The following are two items of interest related to possible changes and threats to park land conversions in the future. The first is language proposed to be inserted into the new Infrastructure legislation that addresses LWCF and the second is a prediction by NRPA that other conversions and threats to park lands are becoming evident. They offer advice on the best protection of these lands.
Item 1. SEC. 3120. ELIMINATE REDUNDANCY IN CONVERSION REQUIREMENTS WHEN LAND PURCHASED WITH LAND AND WATER CONSERVATION FUND MONEY IS IMPACTED.
I. Currently, parks and other sites that have been the subject of Land and Water grants
of any type cannot be converted to other than public outdoor recreation uses without
approval of the National Park Service (NPS). This includes approval of equivalent
property to substitute for the converted area. This requirement applies to
infrastructure projects that might use parks or other recreational facilities that were
funded by Land and Water grants. Consulting with NPS and obtaining its approval
for equivalent substitution property can be a process leading to delayed project delivery.
The work of the NPS often doplicates the work of the lead Federal agency in identifying equivalent
Eliminating the requirement for NPS approval in identifying and procuring
replacement property would eliminate duplicative work and speed project delivery
(including where authority has been delegated to States).
Item 2. From NRPA…. Dedicate Your Park — Or You Could Lose It
As cities increasingly look for available real estate, a high-profile case in which New York City proposes to convert the Marx Brothers Playground in East Harlem to a high-rise development is bringing the issue of converting parks for other purposes into sharp relief. “Public parks are under constant threat of diversion to economic development and other non-park uses,” says James Kozlowski, law professor at George Mason University, who details another park conversion in Westfield, Massachusetts, in his Law Review column on page 26 of the current issue of Parks & Recreation magazine.
In the case of Westfield, the court’s decision, rejecting the proposed conversion, hinged, in part, on whether the land had been dedicated as a park. As required under state law, the conversion would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature, as well as comply with federal protections of the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act, which requires any park funded by LWCF to be replaced by land of equal quality and value.