As one walks through the steep winding paths of John Hinkel Park, it’s easy to forget about the hustle and bustle of Berkeley. Its oak-studded creeks and full canopy of trees are fantastic places to play hide and seek and experience the wonder of nature.
However, green spaces such as John Hinkel Park are not equally available to all Berkeley residents, particularly minority communities, according to City Councilmember Terry Taplin.
“West Berkeley has the least amount of green space with the most deferred maintenance,” Taplin said in an email. “Our green spaces are an important public resource that low-income communities of color are entitled to just as much as wealthier whiter neighborhoods.”
The problem is not limited to Berkeley, according to a press release by U.S. Sens. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., and John Hickenlooper, D-Colo.
The press release cited a report published in May, which found that across the 100 most populous U.S. cities, residents of predominantly Black, Hispanic and Latinx, Indigenous and Native American or Asian American and Pacific Islander neighborhoods have access to an average of 44% less park space per capita than predominantly white neighborhoods.
“Too many of our nation’s parks are neglected and inaccessible to low-income communities and communities of color,” Padilla said in the press release.
The proposed bill, titled the Parks, Jobs and Equity Act, would fund park upgrades and create new parks and jobs through a one-time $500 million federal grant program, according to the press release.
All cities with a population of more than 30,000 would be eligible to receive funds without having to match any disbursed funds. The bill states that 98% of funding would be split among the states and 2% would be given to Native American tribes.
Lise Aangeenbrug, the executive director of the Outdoor Industry Association, said in the press release that the proposed bill was an “investment” that would boost the $788 billion outdoor recreation economy.
City Councilmember Sophie Hahn lauded the federal bill, saying that parks and green spaces have provided a refuge during the COVID-19 pandemic. Hahn added that federal support would “absolutely help” Berkeley find ways to develop more parks in underserved areas. Councilmember Rigel Robinson echoed Hahn, saying that Berkeley “would welcome federal support.”
“The Parks, Jobs and Equity Act will provide a much-needed investment in urban parks across the country and will be a welcome relief as park and recreation professionals and the agencies they represent continue to recover from the severe impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Elvis Cordova, vice president of public policy and advocacy for the National Recreation and Park Association.