DPR Budget Testimony of John Boland – 2022
April 8, 2022
Councilmember Trayon White
Committee on Recreation, Libraries, and Youth Affairs
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20004
Subject: Casey Trees Comments on the Proposed FY23 Budget for the Department of Parks and Recreation
Casey Trees is a DC-based nonprofit with the mission to restore, enhance and protect the tree canopy of our nation’s capital. To accomplish this, we plant trees, advocate for stronger tree and green space protections, and educate the public on the benefits of trees. Thank you for the opportunity to provide written testimony on the Mayor’s proposed FY2023 Budget for the Department of Parks and Recreation.
Casey Trees and DPR both aim to provide enriching outdoor spaces and experiences for DC residents. Public green spaces help communities through beautification, ecosystem services such as stormwater management, heat island cooling, and climate resiliency. They also have observed benefits for youth development and education. Recently, land use surveys have shown that the District’s tree canopy coverage decreased by 1% between 2015 and 2020, a loss of roughly 500 acres of trees, while impervious surface increased. This is a setback to DC’s Sustainability Plan goal of 40% tree canopy by 2032.
Casey Trees is pleased to see the funding for capital small park improvements has been increased by $1,500,000 in FY23. These small parks are often overlooked due to their size, but still provide vital access to green space in many of DC’s densest neighborhoods. This increase will be welcome in continuing to allow for recreation opportunities at the most localized level. With that being said, we would like to see continuous funding in this category beyond FY23.
In the operating budget, there is a $761,000 decrease in the Planning Capital Projects division. We would like to emphasize that adequate staffing and resources allocated to designing and implementing green and sustainable parks are critical to making parks the urban oases that we envision. When we invest in our parks and recreation centers, we invest in our community. When we invest in our community, we build a stronger DC. They bring diverse communities together and create a sense of place, they are natural assets that increase the health and enhance the quality of life for all DC residents.
We are also very invested in DPR’s work on outdoor education. These programs are extremely helpful in educating youth on how their environment provides health and community benefits to them, and how they can be better stewards in their own communities. We are happy to see that the overall funding for recreational programming has increased, but we want to ensure that that programming includes nature-based activities. The FY23 budget includes a reduction of $15,000 to the Environment and the Great Outdoors Programming. This will impact and limit the ability for District residents to learn more about the relationships between us and the ecosystems that sustain us. Casey Trees strongly supports these programs as educationally and environmentally beneficial.
DC’s parks and recreation centers are special because they are a place where community members, no matter their background, can come together to play, learn, and relax. We should not forget about the parks, trees and green spaces that make our city great in a time when their importance for building social and recreational connections is more important than ever.
Thank you for your consideration.
Policy & Advocacy Associate