U.S. To Invest $150 Million In Parks In Underserved Areas Like LA County

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The U.S. Department of the Interior today announced $150 million in grant funding for outdoor recreation spaces and parks in underserved communities, which a Southland congresswoman said is "critical" to Los Angeles County.

Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan, D-Los Angeles, sent a letter to President Joe Biden in January urging him to overturn a decision by the Trump administration to divert the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program's funding to other uses. The program, which is provided through the Land and Water Conservation Fund and provides funding for urban parks in areas that don't have equal access to outdoor recreation, was reinstated on Feb. 11 by the Department of the Interior.

Barragan touted the announcement as "more proof" of the Biden administration's "commitment to environmental justice and park equity."

"With this historic amount of funding, we will see critically needed investments in our urban parks that will provide outdoor access to underserved communities, preserve urban green spaces, and create jobs," she said. "These investments are critical in my district and in Los Angeles County, where low-income communities and communities of color lack equal access to local parks. Former President Trump stripping funding from urban parks on his way out the door was another example of turning his back on urban communities and communities of color."

The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program was created in 2014 to improve existing parks, create new outdoor spaces for recreation and form connections between the outdoors and people in underserved communities. Funding is available for areas that have a population of at least 50,000, and priority will be given to projects in areas that are economically disadvantaged and lacking outdoor recreation opportunities.

"Every child in America deserves to have a safe and nearby place to experience the great outdoors," said U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. "The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership program is a crucial tool to advancing environmental justice and ensuring equitable access to nature and its benefits. Working together with state and local governments to ensure green spaces promotes the health and welfare of urban communities."

Providing outdoor spaces for people who don't live in areas with easy access to parks is a focus of the Biden administration's America the Beautiful initiative, which seeks to conserve at least 30% of U.S. lands and waters by 2030.

"The National Park Service is proud to help people enjoy the outdoors, get active and make lasting memories in their 400 plus national parks across the country," said Shawn Benge, the National Park Service's deputy director for operations. "To help create more equitable access to the outdoors, we have opened the ORLP grant program to more communities by removing the cap on the number of proposals states can submit on behalf of local jurisdictions and by increasing the maximum grant from $1 million to $5 million."

States can apply for the grants for themselves or on behalf of a local jurisdiction through Sept. 24 on grants.gov. The project's funding must be matched dollar for dollar with non-federal funding.

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