OLR Research Report

January 8, 2003




By: Paul Frisman, Associate Analyst

You asked how the Hartford Parks Trust Fund operates and whether any national foundations or corporations fund municipal parks.


Hartford created the Hartford Parks Trust Fund in 1988, using $8.1 million the city received from the sale of 67 acres in Batterson Park in West Hartford. The property, which Hartford never used for recreational purposes, had been donated to the city in 1929.

The city uses the investment income from the trust fund to pay for capital improvements and non-recurring expenses associated with city parks, including the acquisition of replacement land for park purposes. It also can use up to 25% of the investment income annually to pay for the acquisition, maintenance and repair of park facilities and equipment (Hartford City Ordinance 2-487). According to the city treasurer's office, there was about $13 million in the trust fund as of September 2002. (Hartford pays for the day-to-day operations of its parks through its general fund.)

There are thousands of national and regional foundations, some of which may provide grants to municipal parks and park systems. We have identified several with an interest in Connecticut parks, and with parks and recreation in general.


According to the trust fund ordinance (attached), the trust fund's principal consists of: (a) the proceeds from the sale of a section of Batterson Park before July 11, 1988 and not deposited in the capital improvements fund, and of any future sale of any portion of the park; (b) any gifts or grants to the city designated for park improvement; (c) the proceeds of any sale, conveyance, or taking of any city-owned park land; and (d) any other funds the council designates.

The ordinance requires that the principal be (a) permanent and nonexpendable and (b) invested under a trust agreement with a trust company to generate income and growth of income consistent with its preservation. Upon the city manager's recommendation and with city council approval, the city may transfer the investment income to the capital improvements fund to pay for capital improvements and non-recurring expenses in the parks, including the acquisition and maintenance of park lands. The city manager must consult with the city treasurer before transferring the money to make sure enough remains to preserve the principal's true value and provide a sustainable level of income.

The city manager also can spend up to 25% of the investment income annually to pay for the maintenance, repair or replacement of park or recreation facilities and equipment and any other capital or nonrecurring expenditure incurred for park or recreational purposes.

The remaining investment income must be held in reserve. The city cannot use the fund or income it generates to pay for normal operating expenses or routine maintenance or repairs, and cannot reduce its parks and recreation budget to reflect the trust fund money it spends. The ordinance does not define routine maintenance.

The city manager must annually submit for council approval a priority list of capital improvements and nonrecurring expenses for city parks. He must base the list, in part, on how often the public uses the improvement or frequents the park where the improvement is to be located. The council must approve any amendments to the list, and must approve the list before the city can spend trust fund money.


There are tens of thousands of national and regional foundations of various sizes and interests. There also are many local “friends” groups that provide financial assistance to specific parks in their areas.

We could find only one national foundation, the Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, that has provided funding for municipal parks. Beginning in 1990, it provided grants totaling $38.6 million through its Urban Parks Initiative. The money has been used to create parks in under-served neighborhoods, restore over-used and neglected sections of parks, and bring new activities to neighborhood and metropolitan parks in 17 cities. However, the Fund apparently no longer funds the Urban Parks Initiative. The web site states that final grants for this initiative were made in 2000. More information on the Urban Parks Initiative can be found on-line at the Project for Public Spaces web site. An evaluation of the Wallace-Reader's Digest initiative also is available on-line at “Partnership for Parks”. This document is meant to help public agencies and private nonprofit organizations create partnerships to build, renovate and operate city parks.

The Foundation Center, a non-profit organization that collects information on U.S. philanthropic organizations, searched its on-line records for (a) grants of $10,000 or more by one thousand of the largest U.S. foundations for Connecticut parks and recreation during the past four years, and (b) foundations that include Connecticut parks in their areas of interest. (Some of these foundations may restrict their grants to particular areas of the state, or for particular purposes).

Included among foundations interested in funding parks and recreation are the Mallett Charitable Trust of Bridgeport, (particularly interested in Trumbull); the Richard and Mary Moore Foundation, also of Bridgeport; the Anne S. Richardson Fund, of New York City (primarily interested in western Connecticut): the Tsunami Foundation of Greenwich; and the H.A. Vance Association, of Hartford (giving primarily in West Hartford).

Among the foundations that provided grants to Connecticut parks in the past four years are: the Naomi and Nehemiah Cohen Foundation, and the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, both of Washington, D.C., the Picower Foundation of Florida, and the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation of Maryland (for a playground for children with disabilities in Bloomfield); the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven (New Haven parks); the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving

(to the Friends of Elizabeth Park and to Wethersfield for a universally accessible playground); the Lincoln Financial Group Foundation (to the Bushnell Park Foundation); the New York Times Company Foundation (a project to help build youngsters' self-esteem at Stamford's Jackie Robinson Park of Fame); the McKesson Foundation of California (playground equipment at an affordable housing development in New Haven); and the SBC Foundation of Texas (playground for children with disabilities in New Haven). We have attached additional information about these grants. We should note that this list is far from exhaustive. More comprehensive information about these and other foundations that may provide parks funding is available to subscribers to the Foundation Center's on-line foundation directory. The center's research department also will conduct custom searches for a fee. The Foundation Center website is

We also have attached a list of grant-making foundations found in an on-line search of “environmental grant-making foundations.” These foundations may or may not provide grants for parks and recreational purposes.