Department Distributes $150 Million to Fund Outdoor Recreation in Urban Areas

A picture of a public park with city in the background

Economically underserved communities will see new outdoor recreation spaces through a grant program that allows the National Park Service (NPS) to distribute $150 million within urban areas.

The Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) grant program was established in 2014 with a goal to create new public parks, updated areas and connections between the outdoors and people.

The Department of the Interior announced the move April 10 on the heels of President Joe Biden’s “America the Beautiful” initiative – an effort to address nature and climate crises and equitable outdoor access. Providing safe outdoor spaces in park-deprived communities is among the report’s six identified focus points.

“Every child in America deserves to have a safe and nearby place to experience the great outdoors,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said. “The ORLP 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.”

The ORLP program, funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), is a nationally competitive grant program that delivers funding to urban areas — jurisdictions of at least 50,000 people — with priority given to projects located in economically disadvantaged areas that lack outdoor recreation opportunities.

“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, NPS deputy director for operations, exercising delegated authority of NPS director. “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.”

Funding applications are being accepted here through Sept. 24. States may apply for grants, whether on behalf of themselves or eligible urban jurisdictions. Project sponsors must match the grant award 1:1 with non-federal dollars. A total of $150 million in funding is available during this grant cycle.

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