When Congress returns from its summer recess it will have the opportunity to take up two bills that would provide new funding opportunities for parks, trails, biking and walking – in other words, all the things we love! Both bills are sponsored in the House by Representative Albio Sires (D-NJ) and would help revitalize urban communities and provide greater access to healthy outdoor recreational opportunities.
The Community Parks Revitalization Act would create matching federal grant programs and secured loans to revitalize parks and park infrastructure in metropolitan areas and improve access to parks and recreation areas, with particular emphasis on youth and low-income and minority communities.
R. 2424 would authorize the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to provide three types of federal grants and technical assistance programs to local governments and park and recreation agencies which must be matched with local funds:
- Rehabilitation and Construction Grants would aid local governments in rebuilding and expanding new and existing parks and recreational facilities.
- Innovation Grants would address personnel, facility, equipment, and supply needs for parks and recreation facilities and programming, with an emphasis on at-risk youth, returning veterans and military families.
- Recovery Action Program Grants would promote development of local park and recreation recovery action programs by involving the community and youth to develop priorities and goals.
The bill also includes an innovative financing mechanism that would establish a program for secured loans and loan guarantees for the development of parks and recreation infrastructure. This program, modeled after the Transportation Infrastructure Innovative Financing Act (TIFIA), would allow either large-scale projects such as trail systems, or multiple communities bundling multiple projects together, to take advantage of low-cost financing.
Under the legislation, priority would be given to projects that connect children and other community members to the outdoors for physical activity; connect to public transportation; and contain safe biking and walking trails or routes. Emphasis is also placed on projects that incorporate sustainable design and green infrastructure.
What You Can Do:
- Contact your Congressional representative and ask him/her to cosponsor and support the Community Parks Revitalization Act H.R. 2424 (only 6 representatives from New York are currently listed as cosponsors).
The New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act of 2014 (NOBPIFA) would provide new funding mechanisms for complete streets and encourage funding equity in low-income communities. H.R. 3978 would allow communities to take advantage of a low-interest, long-term loan program to build biking and walking networks. The funding, $11 million, would be provided from a set-aside from the $1 billion dollar TIFIA loan program funded in MAP-21. 25% of the total amount would be directed to low income communities. The bill wouldn’t add any new costs to the transportation bill, or to the federal budget.
What You Can Do:
- Contact your Congressional representative and ask him/her to cosponsor and support the New Opportunities for Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure Financing Act of 2014 R. 3978. (There are currently no NY sponsors of this bill.)