 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park)

Image credit: Global to Local

Tacoma is currently on the receiving end of much of Seattle’s population growth and development, including one of the country’s largest refugee populations. Through 10 Minute Walk’s grant funding support of Global to Local, we are helping to advocate on behalf of the Seattle Metro area’s highly diverse refugee population by supporting park activation in area cities with local leadership around community park and green space needs. This region has been a point of emphasis for our work because it is the most ethnically diverse city in Washington and is the primary relocation and resettlement area in the state for refugees.

These are just two examples of champion cities across the US that are advocating on behalf of their residents for increased green space access. But our work with community leaders and organizations does not and will not stop there — we set ambitious goals for ourselves and are looking forward to having a tangible, lasting impact on our communities while encouraging positive change across the country.

For more information on the 10 Minute Walk Campaign and how you can help, visit https://10minutewalk.org/.

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