Washington Outlook

Congress Passes Parks Funding Mayors Continue CARA Push

by Tom McClimon
October 9, 2000

On October 4, the House of Representatives passed the Interior Appropriations bill which contains funding for the Urban Park and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR) and the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Senate took similar action on October 5. At the same time, the mayors continue to push Congress to pass the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA).

Contained in the Interior Appropriations bill is a new program which was negotiated between the Administration and Congressional appropriators. The new six-year $12 billion agreement calls for $1.6 billion in federal funds to be spent in FY 2001 for national, state and local parks. Under the agreement, UPARR would receive $30 million this year and the stateside program of LWCF would receive $90 million. In future years, however, there are no guarantees of funding for both of these programs. While Congress will have funds available over the next 5 years to fund parks programs, it will be left up to the discretion of the Interior Appropriators to determine which programs will be funded.

It is due to this lack of stability and permanency for local parks funding that led the Conference leadership - President Boise Mayor H. Brent Coles, Vice-President New Orleans Mayor Marc H. Morial, and Advisory Board Chair Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino - to co-sign a letter to the House and Senate leadership calling upon Congress to pass the Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA). In their letter the mayors write, "...that the Interior Appropriations agreement does not go far enough and that the best approach is to secure final passage of CARA. The strength of CARA is that it provides stable and permanent funding for LWCF and UPARR which allows communities to implement long-term capital investment programs."

Mayors have joined with parks advocates and organizations in pushing Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (MS) and Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (SD) to urge them to either bring CARA to the Senate floor for a vote or to include significant annual funding for UPARR and LWCF in any final budget agreement.

Quotes from Debate in House and Senate on Parks

"The mayors...have blasted this so-called Interior appropriations." — Representative Don Young, Chair, House Natural Resources Committee

"I think particularly in the case of the urban parks, there is a recognition that as our populations become more urbanized, it is important for the quality of life in urban areas to have parks, install pocket parks, to have trees planted, to enhance the overall quality of the programs and the communities in which our urban population lives." — Representative Ralph Regula, Chair, House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee

"The appropriation of $30 million (UPARR) will allow us to rehabilitate some of those recreational spaces, including sports facilities at public schools or regional centers available to all young people in this country...We ought to give those children the recreational opportunities so many of us have had." — Representative George Miller, Ranking Minority Member, House Natural Resources Committee

"I will go to something Members can appreciate because they have heard so much from their mayors." (Stateside of the Land and Water Conservation Fund) has been underfunded for 30 years. When the mayors look in the bag, there is no money-promises, promises, but no money." — Senator Mary Landrieu, Louisiana

"There is a lot of money here to help our national parks. There is money for urban parks. There is a great deal of money-$1.8 billion, nearly $2 billion worth. It is not as originally envisioned by the CARA Coalition, but it is a great deal of what they asked for." — Senator Larry Craig, Idaho

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