Florida is America’s playground. Beyond Mickey Mouse, we are home to stunning beaches, breathtaking springs, luscious forests, and bountiful wildlife. But to keep Florida beautiful, we need to conserve more of our land and water and make it accessible to people. President Joe Biden and states across our great nation have committed to protecting 30% of our land and water by 2030. This bold but attainable 30×30 goal recognizes the importance of wide-open landscapes, as well as racial justice and the need to increase parks in urban and underserved communities. Because conservation isn’t just for the animals – it’s for us, too. And as we save our landscapes, we must have that inclusive vision for conservation at the state and local levels too.
If you’ve marveled at birds and butterflies near your home, you know that natural Florida isn’t just found in the sprawling Everglades or remote forests, but in our cities and suburbs, too. Just as we continue to protect our large, rural conservation lands, we need equal resources for parks and greenspaces in urban areas.
Luckily, Florida has a program that does just that: the Florida Communities Trust. This grant program, managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, helps cities and counties build and maintain parks that serve our communities. But the bad news: in the last couple years, FCT has received little to no funds. So while the Florida Forever program received a combined $400 million in state and federal funding in the 2021-22 Florida legislative budget, not a single dollar was allocated to FCT. But this program is just what our communities need to address the lack of accessible natural areas for our kids to play and families to gather. Set up as a matching grant program, it is incredibly popular among municipalities. It also helps to leverage our state dollars and since the projects are led by municipalities, those cities, counties or local non-profits commit to the ownership and long-term maintenance. With FCT funding, cities like Kissimmee, Orlando, and Tampa can increase safe access to the outdoors and improve people’s physical and mental health.
Many communities across the state lack access to neighborhood parks, especially communities of color. When compared to predominantly white neighborhoods, communities of color are three times more likely than white communities to lack access to nature, according to a report by the Center for American Progress. When young Latinx children walk out the front door, they are less likely to see trees or to find a safe, green place to play. Our neighborhoods have access to 54% less park acreage per person. National campaigns like 10-Minute Walk demonstrate inequities in access to neighborhood parks. According to the Trust for Public Land (TPL), 100 million people nationwide do not have a park within a 10-minute walk of home.
For Chispa Florida, it is a priority that 30×30 doesn’t just look at the forest, countryside, and remote natural areas, but we advocate for green areas access in cities, too, where it is most needed by Black and Brown communities.
Using TPL’s Parkscore tool, you can find your city’s ranking. Here are some of the communities that Chispa Florida serves:
- Kissimmee, FL: 31% of Kissimmee residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park
- Orlando, FL: 64% of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
- Tampa, FL: 65% of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
To keep Florida beautiful, we must keep investing in our communities. We must protect our parks, not only for their economic benefits but to increase working families’ access to nature and recreation. Florida’s beauty is for all to enjoy and with FCT funding and a commitment to 30×30 land and water conservation goals, we can enjoy our remarkable state for generations to come.