The New Golden Age of Urban Parks Philanthropy (And Its Controversies)

Private funding is pouring into parks lately, and not everyone is happy about it. Regardless, cities are putting together creative projects with massive backing from wealthy donors, and it’s not all happening where you might expect. 

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The Backers Behind a $300M, Privately Funded Park in Tulsa

When you think of world-class parks, the first place that comes to mind might not be Tulsa, Oklahoma. But a growing band of donors orchestrated by one local foundation are hoping to change that with a massive riverfront project that is racking up millions in support from local families and corporations.

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The Funder Keeping One Michigan County’s Park System Intact

In terms of conservation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation is mostly known for its work to protect the Great Lakes and surrounding region. But as part of the funder’s dedication to its home of Flint, Michigan, Mott has also provided a huge lifeline to the county’s financially beleaguered park system. 

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The Six Foundations Helping to Overhaul California’s Troubled Parks

For years, California’s state park system, while storied for its size and diversity, has been plagued with budget crises. The problem hit an all-time low in 2012, amid a scandal over millions in hidden funds and 70 parks closing. Now a third-party commission is stepping in to clean up the mess, funded by six major state foundations. 

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Does McKnight Have a Parks Program?

The Minnesota-based McKnight Foundation has recently approved $850,000 for two parks related projects. The foundation is not typically known for funding parks – its environmental funding tends toward helping the Mississippi River or improving climate and energy programs in the Midwest. In fact, though, greening urban areas is clearly a keen interest at McKnight.
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The Helen V. Froehlich Foundation: Funding for Lake George, But Also Botanical Gardens

While she was known as the quiet older woman who hiked around New York State’s Lake George with her dog Frodo, Helen Voltz Froehlich lived a life of adventure, going on mapping expeditions in the Yukon, climbing mountains, and writing books. Her devotion to the outdoors, and the place she eventually called home, inspired a foundation that continues to fund conservation and botanical gardens.

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Who’s Making Grants for a Bike-Friendly LA?

Los Angeles should be a biking paradise: It's mostly flat, the weather is great year round, and killer traffic makes biking an appealing alternative. But the city still lags far behind other places in being bike-friendly, and a push for more bike paths is gaining steam. Foundations, too, are giving more attention to this area.
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Why William Penn is Giving Big to Fairmount Park

Fairmount Park is one of the largest urban parks in the United States and the Fairmount Park Conservancy is in charge of maintaining the 10,200 acres of greenspace throughout Philadelphia’s park system. On top of thinking about parks, the Conservancy also has to think about its project management and business skills -- now with major help from the William Penn Foundation.

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Who’s Paying for Houston’s Bayou Greenways?

The Houston Parks Board is planning to build 150 miles of connected greenspace with its project Bayou Greenways 2020. The project however isn’t cheap – Bayou Greenways 2020 is expected to cost $215 million. This cost will be covered through public-private partnerships, and local foundations have already stepped up to start covering the bill. Including a grant that may be one of the largest given to public greenspace in the US.
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