The Chesapeake Conservation Partnership engaged scores of participants from across the watershed in three October 2020 workshops to gather guidance and generate ideas on how to operationalize a new draft public health goal (see below) and its clear focus on equity.

Public Health: Protect, conserve, and enhance lands that support equitable public health for all, with an urgent focus on under-served communities, both urban and rural:

  • safeguard land protecting drinking water, clean air, and cooling environments;
  • support access to locally grown and raised food;
  • provide neighborhood green spaces (interconnected where feasible) with a diversity of uses to enhance overall public physical, mental, and spiritual health;
  • ensure all people have access to natural areas, parks, trails and/or public green spaces within a ten minute walk; and
  • provide public access sites along Chesapeake Bay waterways within 30 minutes for all.

Join the 2020 Annual Meeting

Advancing Public Health, Equity and Conservation
Tuesday November 17
9:30 AM to Noon

This highly interactive session will hone and prioritize recommendations for advancing public health, equity, and conservation in the Chesapeake watershed. We aim to set the path for operationalizing a new draft public health goal.

Space is limited, so register now.

Here we share a summary of the recommendations produced through those workshops. These will inform deliberations at the November 17th Annual Meeting where we will focus on sharpening and prioritizing the recommendations.

The recommendations are organized around a set of principles for guiding work in this realm, and a set of potential policies and actions. Read through them and prepare for the session.


Acknowledge and Address the History that Got Us Here: Disparities and inequities in access to healthy food, parks, green space, water, and more did not happen by accident. They are the direct result of discriminatory policies and practices like redlining over many decades, continuing to the present. We must be forthright in acknowledging this and understanding how and where these factors are still in play.

Public Health & Communities Require Multidisciplinary Approaches: Public health challenges cannot be solved in silos (e.g. parks, housing, crime, water, healthcare, environmental restoration, and local business expansion and growth). Moreover, programmatic “silo-ation” exacerbates problems. Communities require integrated whole of community collaboration: government, organizations, healthcare, school systems, job programs, homeownership, etc. We’re not there yet.

Start From the Lens of Livability: Public health is dependent on multiple aspects of livability — access to home and landownership, jobs, education, transportation, healthy food, parks and green space, a resilient climate, and more. Community based conservation should be designed to support or directly provide many of these.

This Work Must be Community Led and Driven: Outsiders must not operate from “savior” complexes. Incorporate the health standard “do no harm” in our work. Don’t do projects based on assumptions of what we believe underserved communities need; rather engage from ground up so communities express specifically what they need. Listen and understand limitations by having the right conversations. Build in clear strategies for avoiding green gentrification from the very beginning.

Adapt Priorities: An equity focus will require an adaptation of our current scaled practices to sometimes target smaller and different conservation actions. For example, place a greater emphasis on access, addressing park deserts and not just large scale landscape benefits. COVID is exacerbating the issue. Collaborate more, and compromise more — be willing to be changed by partners’ priorities.

Real Park Access Requires Openness: Access to parks and green spaces has a history of barriers for communities of color. Authentic communication, outreach, and welcoming about access opportunities is crucial, including acknowledging different ways of recreating. Underserved communities need to see others like themselves (including as staff) at parks and other green spaces. And fees should not be a barrier to access.

Work From and Around Community Centers: Hospitals, schools, churches, and other community centers should be at the center of community driven park, connectivity, greening and healthy food efforts. For schools, engaging with the outdoors needs to be the rule rather than the exception. Use the huge local investment in school sites not fully recognized as common open space resources. Through community needs assessments and work with health care facilities and the local medical professionals, identify and promote connections for access to nature.

Connectivity is Key: Walking is the only free method of transportation. All residents in the watershed should live within walking distance of publicly accessible and safe green space. Need connectivity between community centers and parks – sidewalks, trails, etc. But, all kinds of transportation are key.

Healthy Local/Regional Food Systems Support Healthy Communities: Farming, whether rural or urban, provides jobs, healthy food, and less fragile food systems. Improving local agricultural economies relies on and incentivizes land conservation. We need a collaborative, sustained, community-based effort to enhance local and regional food networks.

