April 12, 2017| Cities
Building the capacity of local nonprofits, grassroots organizations, and neighborhood residents is an essential part of our community-centered approach and ensures those that live, work, and play near these Parks with Purpose projects benefit from their development. Engaging with and empowering the community is key in the Fund’s approach to developing these new urban parks.


Our Parks with Purpose Initiative pioneers a unique, multi-benefit approach to partnering with communities on innovative greenspaces:

  • We empower communities, as the primary beneficiaries, to set objectives and design park features that ensure a safer and healthier place for families to play and enjoy the outdoors.
  • We embrace equitable, inclusive, and sustainable park development in urban neighborhoods that have been historically denied, disregarded or dismissed.
  • We implement green infrastructure strategies and greenspace design to address chronic problems of stormwater flooding, overflowing sewers, higher urban temperatures and declining air quality.
  • We support economic resiliency through workforce training and employment programs for neighborhood residents.

Our partnership in action:

In each metropolitan area, we are working with local nonprofit partner organizations on community-centered engagement processes so residents can define their specific community interests and needs

Boone-Park-West-rendering.jpgKathryn Johnston Memorial Park, Coming 2019. Credit: Park Design by HGOR

  • Raleigh, NC
    The Fund's lead local partner is Walnut Creek Wetlands Community Partnership, focused on the neighborhoods situated southeast of downtown Raleigh. North Carolina State University's Water Resources Research Institute serves as the Partnership’s fiscal agent and other partners include ILASS and CHER.

  • Washington, DC:
    Together with additional philanthropic partners, we are helping the National Park Service and the National Park Foundation support a new Community Engagement Liaison position to build bridges with residents of historic Anacostia and design a new “friends” organization for Anacostia Park, the key unit of National Capital Parks - East.

    Check out this webinar on equitable development, hosted by The Conservation Fund in partnership with Building Bridges Across the River (BBAR), which features Vaughn Perry, Equitable Development Manager with 11th Street Bridge Park, a project of BBAR, which will be Washington, D.C.’s first elevated public park.

12806004_10207666359955659_3325809588221938564_n.jpgVine City Park (Atlanta, GA)


These vulnerable communities suffer disproportionately from stormwater flooding, overflowing sewers, higher urban temperatures, and declining air quality.

As the climate changes and severe weather events become more frequent, these persistent problems adversely affect residents’ health and deter investments that could support new businesses and jobs and improve housing, educational opportunities, and public safety.

Our Parks With Purpose projects are investing in new natural green space elements that can hold and filter stormwater, reduce flash flooding and erosion, and expand the capacity of aging, urban sewer systems.

proctorphoto2.jpgOliver Street, the eastern boundary block at Kathryn Johnston Park. Photo credit: Tony Torrence


Support is currently needed to underwrite our Workforce Development Programs in each of these urban parks. This community-centered initiative offers job training and employment opportunities to local residents in the fields of ecological restoration, tree care, landscaping, and green infrastructure installation and maintenance.

These new green jobs and valuable employment skills are immediately put to use in each Park With Purpose location for site preparation, renovation and ongoing park preservation, strengthening neighborhood economic resiliency. Learn more about the impact our Parks With Purpose Workforce Development Program has on the lives of young adults in these communities. 


Video: Building a Parks With Purpose in Atlanta

April 12, 2017| Cities
Our goal is to grow these opportunities, so that residents, cities, and other nonprofit partners can share successes, challenges, and lessons learned across a wide, collaborative network. Exchanges have included:

  • Delegations from a variety of cities have participated in a learning exchange through the Fund’s partnership with the US Water Alliance and American Rivers to share insights and lessons learned about large scale, integrated watershed management solutions. In addition, the US Water Alliance has engaged six cities—Atlanta, Louisville, Camden, Pittsburgh, Milwaukee, Buffalo, and Cleveland are working together on a Water Equity Taskforce aimed at delivering clean and healthy water resources to some of our most vulnerable communities.


  • A partnership of non-profits has established the Atlanta Watershed Learning Network, connecting residents in three of Atlanta’s most imperiled waterways through a green infrastructure advocacy program. The Learning Network has graduated the first class of advocates and a second cohort is currently enrolled in the program. The University of Georgia is currently working with our collaborative partners to develop the curriculum in a web-based platform that can be shared with other watersheds across the country. 


  • In 2018, our network of Parks with Purpose teams visited Atlanta for a two-day peer exchange to learn from Atlanta residents and collaborative partners how a community-centered development model was developed, creating new ripples of knowledge and collaborative learning that will expand our partnerships across cities and increase benefits to additional communities. 


  • In 2019, our Parks with Purpose city partners reconvened for a second Peer Exchange in Raleigh. Attendees learned about the importance of community vision planning, communications skills, and about the various community engagement programs in Raleigh and Durham. Our organization proudly supported small local businesses as our vendors to support the local community and economy.


*Click on the images above to view the Peer Exchange visualization in greater detail. Credit: Mike "Muddy" Schlegel

December 31, 2014| Cities

Optimization Modeling

If you’ve ever studied a crowded supermarket shelf—Which brand? Size? Price?—you know the challenge of comparison shopping. So do conservationists. From state governments to local land trusts, cash-strapped conservationists must choose which of America’s special places to save. Today, with tight budgets, those choices are tougher than ever.

But we’ve developed a tool that can help.  Our strategic conservation team, working with a resource economist, has crafted a computer model that enables conservationists to shop smart—by evaluating potential conservation projects for best dollar value.

“We all want the most bang for our buck, and conservation is no different,” says Will Allen, our director of strategic conservation. “Are you spending too much money on expensive projects, or are you getting real value? With public budgets so tight, government officials must be able to justify how they’re spending these dollars wisely.”

