Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

September 2019

TPL Suggests Schoolyards as Park-Access Solution

By Dave Ramont

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) creates parks and protects land for people, striving to ensure that everyone can live within a 10-minute walk of a park, garden or other natural area. Recently, the organization released a report detailing how public school grounds across America could help solve the issue of park access for more than 19 million people—including 5.2 million children—who currently don't have a park within a 10-minute walk of home.

There are approximately 100,000 public schools in the United States, but only around 10% of them currently allow public access to schoolyard sites. Meanwhile, more than 100 million Americans—including 28 million kids—don't have access to a park within a 10-minute walk of home.

Diane Regis, president and CEO of TPL, explained that improving schoolyards and making them accessible to surrounding communities can make a real difference to millions of kids and families.

"Safe, close-to-home places to play outdoors are essential for the health and well-being of communities across the country, yet far too many people lack access to parks," Regis said. "Meanwhile, tens of thousands of acres of public school playgrounds sit locked and unused when school is out. Improving and opening our schoolyards is a win-win that can come at a much lower cost to the city than building a new park."

TPL helps communities implement "shared-use agreements"—contracts between a local government and school district allowing schoolyards to remain open to the public outside of school hours, including after school, during summer break, and on weekends and holidays.

Sharon Danks, CEO of Green Schoolyards America, said that shared use is a cost-effective way to make the most of scarce open space in cities. "In the best cases, these agreements create a smooth working relationship between a school district and their local city government, to clearly define each partner's roles and responsibilities. Often, shared-use agreements resolve liability-related responsibilities and shift the burden for increased costs and maintenance away from our underfunded school districts, so the wider community that benefits can help shoulder the costs."

TPL has worked in communities nationwide to build green schoolyards within a 10-minute walk of more than 4 million people, while also capturing tens of millions of gallons of stormwater, increasing tree canopy, reducing the heat island effect and creating access to nature for surrounding neighborhoods.

"Green schoolyards improve the ecology of their neighborhoods and provide the community with green space, while also improving the places where children spend their time on a daily basis," said Danks. "If we can green every school ground, all children will have access to nature every day."

The Trust for Public Land is advocating for broader adoption of shared-use agreements to tap into the potential of the nation's schoolyards. This can make an immediate and significant difference for a neighborhood's access to open space. Learn more at

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