New Tool Helps Planners Make a Stronger Case for Parks – Next City

New Tool Helps Planners Make a Stronger Case for Parks

A rendering of Cleveland Public Square in Cleveland (Credit: Group Plan Commission)

It’s no secret that city parks and green space are good for more than recreation. They’re beneficial to residents’ physical and mental health and can even have an impact on such big, thorny problems as climate change and voter disengagement.

But quantifying those benefits for policymakers, stakeholders and funders remains an issue. To that end, a trio of organizations that focus on such things — the Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land and the Conservation Fund — have launched a database to help give the lowly park more political clout. (The Trust for Public Land is also the entity behind the annual ParkScore Index, which rates city parks on qualities like access, size and investment. Next City covered the most recent rankings in May.)

The Greenprint Resource Hub is aimed at “practitioners, policymakers and community members looking to incorporate parks, open space, and agriculture into their economic and social goals,” according to a release (a “greenprint” is a conservation plan that highlights the benefits of parks, open space and working lands). The database “includes detailed case studies of how cities and surrounding regions have incorporated nature into city and regional planning, informing their decisions about how to grow and where to protect land to secure habitat, water, recreation and food production.”

Take the Kona District on the island of Hawaii. In 2008, the area’s coastline and coffee farms were threatened by a population boom that had occurred over the previous 20 years. In response, planners took a step back and began working green spaces into their land use documents and long-range plans to prevent sprawl and help with drainage issues. Such ideas aren’t novel now, but at the time, the plan that was released served “as an example of greenprint techniques and analysis being utilized in a formal county planning document,” according to the Hub.

The Greenprint Resource Hub allows interested parties to explore case studies (like the one in Hawaii), locate greenprints by geography, review best practices, and, perhaps most importantly, explore various funding strategies and policies that help enable greenprints.

As I wrote in April, among Parks departments, at least, the practice of measuring sustainability goals and linking them to investment is on the rise. But in something of a catch 22, many parks departments don’t get the funding that they need to up their climate-protecting game in the first place. Branding, whether through greenprints or some other internal document, could help connect the dots between needed open space and pockets on the deeper side.

Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian.

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Tags: urban planningparks