Out West student blog

Making Parks for People a Reality

A day in the office with supervisors Kat and Eva.

 

By Sarah Flamm
Master's in Public Policy, 2016
Grants and Government Affairs Intern at the Trust for Public Land

The future is urban. But if you are an outdoors enthusiast like me who is happiest in a redwood forest or a grassy field, this may be cause for concern. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) aims to ameliorate the challenges posed by increasing urbanization by ensuring everyone in the United States, especially those in cities, live within a 10-minute walk of safe parks and outdoor spaces.

TPL is motivated by the belief that natural spaces should be a part of our daily lives, whether it is commuting to work through a green alleyway or a bike trail along the bay; taking lunch in a neighborhood park; or getting away for a weekend in the woods. TPL’s work is expansive; I am constantly learning about new initiatives to preserve habitats, open spaces, regional trails, farmlands, rural economies, and more. The focus is on nature, but not nature in a faraway place, rather enabling human-outdoor interaction.

I am working for the California grants and government affairs teams at TPL headquarters in San Francisco. TPL is a national non-profit organization with over 30 offices nationwide and over 400 employees. Our main goal on the grants team is to design, fund and implement environmental projects. It helps that the health and economic benefits associated with parks and public spaces are easily defensible. So far, I have organized meetings with TPL staff and state representatives from Los Angeles to support a park initiative; supported TPL grant applications; investigated new funding sources for potential projects; and helped plan and conceptualize an upcoming conference on Green Infrastructure and Climate Change in the Bay Area. I have learned a lot about local land projects, California state politics, and how TPL operates as a large successful non-profit. I look forward to visiting Sacramento next month to witness TPL’s lobbying efforts.

TPL often provides parks in disadvantaged communities, giving all kids a safe place to play. TPL uses a participatory model in developing and implementing its projects, working with the community at stake to meet their needs and desires. With these benefits also come challenges: parks drive up property values and can force out low-income residents. The difficulty lies in countering the displacement that is a byproduct of creating a pleasant, healthful urban space. I look forward to exploring this issue further and figuring out what policy measures might be taken to mitigate this problem.

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