Contact: Ed Potosnak
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KEEP IT GREEN COALITION APPLAUDS STATE GOVERNMENT ANNOUNCEMENT OF $100 MILLION FOR URBAN PARKS
TRENTON- The New Jersey Keep It Green Coalition (KIG) of over 150 organizations dedicated to the preservation and stewardship of our state’s open space, farmland, and historic resources applauded yesterday’s announcement of $100 million in Green Acres funding for urban park preservation and stewardship. In 2014, KIG led the effort to secure permanent funding for open space, farmland, and historic preservation and stewardship. Because of this work, the state now has a constitutionally dedicated source of funding providing more than $150 million per year for this work, which enabled yesterday’s announcement.
For far too long, urban communities in the state were largely ignored by land preservation efforts, leading to a wide divide in access to welcoming parks. This historic investment will help close that gap, providing opportunities for outdoor recreation and relief from heat island effects for thousands of New Jerseyans.
“One of the best ways to protect the local environment is to preserve open space. And the most practical approach for counties, municipalities, and nonprofits to leverage their open space dollars is to apply for Green Acres funding. We know this is especially important in urban areas and communities of color that are more likely to have limited access to green spaces for recreation,” said Ed Potosnak, Executive Director, New Jersey LCV. “The Open Space Funding Constitutional Amendment widely approved by voters in 2014 paved the way for today’s announcement, and we couldn’t be prouder to see the administration move forward with these critical investments.”
“Keep it Green has been a strong advocate for fair access to open space, natural areas, and parks that can be readily enjoyed by all New Jerseyans,” said Dr. Eileen Murphy, Vice President of Government Relations for NJ Audubon. “Yesterday’s announcement of a $100 million investment in our state’s urban areas for open space preservation and stewardship is a major step forward towards reaching that goal, and will enable thousands of New Jerseyans, who previously faced major barriers to access, to connect with nature and participate in new recreation opportunities.”
“The large investment being made by the Green Acres Program in overburdened communities is encouraging,” said Kris Kolluri, President and CEO at Camden Community Partnership. “Local parks and open spaces can change the trajectory for health, economic development, resilience, and social cohesion for these vulnerable communities.”
New Jersey’s overburdened communities are extremely vulnerable to increasing heat waves due to the “urban heat island effect.” This phenomenon causes temperatures within urban areas to rise significantly, compared to suburban and rural outlying communities. This is a direct result of the lack of open spaces and natural areas that, by their nature, reflect and redirect heat. With such an extreme difference in heat wave temperatures for New Jersey’s low-income and communities of color, this makes heat related illnesses and death a major concern connected to the rising temperatures caused by climate change. Research shows that there are already approximately 445 heat related deaths in New Jersey each year, with that projected to grow to 3,560 by the end of the century.
“We know our cities are hotter and less resilient because of historic overdevelopment, which is why Isles has pioneered urban gardens and reclaimed vacant property for playgrounds and ballfields. We applaud Gov. Murphy for focusing these Green Acre resources in areas disproportionately bearing the burden of climate change,” said Sean Jackson, CEO of Isles, Inc. a 40 year-old Trenton-area nonprofit.
“This is amazing news at a most important time in New Jersey,” said Jay Watson of the New Jersey Conservation Foundation. “Making these green investments now will significantly enhance the quality of life in our very diverse communities, and will help offset the disproportionate impacts of a changing climate and historic environmental injustices, particularly in communities of color. We applaud this outstanding commitment to bringing nature to every neighborhood in this great State of ours.”
“The New Jersey Recreation and Park Association is thrilled to support the advancement of this $100 million open space acquisition, park improvement, and land stewardship package,” said Bill Foelsch, Public Policy Coordinator for the NJ Recreation and Parks Association. “We are especially excited to see such a significant portion of the overall funding, $47.1 million, for grants and loans for park improvements projects, particularly those that will impact local governments and community non-profit partners who will be building parks and natural areas in our urban communities. These will provide greater equity and meaningful access for under-served neighborhoods for outdoor recreation, community sports, and lands available for the appreciation of our natural world.”
KIG will continue to fight for open space throughout New Jersey no matter the zip code. Yesterday's announcement was a great start to what we hope will be even more investment in open space and land preservation throughout the state.