Parks are free, open, and accessible, and represent a critical component when addressing a city’s needs for racial and economic equity. They are powerful tools that strengthen the fabric of urban communities, positively impact health and the environment and spur economic revitalization. As Louisville continues to respond to a host of public health crises-- systemic racism, COVID-19, lack of affordable housing, and evictions--quality parks and green spaces must be considered vital civic infrastructure in long-term recovery efforts to foster a more resilient city.
Yet, in historically underserved neighborhoods—where their benefits are most needed—park amenities are often limited. That is the case in Louisville, according to the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit that compares park systems in the 100 most populated cities in the United States. Its annual ParkScore® measures access, investment, amenities, acreage, and—new in 2021—equity. With the addition of this metric, Louisville’s ranking dropped from 81st to 90th.
Louisville’s ParkScore® starkly illustrates how redlining continues to harm Black and brown residents. Our predominantly white neighborhoods enjoy 206% more park space per person than the city’s median, but overall, our neighborhoods where there are predominantly people of color have 6% less than the median. This glaring inequity must be addressed. That’s why the Parks Alliance of Louisville launched “Parks For All” last August, thanks to the initial funding from Louisville Metro Council and PNC Foundation.
Louisville is just the third city in the country to conduct this
comprehensive analysis. If you can envision a 3-legged stool, we
are collecting data on the condition of all 120 public parks and
recreational facilities: the first leg. The second leg is an in-
depth understanding of the neighborhoods those parks serve including multiple dimensions of poverty, crimes against persons, vacancy rates, air, and water quality, and the frequency
of physical and mental health concerns like obesity, diabetes, depression, anxiety, and asthma. The third leg we launch next week...extensive community outreach across the metro area to share information and prioritize the needs and wants of Louisville residents.
We are committed to ensuring community input and feedback received is not only representative of the demographics of Louisville by race/ethnicity, age, income, households with and without children, and geographic distribution, but takes into even greater consideration input of the areas that have had the least investment. We believe those who are closest to the areas of concern are the experts of their lived experiences and can guide the solutions.
Our name—the Parks Alliance of Louisville—reflects a deep commitment to drive equitable investment, transparent decision-making, and authentic collaboration to build a park system that elevates the wellbeing of our entire community. And it reflects the fact that it will take all of us working together to achieve success.
Thanks for reading our first installment of “It’s Not Easy Being Green.” We plan many more blog posts in the weeks and months to come and hope you will join us on this journey as an ally of our public parks.