Make Equity Analyses Standard Practice: Agencies, elected officials, NGOs, and advocates should use data-informed maps and tools to identify priority neighborhoods and collaborate with local residents and organizations to plan or improve parks, trails, community gardens, and other green spaces. Prioritizing projects in high-need areas identified with GIS is best practice in equitable development.

Policies and Actions:

Access, Land Use, Development, and Other Policy Measures:

  • Integrate open space planning with housing and development policies to ensure access and prevent gentrification. Tie restoration investments with equitable economic development requirements. Capture increases in land values in a public trust.
  • Make equitable parks, open space, green infrastructure assessments and plans part of design, review and financing of housing and commercial development in disadvantaged and low income, neighborhoods of color. Land trusts and community land trusts should partner to provide both green spaces and affordable housing.
  • Encourage the expansion and growth of local businesses opportunities – require buy in and coordination to acquire and transfer lands to communities (and thereby more stake and ownership).
  • Update ordinances for adequate public facilities. Develop and stick to health impact goals for assessments such as walkability. Require developers to dedicate public open space.
  • Adopt connectivity policies in master plans. Make bike-pedestrian infrastructure an access priority.
  • Build incentives and positive pressure through education and landowner networks to open private lands to public use, especially on the waterfront. Expand liability protections. Consider higher payments for public access in easement valuations on private lands.
  • Adopt or strengthen policies to maintain trees, tree canopy areas, and forests and incentivize renewable development on already impacted lands.
    Require public schools to provide multiple opportunities for students to engage in outdoor learning experiences. Adopt environmental literacy graduation requirements. Support teacher training and professional development.

Funding/Financing Measures:

  • Re-prioritize current parks, recreation and conservation funds creating equity requirements to tip the scales toward organizations, neighborhoods and communities long under-resourced and disadvantaged. Ensure funding for urban conservation is on par with or exceeding rural conservation.
  • Increase assistance and funding to neighborhood-based groups that haven’t had access; activating those groups and offering seed funding to those mostly volunteer-based groups; sharing lessons learned and best practices across community groups struggling with similar challenges.
  • Minimizing crowding should be a goal and generate priorities for new park and other greening project resources. Build criteria in funding to prioritize areas that are experiencing crowding. Include funding for micro parks to ease demand on large systems. Track not just proximity to these spaces but track per capita.
  • Add equity/inclusion standards to Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans (SCORPs) to influence LWCF allocations.
  • Create tax incentives for urban farming. Fund and incentivize local school meal programs, using local foods. Provide support for regional food systems to address specific barriers and for community gardens, farms, farmers markets, grocery stores, PYO orchards.
  • Pursue Green Bonds bills, including funding workforce development. Prioritize equity zones.
  • Push funders to demonstrate equity criteria and fund equity and health impact assessments.
  • Leverage private equity through conservation banking.
  • Fund experimental concepts with smaller projects (e.g. community gardens)

Analytical and Methodological Practice Measures:

  • Emphasize holistic teams to bring the right people to the table to work on policy. Identify champions. Needs to come from the top; secretaries for planning, natural resources, environment, and health departments need to co-lead this.
  • Document and analyze patterns of non traditional open space and access to it, including: school sites, HOA open spaces, sidewalks and connectivity systems, transit access, places people are using in the outdoors even if they are not formally thought of as open space, private open space, etc.
  • Depict and analyze current use levels of parks, trails, and non traditional open space.
  • Analyze and understand the composite meaning of the full range data related to public health in communities: demographics, income, health patterns, homeownership, parks and open space, food sources, crime, etc.


Join Us  Help Improve This List ● Help Move This Forward

The Partnership’s 2020 Annual Meeting is cosponsored by:

Land Trust Alliance

Don’t forget to send us your 2020 land conservation success stories as they develop. They’ll land in the new and growing collection at, a tool we can all use to show collective impact. See the checklist below for easy-to-follow, simple guidelines.