UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — An upcoming Penn State Extension land-use webinar will focus on community schoolyards as a solution for increasing park access in urban, suburban and rural communities.
Presenting the 75-minute webinar at noon Feb. 15 will be Owen Franklin, Pennsylvania state director of the Trust for Public Land, and Craig Colistra, program officer at the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation.
According to organizers, close-to-home parks provide critical benefits for public health, community cohesion and climate resilience. Nearly half of Pennsylvanians, however, cannot access a park within a 10-minute walk of their home. Presenters note that the creation of new parks is challenging in urban, built-out environments, as well as in rural areas that lack population density and local park and recreation agencies.
The Trust for Public Land sees an opportunity to open schoolyard facilities to surrounding neighborhoods after school hours, on weekends and when school is not in session. The organization argues that if all 90,000 public schools in the country had a “community schoolyard,” more communities could tackle the persistent park equity issue — in which too few communities, particularly underserved ones, enjoy access to nearby high-quality public green spaces.
Opening all schoolyards, essentially turning them into part-time, all-access community hubs, would “put a park within a 10-minute walk of nearly 20 million people — solving the problem of outdoor access for one-fifth of the nation’s 100 million people who don’t currently have a park close to home,” the organization noted.
This webinar will examine how the Trust for Public Land collaborates with partners across the country — including the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation — to transform public schoolyards into recreation assets. A variety of design strategies and investments, coupled with policy changes that support public access, can ensure that these existing public assets perform at their highest capacity, according to organizers. Presenters will review how this work delivers impact in communities large and small, urban and rural.
“Community Schoolyards: A Solution for Increasing Park Access in Urban, Suburban and Rural Communities” is the second webinar in the Penn State Extension Winter/Spring 2023 Land-Use Webinar Series, which runs monthly until May 17. The series is aimed at informing municipal elected and appointed officials, planners, landowners, farmers, and community organizations about land-use issues and decisions in their communities.
Other topics and dates in the series include:
— Jan. 18: “Management of Vegetation on Utility Transmission Lines.”
— March 15: “Local Climate Action Planning: Penn State and Municipal Partners Implementing Together.”
— April 12: “Pennsylvania’s State Recreation Plan: Meshing Community-Based Planning With State Initiatives.”
— May 17: “Transportation, Transit and Land Use: What Are the Connections?”
All programs will be recorded and available for future viewing.
The cost of the webinar series is $50 for all five sessions, or $95 for all five sessions for those who want to receive AICP certification-maintenance credits from the American Planning Association. The cost also is $95 for all five sessions for professional engineers needing PDH credits. In addition, registered landscape architects can receive continuing-education credits for a fee of $65.
For anyone interested in a particular topic from the series, individual session registration is available for a fee of $15 per session.
For more information, contact Peter Wulfhorst at 570-296-3400 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To register for the webinars, visit the Penn State Extension website.
–Alexandra McLaughlin, Penn State Extension