Press Release

Proposed legislation delivers critical funds for local parks

A woman and child high five during a break from bicycling along a forested trail

Michelle Craig

Across the country, millions lack access to parks and green space


An estimated 100 million people in the U.S., including 28 million children, do not have a quality park or green space close to home. This lack of access to nature and healthy outdoor activity has long been a problem disproportionately affecting Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, low income, and other underserved groups. COVID-19 put a spotlight on the problem, with so many people stranded at home with no place to turn for essential opportunities to get outside to exercise and heal, both mentally and physically from the effects of the pandemic.

The Parks, Jobs, and Equity Act (PJEA) introduced today by Sen. Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Sen. Padilla (D-CA) is an important step toward remedying the situation. The proposed legislation creates a one time, $500 million grant program to help cities invest in local parks and support an equitable economic recovery. As the country recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic, PJEA can create over 8,000 new jobs and add $1.37 billion to local economies.

The Wilderness Society recognizes the need is great, and now is the time to pass this bill:

“By investing in local parks, we can work toward a common goal to ensure that all people - no matter their race, zip-code, or income level - have access to nature and all of its benefits,” said Tara Brown, Senior Government Relations Representative at The Wilderness Society. “We are grateful to Senators Hickenlooper and Padilla for their leadership, furthering the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to a sustainable economic recovery and reducing inequities in access to the outdoors.”

Community organizations are also joining the call to pass this important legislation:

“The global pandemic and resulting economic crisis brought by COVID-19 has made evident the deep racial and economic inequities that persist in every aspect of life. For millions of Californians who have sheltered in place over the last year, nature and parks have provided a space to stay healthy and active, support their mental health, and meet with loved ones. Access to nature has taken on a renewed importance; it plays a critical role in reducing the chronic health problems that put people at increased risk of serious complications or death from COVID-19. The Parks, Jobs and Equity Act will help address patterns of disinvestment that result in environmental injustice in underserved communities' access to nature” said Belén Bernal, Executive Director at Natural For All. “We commend Senator Hickenlooper and Senator Padilla for their commitment to meet the needs of Americans throughout our nation.”

Loretta Pineda, Executive Director of Environmental Learning for Kids and member of Next 100 Colorado emphasized the importance of PJEA in her state: 

“Next 100 Colorado is working to establish a more just and inclusive parks and public lands system. We celebrate the introduction of the Senate version of the Parks, Jobs and Equity Act, which will ensure more equitable access to opportunities for careers in the outdoors and the benefits of outdoor experiences, from Cortez to Fort Morgan. We’re proud that two of Colorado’s elected officials, Sen. John Hickenlooper and Rep. Joe Neguse, are champions for these efforts. Together, we can create outdoor spaces that reflect the faces of our country, respect all cultures, and actively engage all people.”

Itzel Flores Castillo Wang, a Community Organizer for Promesa Boyle Heights in Los Angeles explained how the bill would help her community recover from longstanding inequities and more recent effects of the pandemic:

“Thank you to Senator Padilla and Senator Hickenlooper for bringing this bill forward in the Senate. For communities such as Boyle Heights and East Los Angeles, where parks are either scarce or found too far away, and where communities have been heavily impacted by the pandemic, funding in parks and jobs would bring a much needed and deserved investment in our BIPOC communities. The Parks, Jobs, and Equity Act would help provide the funds needed to help our communities recuperate from the pandemic, as well as address historic inequities, and provide the resources needed to increase and improve access to green spaces that give our community residents a place to exercise, relax and have overall healthier lives and environments.”


  • Tara Brown, Senior Government Relations Representative, The Wilderness Society, (202) 429-2647, 

The Wilderness Society, founded in 1935, is the leading conservation organization working to protect wilderness and inspire Americans to care for our wild places. With more than one million members and supporters, The Wilderness Society has led the effort to permanently protect 109 million acres of wilderness and to ensure sound management of our shared national lands.