The recently-passed federal 2023 domestic and defense spending bill passed by Congress (the ‘omnibus’ bill that funds the federal government) includes millions of dollars for parks, trails, Main Streets, town squares, play spaces, libraries, recreation centers and other public spaces.
Civic infrastructure benefits communities because research has shown it boosts local economies, increases resiliency and trust, supports health and well-being and can create a more equitable society and a stronger democracy. Support for these civic infrastructure investments in the omnibus bill came from federal legislators on both sides of the aisle, who represented a diverse geography of urban, suburban and rural communities, from Maine to California and everywhere in between.
Here are just a handful of examples of the many civic infrastructure projects supported by this federal funding:
Greenway-related Civic Infrastructure in Maine
Amount: $979,000 | $7,800,000 | $925,000 | Representatives: Senator Susan Collins | Senator Angus King
Why it’s important: Maine is receiving nearly $10M in funding for three greenway, active transportation and greenspace projects, a demonstration of the state’s commitment to public space for more connected communities. Civic infrastructure-related projects receiving funding include:
The Lewiston Canal and Riverwalk Trail, which will expand the community’s riverfront trail, which has been key to the city’s revitalization. This new section of trail will also assist with redevelopment of the Continental Mill, a 650,00 square foot former mill, as well as facilitate improved connections for downtown residents.
“The Lewiston Canal and Riverwalk has been a key piece of the city’s revitalization and provides an excellent opportunity for local residents and visitors to enjoy the beauty of the Androscoggin River. By extending this path, this funding will build on this success and provide more transportation and recreational opportunities in the city.” — U.S. Senator Susan Collins
Biddeford Elm Street Improvements, an active transportation street improvement project that will include pedestrian and bike infrastructure in Biddeford in order to address a key high-crash area in the community.
All Weather Community Pavilion at the YMCA of Auburn-Lewiston, located within the YMCA’s 95-acre outdoor learning center, a community resource that is free and open to the public all year round. The pavilion will be a place to host community events and for families and neighbors to gather outdoors, rain, snow or shine.
Sadler’s Poynt Waterfront Park in Camden, N.J.
Amount: $1,000,000 | Representative: Congressman Donald Norcross (NJ-1)
Why It’s Important: In the North Camden neighborhood, resident access to the nearby Delaware River and the Delaware River Backchannel has for years been limited to just 200 feet of shoreline. The shore of the river and backchannel were claimed by industry decades prior and left a brownfield, yet many living in the nearby majority Latino neighborhood who have been advocating for better river access will now have the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of the Delaware thanks to an earmark investment from the federal government in a new waterfront park that will double the amount of space available for river access.
Sadlers’s Poynt Waterfront Park will encompass 16 acres and will remediate a waterfront brownfield site with new walking paths, a kayak/ boat launch, a fishing pier, seating with tables and a boardwalk overlooking the river. Sadler’s Poynt will be adjacent to the existing Pyne Poynt Park, which has athletic facilities including softball/baseball fields, soccer fields and basketball courts. As the Delaware River and the Delaware River Backchannel surround three sides of North Camden (with a fourth side defined by a major roadway), the neighborhood can feel cut off from nature and the rest of the city. For North Camden residents, access to these waterways is an opportunity to demonstrate that this land is part of their greater well-being, and gives them an opportunity to better steward the place where these waters meet.
Main Street Redesign and Redevelopment in Starkville, Miss.
Amount: $2,000,000 | Representative: Congressman Michael Guest (MS-3)
Why It’s Important: The transformation of the Main Street in this community of 25,000 includes a redesign to prioritize the pedestrian experience, improve safety and provide incentives for new private sector investment downtown. The funding allocated to the City of Starkville would be used on a variety of initiatives to rehabilitate Main Street, which connects to Mississippi State University. This includes asphalt, roadway striping, sidewalk widening, pedestrian crosswalks, lighting, street trees, replacing aging water infrastructure and upgrades to electric utilities. This investment creates a more accessible and inclusive downtown, provides more areas for small businesses to provide outdoor seating and prepares Starkville for future investment, growth and development.
Joe Louis Greenway in Detroit, Mich.
Amount: $3,920,000 | $1,386,216 | Representatives: Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (MI-14) | Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib (MI-13) | Senator Gary Peters | Senator Debbie Stabenow
Why It’s Important: The City of Detroit’s Joe Louis Greenway is a once-in-a-generation initiative to connect four Southeast Michigan municipalities with a 29-mile biking and walking loop, extending the quality-of-life benefits most seen in the downtown core to disinvested neighborhoods. It will also allow people in these municipalities to access the Detroit River without needing a car. When complete, the Greenway will leverage vibrant public space to support shared economic opportunity, including along the Hamtramck Drive Connector, a three-quarter mile segment of the Greenway that is a shared-use path connecting Dequindre Cut Greenway with Joseph Campau Avenue. The Hamtramck Drive Connector will also provide safe spaces for nonmotorized transportation, moving people on bikes and walking away from truck traffic associated with the General Motors Factory Zero nearby.
Meanwhile, the West Chicago Connector project will extend the Greenway for approximately one-quarter mile along West Chicago, Cloverlawn Avenue, and Oakman Boulevard and will include ADA features, improved lighting, and Wi-Fi. This effort will increase safety, generate economic activity, remove blight, and increase mobility for nearby residents.
“The Joe Louis Greenway is a transformational project that will connect Detroiters and their neighborhoods and provide greater access to recreational opportunities, promoting a healthy lifestyle.” — City of Detroit Deputy Mayor Todd Bettison
Augustine Trail & Connectivity Project in Charles Town, W.Va.
Amount: $1,400,000 | Representative: Senator Shelley Moore Capito | Senator Joe Manchin
Why It’s Important: In 2023, the City of Charles Town will receive funding for the 1.9 mile Augustine Trail, a pedestrian and biking asset that links the downtown with the west side of the city. This trail serves as part of a larger vision for the city to connect people with multiple parks and with nearby neighborhoods, providing a safe pathway or connectivity option for residents to engage in physical activity while connecting them to the heart of our downtown.
This trail investment leverages 2022 funding for Charles Town’s Revive Grant program, which provides grants to local businesses for commercial building revitalization, with the goal of creating a more vibrant, walkable, and economically successful downtown. This layered investment approach creates connected civic infrastructure, encourages economic vitality while promoting sustainable transportation and recreation.
Urban Agriculture Garden in San José, Calif.
Amount: $1,700,000 | Representative: Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (CA-19)
Why It’s Important: Stewarded by the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, the Urban Agriculture Garden will introduce a new urban farm and enhance the community gardening capacity of Guadalupe Gardens in downtown San Jose. Guadalupe River Park is a respite in a dense urban environment that offers visitors trails, parks and plazas that preserve the natural ecology and offer a multitude of ways to engage, relax, discover and enjoy nature. The garden project, which is part of a larger development concept called Prototype Park, would provide even greater access to open space, increase economic opportunity, and promote health equity through food systems resilience.
The Urban Agriculture Garden will foster environment and farming programs, promote civic engagement that highlights the agricultural history of San José, facilitate economic empowerment of area residents, and increase food security. These goals will be accomplished through food production, propagation of seedlings in greenhouses, and public and school programs around farming, healthy living, and the environment.
Today, civic infrastructure is something that unites Americans not only on the ground in communities, but across the aisle among policymakers at the federal, state and local levels. The latest omnibus bill is another example of bipartisan support for investments in these critical assets that communities are leveraging to help them support health and wellbeing, create more social connection, advance local economies and become more resilient.