When I was elected mayor in 2011, I pledged to the residents of Fort Worth that we would work together to become a healthier, more engaged and economically viable city.
In 2012, we launched FitWorth as part of a broader vision for our community to promote healthy habits for both children and adults. Given my passion for healthy communities, I was delighted to join, as a founding co-chair, the new Mayors for Parks coalition.
In our city, we enjoy access to 259 public parks and trails, including 170 neighborhood parks. All told, we have more than 11,500 acres of park land.
The value of those green, open spaces can’t be overstated. Studies show that being able to enjoy parks, trails and recreational opportunities in urban settings significantly boosts wellness and quality of life.
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In Fort Worth, and cities across the United States, public parks like Trinity or Gateway not only increase property values and provide a space to find peace and quiet in the outdoors — they are a vital component to municipal infrastructure. They support public health, workforce development, our local economy, the environment, education and community cohesion.
Parks are vital to helping us meet our FitWorth goals and improve the broader economic health of our city.
Unfortunately, one of the best sources of funding for our parks is at risk.
Part of the reason Fort Worth has been able to establish so many wonderful parks is the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Since the LWCF’s inception in 1965, Fort Worth has received more than $2.7 million in grants funneled directly into local parks projects.
What’s great is that the LWCF is funded by royalties from offshore oil and gas drilling rather than taxpayer dollars.
Unfortunately, one of the many tough budgetary challenges for Congress is the re-authorization of the LWCF, which is scheduled to expire in 2015. In fact, recent proposed budgets all but eliminate this fund.
I believe the fund can and must be reauthorized.
Mayors in every city in America are faced with the challenge of providing enough open areas to sustain a viable community.
The facts are clear: Access to parks for biking, hiking, fishing and other recreational activities makes for happier, healthier citizens. However, we all share the challenge to secure funding for these cherished public spaces.
For the more than 250 million Americans living in or near a city, neighborhood parks provide crucial fitness opportunities.
There’s a clear correlation between easy access to green spaces and healthy communities. Yet 80 percent of U.S. Census blocks do not have a park within a half-mile.
These are big problems that demand smart solutions. I am proud to stand with the bipartisan Mayors for Parks coalition, and I encourage our elected representatives in Washington to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund before it sunsets in 2015.
We were encouraged to hear recent remarks by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., strongly supporting the Land and Water Conservation Fund. We appreciate her support.
By strengthening the LWCF, we can help ensure that Fort Worth and other bustling cities in our great nation will be able to provide access to public parks for generations to come.
Vibrant city parks are a catalyst for a stronger economy and healthier, happier and more engaged residents. Let’s make sure the Land and Water Conservation Fund continues to benefit the people of Fort Worth for generations to come.
Betsy Price is the mayor of Fort Worth, co-chair of the Mayors for Parks coalition and an avid cyclist. firstname.lastname@example.org