Today, the roughly 250 million Americans who live in or near cities already find it difficult to connect with the outdoors. And our urban populations are growing- a report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors shows that U.S. metropolitan areas will grow in population by 32 percent or nearly 84 million people over the next three decades.
While people in cities value close-to-home places to get outside and recreate, increasing urbanization has left millions of people without easy access to open spaces. To expand such opportunities for urban residents, many of our programs and projects seek to create, expand, or improve parks, trails, recreational access, and open spaces for people to get outdoors in places near where they live and work.
AGO's Urban work focuses on two major goals:
1. Creating easily accessible outdoor areas in urban settings, and
2. Restoring natural systems and greenspaces in cities.
Through a system of urban water trails, parks, greenways, and with dedicated work to urban greening and restoration AGO is bringing the outdoors closer to home than ever before.
AGO is accomplishing its urban goals through:
1. Supporting 20 State Urban Projects that seek to connect urban dwellers to the outdoors and increase urban green spaces
2. Launching the Urban Waters Initiative to clean up and restore degraded and polluted urban rivers, restore habitats and greenspaces, and improve and increase access to rivers and recreation areas.
3. Partnering with local stakeholders to best gauge the needs of communities.
4. Promoting interagency work to efficiently use federal resources by facilitating five interagency projects across the nation.
5. Sharing information among projects to improve project efficiency and success.
6. Ensuring the achievement of on-the-ground results, providing real benefit to urban communities.
Millennium Reserve: Chicago’s Next Great Urban Park
In 2013, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will grant $1 million to support restoration and conservation projects in the Calumet region of Millennium Reserve. These funds will help plant 100,000 trees on 60 acres of park land, restore native habitat for migratory birds, and restore coastal wetlands.
Millennium Reserve is one of the AGO State Urban Projects that aims to connect urban residents to the outdoors and increase green spaces in and around cities. The 140,000-acre project brings together federal, state, and local officials along with community members to protect and restore the natural ecosystems, support healthy and prosperous communities and citizens, and stimulate diverse economic growth. As Illinois Governor Pat Quinn noted, "This important project will convert an industrial area into valuable open space that gives area families a place to gather, play and experience the great outdoors." Located in the heart of Chicago, Millennium Reserve is a key part in the mission to transform the Calumet region of the city into a one-of-a-kind public destination.
Grand River, Michigan: Putting the "Rapids" back in Grand Rapids
The longest river in the state, the 252-mile Grand River currently creates an economic divide between the wealthier east side and the more underserved west side of Grand Rapids. But a unique partnership driven by 30 local business and philanthropic leaders is determined to address this divide while increasing recreational access to the river and improving wildlife habitat. The rapids for which the city was named were dredged and destroyed in the late 1800's for logging purposes. Today, with help from FWS, USDA, EPA, and multiple other agencies, local leaders plan to restore the rapids, improve fish and wildlife habitat, increase parks, rowing and trails, and instill a conservation ethic among urban youth. In 2013, Grand Rapids was selected as one of 20 AGO national urban projects, as well as one of eleven new Urban Waters Federal Partnership pilot sites.
URBAN WATERS FEDERAL PARTNERSHIP
The Urban Waters Federal Partnership is an innovative union of thirteen federal agencies that is improving coordination among federal agencies and collaborating with local community-led revitalization efforts. The Partnership is improving our nation's waters and promoting the economic, environmental, and social benefits of communities near them. The Partnership was launched on June 24, 2011 with local partnerships at seven pilot locations across the nation. As the Partnership locations grow, actions will continue and expand to assist projects and collaborative actions that reconnect communities with their urban waterways. This work has a particular emphasis on communities that are overburdened or economically distressed. Information on the public launch of the Partnership, the Partnership's vision, mission, and principles, and a description of the initial pilot locations can be found at www.urbanwaters.gov.
America's cities serve as centers for innovation and engines for economic growth. AGO calls for the federal government to be a better partner by focusing on community-driven and science-based projects that align efforts and prioritize funding across federal, state, local, and tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and the private sector. The Urban Waters Federal Partnership has successfully embodied this approach while working toward AGO's goals to connect American's and expand access to the outdoors, enhance our rivers and waters, and establish great urban parks and community green space. The Partnership complements the Strong Cities, Strong Communities Initiative, and the Sustainable Communities Partnership, which together with our other place-based strategies are redefining how the federal government works with its local partners.