Elevating Parks and Climate Equity: A Catalyst for Community Transformation
Spending time in nature is linked to cognitive benefits and improvements in mental health and well-being. Yet, according to Trust for Public Land (TPL) data, more than 100 million people in the U.S., including 28 million children, do not have access to a park within a 10-minute walk from home. Further, the quality of parks serving communities of color are half the size and nearly five times as crowded as parks that serve majority white populations.
TPL is committed to increasing green space, particularly in under-resourced communities. One lever they find most promising in these efforts is investing in Community Schoolyards to create nature-inspired schoolyards and playgrounds. TPL knows that school is one of the key times when children access outdoor space. But when looking at schoolyards in lower income communities, you see similar gaps in quality, with these schoolyards often being largely asphalt and unshaded, lacking learning resources like outdoor learning labs and educational gardens.
By focusing on revitalizing and uplifting these areas, TPL believes that communities benefit from numerous gains, including enhanced public health and improved neighborhood climate resilience.
This effort and mission is closely aligned to the vision of The North Face®, Smartwool® and The VF Foundation, who are working to drive a more equitable and sustainable world. For the past several years, they have teamed up with TPL to help create greener parks and schoolyards for kids and families across the country, targeting urban communities where climate change is exacerbating inequities.
In addition to the physical and emotional benefits mentioned above, green spaces are vital for cooling neighborhoods, which is particularly important as temperatures continue to rise across the country. Green design projects can absorb storm water, remove air pollution and reduce urban heat islands, providing numerous benefits for people and our planet.
The partnership has increased access to the outdoors in under-resourced city neighborhoods across the country, including Denver, Los Angeles, New York City, Dallas, Atlanta and Philadelphia. With the help of VF’s brands and The VF Foundation, TPL has transformed parks and schoolyards into vibrant recreation spaces that are open and accessible to everyone so that all can benefit from the power of nature in close-to-home spaces that meet their communities’ unique needs.
As hoped, these projects are already proving to keep kids and families physically active with public amenities such as climbing walls and boulders, trails and playgrounds as well as boosting mental health, improving educational outcomes and development, bolstering local economic development, improving community cohesion and fostering climate resilience.
Seeing the success of this model, The VF Foundation remains committed to investing in additional Community Schoolyard projects with TPL where inequities persist. The latest investment will include nature-deprived tribal lands across the U.S. in partnership with the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE). We are excited to see the benefits and hope these collaborations continue to help communities across the U.S. thrive outside.