City Parks Alliance Summer Series Virtual Gathering Focuses on Resilience and Recovery

City Parks Alliance Summer Series Virtual Gathering Focuses on Resilience and Recovery

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything (and it’s taught us a lot), it’s that the benefits of access to healthy outdoor spaces have never been more necessary nor more appreciated. Emerging research shows that park visitation during the pandemic increased, —both before and after park lockdowns—by 63 percent, as neighbors, friends and family turned to parks in record numbers as a way to escape and to connect.

But the pandemic also reminded us just how uneven access to public spaces is—especially for neighborhoods of color and underserved communities. In fact, 100 million Americans, including 27 million children, remain without access to decent nearby green spaces, and numerous studies demonstrate access to parks is strongly associated with higher education and income.

As cities look to recover, City Parks Alliance is hosting experts and practitioners for a two-week Summer Series (June 14 – June 25, 2021) of dynamic online learning, networking, and sharing of replicable ideas, addressing the most pressing issues of our time.

Our 28 expert reviewers spent the fall and winter reading through a record 267 submissions to come up with extraordinary sessions led by remarkable speakers and leaders who will share the innovative ways cities are:

  • Addressing racial justice and issues of equity;

  • Driving an equitable economic recovery and creating resilient communities; and

  • Building an inclusive workforce.

By registering now, you’ll unlock opportunities and ideas through a blend of deep-dive sessions, peer-to-peer discussions, and innovation roundtables. Content can be viewed live or on-demand. Don’t wait til the last minute — seating is limited so we highly recommend registering now for this unique event. We think you’ll agree sessions like these are too good to be missed—take a look:

Racial Justice and Equity

While the pandemic kept us cooped up and isolated, parks provided respite, freedom, and sanity. But it also reminded us that access to green spaces is still far from equal. We tackle issues of access and equity head-on with these provocative sessions that will fire you up and help generate ideas to bring more people to more parks:

  • “Being Black and Brown Outside: Connecting Our Youth with Nature” — Hear NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, along with Youth Outside Senior Program Manager Rena Payan, and others, discuss how culturally tailored outdoor experiences, facilitated by people of color, can help break down barriers and create welcoming, safe and accessible spaces that serve as a tool for healing, building belonging, and strengthening communities.

  • “The Movement for Black Lives & Building Belonging in Parks” focuses on insights the Fort Greene Park Conservancy learned from its partnership with The Lay Out, a community organization striving to create moments for Black people and POC to reclaim space and community in the fight for justice.

  • “Hot, Wet, and Racist: Democratizing Data for Climate Justice” led by Catherine Mingoya, Director of Capacity Building for Groundwork USA, highlights Groundwork USA’s partnership with eight cities exploring historical housing discrimination and the impacts of the climate crisis on low-income communities of color as well as grassroots mitigation measures.

  • Where else can you listen to Washington Post Senior Art and Architecture Critic Philip Kennicott; Cleveland Foundation Program Director Nelson Beckford; Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Program Director Justin Garrett Moore; and San Francisco Arts Commission Director of Cultural Affairs Ralph Remington take on “Rethinking Monuments and the Historic Narratives that Define Our Public Spaces” — only at our Summer Series!

Recovery & Resiliency

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic recession have challenged park and recreation staff and pushed city budgets to the limit — right when the need for equitable access to healthy outdoor spaces has never been greater. But smart investments can reap big rewards. Tune into these sessions to hear how cities across the nation have coped with extraordinary challenges:

  • Our “Mayors Panel” brings together Mayors Melvin Carter (St. Paul), David Holt (Oklahoma City), Regina Romero (Tucson), Sylvester Turner (Houston) and Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gia Biagi for a look at how cities are leveraging parks and green infrastructure to drive a just and equitable recovery, including increasing park access for low-income communities, redesigning streets for multi-modal transit, and using nature-based solutions to cool neighborhoods, clean the air, and mitigate flood risk.

  • In “Parks Leading a Healthy and Just Recovery,” we hear from Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Maryland, and national leaders as they discuss the extraordinary ways parks stepped up to provide emergency services, redeploy facilities and personnel, balanced public health with safe public parks, trails and recreation, and found creative ways to keep their communities healthy and engaged — along with lessons learned.

  • NYC Parks Chief of Policy and Long-Range Planning Sarah Neilson, Stoss Landscape Urbanism Founding Director Chris Reed, and Miami Dade County Parks, Recreation, and Open Spaces Director Maria Nardi discuss how cities of all sizes are proactively planning and investing in “Resilient Waterfronts” that can prevent and mitigate flooding, leveraging parks to enhance community and ecosystem resilience.

Workforce Development

For decades, environmental and parks organizations have struggled to diversify their staff and leadership. Where they have diversified, people of color often continue to be concentrated in the lower ranks. With unemployment among African Americans in 2020 spiking from 5% to over 16%, there is urgency to hiring and advancing people of color in parks and environmental organizations.

  • In “Building a Diverse Workforce for 21st Century Parks,” we’ll hear from American Forests Director of Career Pathways Sarah Anderson; Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Planning Manager Samir Dalal; Brooklyn Bridge Park Corp Deputy Director of Horticulture Rashid Poulson, and others about strategies for engaging youth of color as well as adults who have been marginalized from the workforce and supporting minority-owned businesses in the fields of parks and environmental stewardship.

  • “Landforce: Combining Workforce Development and Land Stewardship” spotlights Pittsburgh, where Landforce recruits, trains, and supports people from marginalized communities. We’ll watch a partnership success story unfold, showing how combining Workforce Development and Land Stewardship can launch viable career pathways for people facing barriers to employment.

Catherine Nagel is the executive director of City Parks Alliance.

Tags: economic developmentparkssponsoredracial equality

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