This month, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) will kick off its new Safe Routes to Parks pilot program, which aims to demonstrate how local park and recreation agencies are utilizing the Safe Routes to Parks Action Framework to increase safe access to parks and improve health outcomes in underserved areas. Developed by NRPA in collaboration with the Safe Routes to School National Partnership, the framework provides evidence- and practice-based guidance to help local park and recreation agencies implement policies and practices that create safe and equitable access to parks for all people.
Ten agencies are participating in the pilot program, including:
- Abbott Park and Lake Tuskegee, Tuskegee Parks and Recreation, Tuskegee, AL
- Ashley Park, New Bedford Parks, Recreation and Beaches, New Bedford, MA
- August Wilson Park, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Pittsburgh
- Dewey Point, Vigo County Parks and Recreation Department, West Terre Haute, IN
- East Athens Community Center and Trail Creek Park, Athens Clarke County, Athens, GA
- Hugh Force County Park, Morris County Park Commission, Wharton, NJ
- Monte Sano Park, Recreation Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge (BREC), Baton Rouge, LA
- Trestle View Park and Winnipesaukee River Trailhead, City of Franklin, Franklin, NH
- Wesleyan MetroPark and the Wolf Creek Trail, Five Rivers Metro Parks, Dayton, OH
- West Willow Park, Ypsilanti Township Recreation, Ypsilanti, MI
These agencies will use the Safe Routes to Parks Action Framework to improve accessibility to parks using a variety of methods. For example, the New Bedford Parks, Recreation and Beaches will use the framework to engage local residents, increase safety for people walking, and engage the large number of people walking by Ashley Park to utilize the space for physical activity and community gathering. Furthermore, the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy will use the framework to assess factors contributing to challenges with connectivity to August Wilson Park — identifying opportunities to activate the space in ways that are meaningful to community members.
“Investing in safe and equitable access to parks is essential to building healthy and sustainable communities,” said Barbara Tulipane, NRPA president and CEO. “That’s why NRPA is committed to helping local government agencies identify cost-effective solutions to increasing accessibility through Safe Routes to Parks.”
“When kids and families can safely and easily walk or bike to the park, our communities are healthier and more vibrant,” said Cass Isidro, executive director of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership. “By helping agencies make Safe Routes to Parks a reality, we increase use of parks and benefit community health.”
Safe Routes to Parks was developed to help park and recreation agencies break down the physical and social barriers that limit people’s access to parks. A variety of tools, including the Safe Routes to Parks Action Framework, are available to help agencies address these issues. The framework encourages the use of community engagement and partnerships when building safe routes to parks. Potential partners, in addition to park and recreation municipal leaders, include active transportation advocates, neighborhood groups, municipal planners, economic developers, municipal management and elected officials, schools, health departments and law enforcement.
To learn more about the pilot projects, click here.
To access the Safe Routes to Parks Guide and Safe Routes to Parks Action Framework, visit nrpa.org/Safe-Routes-To-Parks/.