The new model “optimizes” conservation decisions. It works by turning raw data about conservation decisions—project costs, benefits (scored numerically), budget constraints—into a user-friendly spreadsheet yielding comparison shopping conclusions.  Using the model, for example, a government agency can quickly compare the relative value of all possible projects and then make, and justify, an informed choice.

Optimization Modeling On The Ground

On the ground, the Baltimore County Agricultural Land Preservation Program in Maryland has already used our optimization model to save 22% more farmland than it would have otherwise over the past three years. Every year since 2007, Baltimore County has applied the optimization model to choose which agricultural lands to save. Optimization has helped the county protect an additional 680 acres of high-quality agricultural land, at a cost savings of roughly $5.4 million—a return on investment over three years of more than 60 to 1. In other words, for every $1 that Baltimore County spent using the optimization model, it has gained more than $60 in conservation benefits.

Wally Lippincott, Land Preservation Administrator in Baltimore County, is pleased with the results: “After trying for years to balance price with farm quality using rank based methods, we switched to optimization. In the first three years of using optimization, Baltimore County has been able to protect an additional 680 acres for the same amount of funds that would otherwise have been spent.  This also translates into a savings of approximately $5.4 million.”

Rob Hirsch likes that the program is easy to use: “Optimization has proven easier to administer and run than our old methods.  During our rank-based days, we performed extra administrative and mathematical work in order to solicit discounts and award extra LESA points for discounting.  With optimization, this is no longer required.”


Purchase book on optimization and strategic conservation
December 31, 2014| Cities
By the Numbers:
Strategic Conservation Planning has performed green infrastructure activities in close to 40 states.

Strategic Conservation Planning has completed greenspace plans for three of the largest metropolitan areas in the country.
The Conservation Fund works across America to support healthy, vibrant cities and more equitable and livable neighborhoods. We start by listening, working with people, local partners, and civic leaders to implement their visions. Our balanced approach to nature and our built environment is helping to revitalize neighborhoods, unite communities, and position cities to thrive for every resident.

December 31, 2014| Cities

Achieving environmental and economic goals often requires solving complex problems. That’s why creating practical approaches that balance natural systems with the built environment is essential for livable communities. Our team thinks big and offers solutions that government leaders, conservationists, and others need to create systemic and lasting environmental solutions in communities across the country. Strategic conservation makes economic sense—establishing an environmental legacy for future generations in the most efficient and cost-effective manner.

We bring strategic conservation expertise to government leaders, industries and communities across the country to achieve the multiple benefits from investing in clean air, clean water, habitat, climate resilience and adaptation, and community livability. We help communities identify their conservation priorities and goals, and we recommend high-impact and cost-effective implementation strategies that help build the capacity of communities to fulfill their conservation visions.

Through state-of-the-art geospatial mapping, and valuing the economic benefit of ecosystem services, we strategically evaluate areas for land protection and stewardship as well as identify opportunities to integrate planning for green and gray infrastructure.

We provide custom tailored tools to help solve complex planning problems:

  • Green infrastructure networks / landscape design
  • Regional conservation visions
  • Ecosystem service valuation
  • Rapid open space assessments
  • Strategic conservation guidance
  • Implementation / acquisition targeting
  • GIS decision support tools and map services
  • Optimization models for cost effective decision making
  • Structured decision tools using the Logic Scoring of Preference method
December 31, 2014| Cities
December 31, 2014| Cities
December 31, 2014| Cities

What Is Green Infrastructure?

Definition: A strategically planned and managed network of natural lands, working landscapes, and other open spaces that conserves ecosystem values and functions and provides associated benefits to human populations. (Source: Benedict & McMahon 2006)

The Conservation Fund is the only conservation organization to design green infrastructure plans in three of the country’s largest metro areas: Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles. We also have worked in metro areas that understand the strategic advantage to having an interconnected network of greenspaces and trails for quality life, such as Nashville, Indianapolis, and Kansas City. We also think big, working with whole regions and even completing the nation’s largest green infrastructure plan, across 13 states.


Green Infrastructure Case Studies

  1. Maryland’s Green Infrastructure Assessment and GreenPrint Program
  2. Florida’s Ecological Network
  3. Metro Greenways: Seven-County Twin Cities Region, Minnesota
  4. Saginaw Bay Greenways Collaborative, Michigan
  5. Conservation Resource Alliance’s Wild Link and River Care Programs, Northwest Lower Michigan
  6. Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan Pima County, Arizona
  7. Mountains to Sound Greenway: Seattle to the Cascades
  8. The BioMap Project, Massachusetts
  9. Baltimore County Forest Sustainability Project
  10. Kansas City Green Infrastructure Case Study
  11. 'Nashville: Naturally' Case Study


Green Infrastructure Webinar Series

The Conservation Fund’s Conservation Leadership Network, with support from the U.S. Forest Service, hosted a series of free webinars on cutting-edge topics on green infrastructure planning initiatives and applications.

WEBINAR #3 ARCHIVE: Military Implementation Of Green Infrastructure
Representatives from the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, and U.S. Marine Corps discussed how green infrastructure is being used on their installations to support broader sustainability goals.

WEBINAR #2 ARCHIVE: International Applications of Green Infrastructure
This webinar highlighted the latest in how green infrastructure is being implemented in the European Union and in South America from leading practitioners!

WEBINAR #1 ARCHIVE: Using Green Infrastructure to Prevent Disease Vectors
This webinar explored how Green Infrastructure contributes to human health through the prevention of transmission of disease vectors through ecosystem management and land use strategies.