Parks urged to fight for funding

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If American parks are going to make it in this tough economy, what they really need are some "troublemakers."

Last week, at a policy luncheon of the National Recreation and Park Association, Adolfo Carrión Jr., director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, urged the parks and recreation community to push hard for dwindling funding, joking that they needed to be "troublemakers."

"The work, the advocacy ... the conscience that you are providing ... is timely and more important than it has ever been," said Carrión, the event's keynote speaker, according to a National Recreation and Park Association news release. "Our future depends on your work, so speak loudly and without hesitation."

Some 350 parks and recreation professionals and concerned citizens gathered in Washington, D.C., to meet with legislators at this year's National Legislative Forum on Parks and Recreation.

Carrión discussed the importance of parks and outdoor recreation in urban development, and said the administration had proposed to make hundreds of millions of dollars available in fiscal years 2010 and 2011 for Sustainable Communities Planning Grants, the Catalytic Investment Fund and the Healthy Food Financing Initiative. He didn't say were the White House would get the money.

Barbara Tulipane, CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association, told the parks community to "be audacious" with legislators when requesting funding.

"It's more important than ever for us to use our voices and speak loudly so we don't get drowned out," said Tulipane.

Attendees networked with members of Congress regarding passage of several bills including the No Child Left Inside Act, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, Surface Transportation Reauthorization Program, the Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities Act and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's ACHIEVE Healthy Communities Program.

Tom Strickland, U.S. Department of Interior chief of staff, said the agency planned to meet with community groups before drafting a 21st-century conservation agenda.

"We know that the message of the last child in the woods is a very pointed message that we are reminded of daily," said Strickland. "We have to connect our young people to the outdoors for their own good, and for the good and benefit of those special places."


John Hayes: jhayes@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1991.


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