National Park Service's Urban Recreation Areas Program

CED-79-98: Published: Jun 19, 1979. Publicly Released: Jun 19, 1979.

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A GAO review of the National Park Service's (NPS) Urban National Recreation program focused on the first three areas designated by Congress: Golden Gate, California; Gateway, New Jersey and New York; and Cuyahoga Valley, Ohio. The study assessed the extent to which the program met its objectives of satisfying the recreational needs of urban populations, and protecting and preserving significant natural and scenic settings near large cities.

The areas reviewed were providing recreation as they were designed to do, but low-income, inner-city residents were not using them very much, and costs could climb if nearby state and local recreation lands should be donated to the government. City park and recreation officials felt that the areas were inaccessible to urban dwellers dependent on public transit because of distance, irregular service, and cost. Congress approved a pilot urban transportation project to reduce reliance on private automobiles for park access. NPS also approved eight transportation improvement projects for fiscal year 1979 for the three areas, mostly for cost-sharing programs to extend local public transit service into the parks. A new federal law provides grants to hard-pressed communities to rehabilitate inner-city recreation areas with an emphasis on neighborhood activities. About 40 percent of the lands in the three areas reviewed originally belonged to state and local governments; these governments may donate their remaining adjacent recreational lands to the federal government or seek federal funding if they encounter financial strain in maintaining their facilities. Solutions may emerge from the current examination by Congress and Department of the Interior, for achieving a federal/state/local partnership to preserve additional open space convenient to urban communities, patterned on the planning for the Pinelands National Reserve, New Jersey, embodying the areas of national concern approach.

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