Urban Public Lands
You do not have to travel to the countryside or rural forest in order to see nature. Parks, playgrounds, and even beaches, are waiting to be discovered right in your city. Urban areas have many undiscovered natural gems that provide opportunities for recreation, spotting wildlife and relaxing in fresh air. Visiting urban public lands also has many health benefits, especially for children. Studies have shown that spending time outdoors in green settings reduces stress, symptoms of ADHD and obesity, among others.
In 2010, the Trust for Public Land released the City Park Facts report. It analyzes the size, type and usage of parks in the 85 largest U.S. cities. The report found that there are over 20,000 parks in large cities, covering over 1.4 million acres. Read the 2010 City Park Fact report (PDF) to learn more about urban parkland.
Although there are thousands of urban parks across the country, problems still arise on how to find and access these places and use them safely. The resources on this page offer ideas for how families and individuals can get outdoors in cities.
Find a Public Land
- Nature Find, by the National Wildlife Federation allows you to search for public lands, recreational activities and educational programming by zip code or city.
- Explore the Parks, from the National Parks Conservation Association, is a map where you can search for a nearby park. Some national parks in cities, include New York City's Gateway National Recreation Area and San Francisco's Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
- Use Arbor Day's What Tree is That? website to help identify trees in your region.
- The Department of the Interior's Youth in the Great Outdoors website links to numerous curriculum resources, events celebrating public lands and jobs to connect youth to the outdoors.
- Through Urban Connections, the USDA Forest Service is reaching out to urban communities, including Milwaukee, Chicago, Boston and Minneapolis - St. Paul. The website has educational resources, ideas on volunteering at urban forests and news.
- First Bloom is a National Park Foundation initiative that helps connect youth with gardens at national parks in urban areas. Visit their website for resources on plant biology. Kids with a strong interest in gardening can join the First Bloomer program at national parks, including the Boston African American National Historic Site, St. Paul's Mississippi National River and Recreation Area and San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park.
- Download Urban Ecology resources from the Environmental Literacy Council. Activities designed for learning about the impact that cities have on wildlife and, in turn, how wildlife impacts cities and people.
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NPLD is a Friend to Friends Groups
Friends Groups are vital to the long term health and growth of public lands. NPLD supports Friends Groups through webinars, educational materials and the Every Day Grants program. Learn more about each of these opportunities in our resources section.
NPLD Supports Let’s Move Outside
Participating in NPLD is a great way to get the recommended 60 minutes of daily activity, while you lend a hand for public lands. Learn more about Let’s Move Outside and how NPLD is involved in the national movement.