NRPA has been awarded a grant of $2.5 million from the American Water Charitable Foundation
The American Water Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created by American Water, announced a partnership with the National Recreation and Park Assn. (NRPA), for the Building Better Communities signature grant program.
NRPA has been awarded a grant of $2.5 million from the American Water Charitable Foundation to administer this program over the next five years. The two organizations will work with local communities to protect and enhance open space, connect children to nature and provide education that helps communities engage in stewardship activities across American Water’s nationwide service areas.
American Water’s Building Better Communities philanthropy initiative is designed to enhance the quality of life in the communities the company serves. The program will initially focus on parks, as they are critical to preserving natural resources that have real economic benefits for communities. Specifically, the program will concentrate on building or enhancing nature-based playgrounds and natural play spaces for children, and will connect and educate people on environmental stewardship practices related to water.
“As people spend less time outdoors they have less of a connection to and appreciation of natural resources,” said Barbara Tulipane, president and CEO of NRPA. “That’s why we are thrilled to be working with the American Water Charitable Foundation as it will help people, especially those in urban communities, deepen their connection with nature and foster a greater appreciation and responsibility around the conservation of water, a vital natural resource we must all use wisely.”
In response to more children losing touch with nature, nature-based playgrounds and natural play spaces are an emerging trend focused on bringing child’s play back-to-basics. These play spaces encourage children to interact with the natural environment and include features like boulder runs, embedded hill slides, sensory gardens, and natural climbing walls, designed to foster a sense of understanding about the natural world. The Building Better Communities program will incorporate an added benefit to natural play spaces with environmental education elements such as hydrologic demonstration and education areas to serve both children and adults alike.
Together, these types of natural spaces will help foster a greater sense of appreciation for the environment in a fun and engaging way and can empower people with the knowledge to understand the important role water plays in our ecosystems. Community park and recreation agencies and allied partners are leading the way to bring more of these types of nature play areas to the forefront and provide more people access to these spaces.
“Research shows that children who play in and explore natural environments often adopt conservation and sustainability values as adults. We believe these are important characteristics to encourage for the continued viability of and appreciation for our nation’s water resources,” said Debra Vernon, manager, corporate responsibility and president of the American Water Charitable Foundation. “The Building Better Communities program supports American Water’s core values of community stewardship and environmental sustainability, and aligns with areas of importance to the company’s employees, including child welfare and education.”
Annually, the program aims to support several of these types of projects through grants administered to local communities. Each nature-based play space will be developed via a community partnership dedicated to ongoing stewardship. A competitive Request for Proposal process is open now for local communities to apply for grant funding.