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$500K grant for park and green space equity goes to local organization

Brooke Spurlock, Springfield News-Sun, Ohio Mon, August 8, 2022 at 10:11 AM·3 min read

Aug. 8—The Conscious Connect CDC was awarded a two-year $500,000 grant for a national initiative that supports organizations to advance park and green space equity. The People, Power, and Parks (P3) national initiative is the first in the U.S. to "support community-based organizations to build power and reverse deep seated park and green space inequities in Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities across the country." Karlos Marshall, co-founder of the Conscious Connect CDC, said they are proud to be a part of the inaugural cohort of the P3 initiative, which is to help build power among community residents to advocate for local policy and system changes to advance that park and green space equity. This organization is one of 14 others across the country and Puerto Rico to be awarded the grant over the next two years. "We are extremely grateful for this opportunity to address systemic issues that have prohibited south Springfield residents from equitable access to high-quality parks and green spaces within a 10-minute walk," Marshall said. "P3 will help amplify our work at the national level alongside other south side organizations and the Clark County Land Bank." Parks and green spaces are essential to community infrastructure that protect public health and promotes mental wellbeing. They provide opportunities for physical activity, time in nature, social connection, respite, reduce gun violence, and they also help mitigate the impacts of climate change by cooling temperatures, cleansing air, filtering stormwater and replenishing groundwater. Marshall said all communities don't have access to safe and well maintained parks and green spaces, and that's why the organizations will establish the "Springfield Park and Green Space Ecosystem" to organize south side residents, organizations and allies to advocate for public policies and processes that remove governmental barriers to creating parks and activating vacant spaces. According to Marshall, the funds will be used to: — Establish a coalition of place makers, residents and allies around land use, redevelopment, zoning, vacant lot activation, and related park equity issues; — Train residents, Black place makers and allies representing southwest neighborhoods to advocate for public policies and increase community awareness around public health, park access and land use equity; and — Conduct action research and make public policy recommendations that improve park and green space access. The organization already has initial partners — through the Unified Collective including 1159 South CDC, Green Environmental Outreach, Melrose Acres, and the Young Black Professionals and Businesses of Springfield — but anticipates that list to grow and expect to hire a program manager and administrative assistant to help build capacity for the project. "We are thrilled at being selected for such a groundbreaking award and to work with our established partners to improve health outcomes in our community. We look forward to engaging new advocates and neighborhood residents on policies for green space amenities that support the South Springfield community," said Moses Mbeseha, co-founder of the organization. The Conscious Connect mission is to reimagine and redevelop underutilized spaces for education, culture, peace and health, so that zip codes don't define the success of children and families. The P3 initiative is led and managed by Prevention Institute, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting health, safety and wellbeing through thriving, equitable communities. Funding for this project is provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the largest philanthropy in the U.S. dedicated to improving health, and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, a national philanthropy supporting people and the planet for a more creative, equitable and sustainable future.

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