In Lawrence, Tsongas announces introduction of legislation to help cities create green space - May 17, 2011

Legislation was developed with Groundwork Lawrence

LAWRENCE, MA – May 17, 2011 - Congresswoman Niki Tsongas today joined with volunteers from Groundwork Lawrence to announce new legislation she is filing to help urban communities turn blighted environments into public parks or other usable green spaces. Tsongas’ bill entitled 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 and enable other cities to launch similar initiatives.

“Creating green-space and public parks in urban communities is an excellent way to revitalize neighborhoods and further economic development in our cities,” said Congresswoman Niki Tsongas. “The City of Lawrence has worked extensively with Groundwork Lawrence to transform blighted areas of the city into usable community space. However, Groundwork programs nationwide have the potential to reach more communities and have an even greater positive impact than its current structure of the program allows. That is why I am introducing this legislation today.”

Currently organizations like Groundwork Lawrence receive funding for green-space projects, through the EPA and National Park Service. However, funding for Groundwork projects can be sporadic and unreliable, leading to a long back-log of proposals from communities that meet the necessary requirements for support and will be greatly benefited but which ultimately go unfunded.

Tsongas’ legislation would create a dedicated funding stream to ensure continued support of the Groundwork USA program and provide stability for the program, and the impressive organizations it supports, by centralizing its administration through the National Parks Service. Under the legislation, the Groundwork USA Trust Program would provide grants of up to $400,000 to local communities for development programs that address brownfields and blighted urban environments. The total authorization would be $15 million for each fiscal year through FY2016, which would allow Groundwork USA to produce 5-8 new Trusts each year.

Groundwork projects have proven to be a sound investment for the federal government. Since 2001, Groundwork Lawrence has completed over $6 million in public open space improvement projects while receiving only $240,000 in seed funding: a $24 to $1 ratio. Groundwork Lawrence has also been instrumental in developing the Spicket River Greenway, removing over 100 tons of debris from the rivers’ banks, and continuing to work to expand this multi-use green space.

"This legislation is extremely valuable to Lawrence as it will support our efforts to leverage public, private, and foundation dollars to continue our urban revitalization efforts in Lawrence," said Heather McMann, Executive Director of Groundwork Lawrence. "As Groundwork Lawrence celebrates its 10th year anniversary we are excited by the momentum to reclaim vacant lots for community and schoolyard gardens, design and build pedestrian and bike trails reclaiming the City's alleyways and three rivers, and tackling climate change through tree plantings."

“These successes and the commitment of Groundwork Lawrence served as the inspiration for the Groundwork USA Trust Act,” Tsongas continued. “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 Manchester Street Park where we gather today is a prime example of the great work they have done.”

Joining Congresswoman Tsongas in introducing the legislation are Reps. McGovern, Frank, Olver, and Payne (NJ).

Groundwork USA is a network of nearly twenty independent, non-profit community development organizations called Groundwork 'Trusts' that are linked together as the Groundwork USA national network. GWUSA Trusts encourage a sense of common purpose and engage residents in giving back to their community. In 2009, GWUSA Trusts engaged residents in over 57,000 hours of volunteer service in their neighborhoods, and involved nearly 400 businesses in their work to improve their communities.