In March of 2016 the Austin Parks & Recreation Department was awarded a $25,000 Planning Grant by the Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative (funded by the National League of Cities and the Children & Nature Network), designed to help city leaders develop strategies for getting more young people outdoors and connected to nature with a particular focus on children and youth in low-income and underserved communities.
This grant is currently funding a six-month strategic planning process. During this process the Parks Department has brought together different city departments, non-profit organizations, hospitals, health professionals and community members to understand the largest gaps and barriers that exist in Austin for connecting children to nature, and creating solutions to fill those gaps to ensure that every child in Austin has abundant and equitable access to nature.
Once the Strategic Plan is complete it will act as a 3-5 year guide for the Parks Department on how to work with other city departments, schools, non-profit program providers, and health care networks to ensure that the children who need it the most have access to the outdoors and nature in their neighborhoods. The plan will also set goals and benchmarks for the Parks Department on where and how to improve parks for children and families.
For the purposes of this project our definition of “outdoors” and “nature” is very broad. “Connecting to nature” can mean playing in your yard or a park, kicking a soccer ball around on a field, hiking the greenbelt, and everything in between.
As part of our planning process we are reaching out to the community to understand how you view the importance of spending time outdoors, what keeps you from spending time outside in nature, and what the City can do to help you spend more time in our urban parks and open spaces.
Learn more about the project here: www.austintexas.gov/cccn