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Tsongas introduces bill to create urban green space

WASHINGTON, DC – October 7, 2015 – Congresswoman Niki Tsongas today introduced new legislation to help urban communities turn blighted environments into public parks or other usable green spaces, while creating jobs in communities with elevated unemployment.

The Groundwork USA Trust Act was developed in consultation with the nonprofit group Groundwork Lawrence and would create a dedicated federal funding stream to ensure support for the twenty existing Groundwork programs nationwide, enabling other cities to launch similar initiatives.

Groundwork USA trusts have a proven record of success. For every federal dollar invested in the Groundwork program nationwide in 2014, Groundwork Trusts leveraged $10 in public, private and in-kind resources.  However, the current Groundwork USA system does not have a dedicated source of funding and is split between National Park Service (NPS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), limiting existing trusts from effective planning and preventing expansion into other communities.

“Creating green-spaces and public parks in urban communities is an excellent way to revitalize neighborhoods and further economic development in our cities,” said Congresswoman Tsongas.  “Here in the Third District, the City of Lawrence has worked extensively with Groundwork Lawrence to transform blighted areas of the city into usable community space.  By instituting Groundwork programs nationwide, we have the potential to have a widespread positive impact. Groundwork USA programs have a proven record of success, showing in the past that for every $1 spent the trusts have raised $10 in additional resources for their communities. The trusts have given young people an opportunity to get involved in their communities, created jobs in places with high unemployment, and helped to create an environment hospitable for economic development.”

Tsongas’ bill would provide stability by centralizing administration for the Groundwork USA system in the NPS and authorizing $15 million for each fiscal year through the fiscal year 2021. The legislation would establish a Groundwork USA Trust Program, which would allocate grants of up to $400,000 to local communities and would allow Groundwork USA to produce 5-8 new trusts each year.

"This legislation is extremely valuable to Lawrence as well as other communities struggling from disinvestment. It supports our efforts to leverage public, private, and foundation dollars for building truly sustainable, equitable communities,” said Heather McMann, Executive Director of Groundwork Lawrence. "The future impact for this legislation is evident as Groundwork Lawrence and the city celebrate its newest park at the Ferrous site, an urban wild in the city's historic mill neighborhood with complementary goals of environmental restoration, climate resiliency, and supporting active, healthy lifestyles.”

“The successes and the commitment of Groundwork Lawrence served as the inspiration for the Groundwork USA Trust Act,” continued Congresswoman Tsongas. "Groundwork Lawrence has now completed several environmental improvement projects that have transformed vacant and contaminated open spaces into parks, playgrounds, gardens, wooded trails, and pathways, and today I am proud to redouble our efforts to revitalize our communities and protect our environment for the next generation.”