The Power of City Parks

Article contributed by Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance

Nearly 80 percent of Americans live in urban and metropolitan areas. For them, city parks are an important part of everyday life, as places where children play, families recreate, and neighbors come together. For those who don’t have backyards, these local parks are often the closest experience to nature available. But beyond their outdoor recreation and community role, city parks also support local economies, offer transportation solutions and reduce environmental impacts such as storm water runoff.

Urban planners, elected officials and community advocates recognize these benefits and are taking a fresh look at city parks as powerful tools for supporting healthy, resilient and economically competitive cities.

Public Health Value – Research shows that physical activity contributes to well-being and longevity. Parks are an ideal place for recreation, providing the room needed for running, walking, sports and other active pursuits.

Environmental Value – Trees and other plants help improve air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and pollutants. And a park’s green infrastructure — trees, gardens and grassy areas — helps clean our water by capturing and filtering storm water runoff.

Economic Value – A well-designed, programmed and maintained system of city parks is an essential component of any city’s strategy for attracting and retaining a strong workforce and spurring local investment.

The power of city parks will draw over 1,000 urban park professionals, city officials, city planners, landscape architects and other stakeholders to Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Minn., this summer, from July 29 through August 2, for the Greater & Greener 2017 international urban parks conference. The five-day indoor and outdoor conference will feature the award-winning park systems of the Twin Cities through more than 80 sessions, field trips and other special events.

Greater & Greener is designed to have a lasting positive impact on the host cities, and to support that goal, The Toro Company has established the Toro Urban Park Innovation Award. The award recognizes innovation in park management and practices and is presented in conjunction with City Parks Alliance and Greater & Greener 2017. The winners, Parque Castillo in Saint Paul, and Bossen Field Park in Minneapolis, were chosen for the important roles they play in bringing their communities together through recreation and arts integration and for their ability to demonstrate excellence in park design and programming — both locally and nationally. Each park will receive $25,000 to support specific projects that will enhance larger park renovations already underway.

“The Toro Company is proud to be a part of the largest international gathering of urban park leaders to Minneapolis and Saint Paul later this year. Through the establishment of this award, we recognize the importance of parks in our communities and how innovation can revolutionize the park experience and bring diverse communities together,” said Rick Olson, president and CEO of The Toro Company.

The Toro Urban Park Innovation Award will help ensure that the communities near Parque Castillo and Bossen Field Park enjoy a lasting, tangible impact from Greater & Greener through improved local parks. To track progress on both park projects follow #ToroGives and #greatergreener on social media.

City Parks Alliance is the nation’s leading advocacy group for urban parks and open spaces. As the only independent, nationwide membership organization solely dedicated to urban parks, City Parks Alliance leads and serves a growing network of civic and community leaders, government agencies, parks and recreation authorities, funders and others committed to the creation, revitalization and stewardship of parks and green spaces that contribute to dynamic cities. For more information, please visit