Parks with Purpose: Parks for Health and Equity

Parks with Purpose: Parks for Health and Equity


Envisioning Parks with Purpose

Think about your favorite park. Why do you go there? How do you feel there? How does it help you to get and stay healthy? Imagine if all people had easy access to safe, vibrant park spaces where they could gather in community with their family, friends, and neighbors of all ages and abilities. Where visitors could find a range of amenities that support the different ways that different people enjoy being active – nature walks, play, swimming, pick-up sports – with design features that mitigate the Texas heat. Where greenery, native plants, and water features invite users to stop and smell the roses, breathe deeper, and shed some of the stress they carry through life.

St. David’s Foundation believes that all people in Central Texas need and deserve such parks, which are a crucial component of any community’s public health strategy. There is much work to be done. Park inequity maps to the same places that disproportionately harbor health inequity. There are numerous historical (e.g., segregation, underinvestment) and modern (e.g., long commutes, technology) barriers that prevent underserved residents from using parks and, by extension, reaping the health benefits. While getting 100% of the community to use parks on a regular basis is beyond aspirational, opportunities to convert more seldom and non-users into park lovers exist at every turn.

Because community park need far outpaces available resources, the Foundation engaged the Trust for Public Land to create the Healthy Parks Plan for Travis, Bastrop, and Caldwell Counties (Parks Plan) to support strategic investments. This RFP is informed by and builds on the data, tools, and resources of the plan, which was driven by a stakeholder and community-engaged 18-month process. Prospective applicants should familiarize themselves with the plan and resources, which are posted at

Available grants may range from $20,000 to $200,000. Requests should be commensurate with the project scope and scale of potential community impact. Eligible projects will fall into three categories:

  1. Activation grants for organizations seeking to learn how to more effectively bring existing parks to life and build community. These grants will support projects including, but not limited to marketing, programs, community engagement, and evaluation. First and foremost, activation grants are about learning how to build community around a community asset — in this case parks — for health. The projects are vehicles for inquiry, learning, and planning. Grants are not intended to fund the operations of off-the-shelf programs not tied to a higher parks purpose.
  2. Infrastructure/amenity grants for organizations seeking to add or renovate park infrastructure or amenities that promote health. Applicants must demonstrate that the community wants and will use proposed improvements. These grants will support projects from small to midsize that can include, but are not limited to, shade structures over swimming pools, playgrounds, outdoor fitness equipment, and trails. First and foremost, infrastructure/amenity grants are about parks users’ experiences over building things. Grants are not permitted to fund infrastructure commonly considered municipal responsibilities (e.g., sidewalks, lighting).
  3. Hybrid grants for organizations that want to bring together complementary activation efforts with amenity improvements in one proposal.

Eligible applicants are non-profit organizations and public entities serving Bastrop, Caldwell, and/or Travis Counties. Proposals are due August 19, 2019 by noon CST by online submission. An optional information session will be hosted Monday, July 15th at St. David’s Foundation.

Click here to download the full RFP.

Click here to download the Parks with a Purpose Presentation.

Click here to download the Healthy Parks Plan Presentation.

Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be a tax exempt 501(c)(3) organization or a public entity
  • Proposed project must serve residents of Bastrop, Caldwell, and/or Travis County. Applicants may have business or headquarter offices located outside these counties if the project clearly benefits local residents and the organization has strong partnerships with local organizations and communities.
  • Fiscally sponsored groups may apply. The sponsoring organization must serve as the lead applicant.
  • Collaboratives of multiple organizations are eligible to apply, but a single organization must serve as the lead entity for the application.
  • Lead applicants must demonstrate strong fiscal management, which at a minimum requires: program operations for at least three years; two consecutive years of a clean audit; and the ability to access working capital or line of credit that could cover at least two months of organizational expenses.
  • Existing St. David’s Foundation grant recipients may apply, but the proposal must be distinct from current funding.

All eligible applicants may submit a proposal; no invitation or letter of intent required.

Awards will be made on the strength of the proposal, alignment with the Parks Plan, and alignment with the Foundation’s goal to maximize the power of parks as health promoting assets in underserved communities.

The Parks Plan provides a menu of high priority parks identified with data and stakeholder input through the planning process. Applicants proposing to improve or activate priority parks named in the plan will receive bonus points. The Foundation welcomes applicants to make their case for parks not on the list if the proposal otherwise aligns with the RFP. Decisions will be made on a number of considerations.

Funding will be awarded in all three counties.

Additional criteria specific to the type are request are noted below. Hybrid grants will be reviewed using hybrid criteria.

Activation Grants:

  • Strong rationale for location selection, including from the Decision Support Tool
  • Proposal meets needs of underserved communities. Target population is clearly defined and needs are understood
  • Proposed approach is supported by community engagement and an existing successful model and/or the published literature
  • Emphasis is on learning how to effectively build community around a community park asset for health
  • Project is a good fit for the applicant’s mission
  • Applicant has any necessary agreements in place or a plan to put them in place with park owner
  • Clear ideas for how learnings will be used to inform future work and for sustaining activation gains

Infrastructure/Amenity Grants:

  • Strong rationale for location selection, including from the Decision Support Tool.
  • Meets needs of underserved communities. Target population is clearly defined and needs are understood.
  • Proposed improvement is supported by community engagement along with an existing master plan, Healthy Parks Design Guidelines, and/or human centered design.
  • Project can be completed in 12 months.
  • Ability to raise full project budget if resources beyond this request are needed. Leveraging additional funding and resources a plus.
  • Has any necessary agreements in place or a plan to put them in place with park owner.

The Foundation expects to receive more requests than it has the budget to fund through this competitive RFP, which will mean that worthy proposals will likely be declined. The Foundation will not provide specific feedback but will share themes with any declinations.



Parks Plan Release Event and RFP Information Session

Date: Monday, July 15, 2019
Location: St. David’s Foundation Innovation Center
1303 San Antonio Street, 6th Floor
Austin, TX 78701
Free onsite valet parking

RSVP: Space is limited and advance registration is required. RSVP to

Missed the Parks Plan Event and RFP Information Session?  Links to both sets of slides are posted above.

Schedule Details:

8:30 a.m. – 9:00 a.m. Registration, breakfast bites, networking

9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. Healthy Parks Plan presentation, Matt Dixit Moffa, Trust for Public Land, and Katie Coyne, Asakura Robinson. This presentation is open to all who are interested in healthy parks regardless of RFP intent.

10:00 a.m. – 10:15 a.m. Transition and break. Those not interested in RFP may depart.

10:15 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. RFP information session for prospective applicants, Elizabeth Krause, St. David’s Foundation

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Concurrent optional support for prospective applicants. Decision Support Tool hands on training (bring laptop or tablet), Moffa, and 10-minute program officer consults (sign up day-of), Krause.


Expected timeline for issuing, reviewing, and awarding grants:

Pre-Funding Notice Posted June 10, 2019
RFP Issue Date June 28, 2019
RFP Information Session July 15, 2019
Optional, but encouraged
Proposals Due by Electronic Submission August 19, noon CST
Late proposals will not be reviewed
Review August – October 2019

See note below

Applicants Notified of Decision By October 31, 2019
Grant Period January 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020

St. David’s Foundation follows a multistep review process: Technical review for completeness, panel review by Community Investments staff and an external subject matter expert, Community Investment Committee review, Board of Directors review and approval. The Foundation may ask applicants for additional information or clarification at any time during the review period.

Complete proposals must be submitted online by 12 noon CST on Monday, August 19th. Proposals will be date

and time stamped. Out of fairness to all applicants, late proposals will not be reviewed. Click here for application link. New users must set up an account. Returning users may use their existing account.

Programmatic Questions: Questions regarding the intent of this RFP or applicant eligibility may be directed to Elizabeth Krause, Senior Program Officer,

Decision Support Tool Help: Requests for assistance with running queries through the Decision Support Tool may be directed to Yutika Diwadkar, Community Investments Intern, See Appendix A for guidelines for requesting help. Please note deadline.

Technical Submission Questions: Technical questions related to the online application submission may be directed to Vanessa Rocha, Grants Coordinator,