Healthy Communities

Everyone deserves a healthy community


Groundwork Trusts share the core value that everyone deserves a healthy community. By creating and promoting healthy infrastructure in long-disinvested neighborhoods — high quality parks and green space, off-road trails, community gardens, sidewalks, bike lanes, and trees — Groundwork Trusts aim to encourage active living and healthy eating,  improve quality of life, and achieve better health outcomes for all residents, regardless of income, race, ethnicity, age, gender, or ZIP code.

  • Improving Heath And Resilience
  • Promoting Healthy Food & Urban Agriculture
  • Advancing Active Mobility
  • Creating Parks, Greenways & Open Space
  • Fostering Climate Resilience
  • Expanding the Urban Tree Canopy Equitably

Improving Heath And Resilience

Groundwork Lawrence 5K athlete running on trail.
Community members racing Groundwork Lawrence’s Greenway 5K on the Spicket River Greenway

For over two decades, Groundwork Trusts have worked hand-in-hand with community members to transform contaminated and neglected land into community assets like parks, community gardens, urban farms, and greenways. So much more than green space projects, the Groundwork model of collaboratively reimaging community spaces has a direct impact on long-term health, equity, and resilience. With the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we captured stories of these Green Spaces in Action.

Explore Their Stories

Promoting Healthy Food & Urban Agriculture

Through the Milwaukee Grows Garden Network, Groundwork Milwaukee manages a network of over 80 community gardens across the city.

Finding nutritious, high-quality food is a serious challenge in many of the low-income urban and rural neighborhoods and communities of color where Groundwork Trusts work. While poorly stocked corner stores and fast food outlets are plentiful, sources of affordable fresh produce are often few and far between. In communities struggling with high rates of obesity and nutrition-related chronic disease, Groundwork Trusts increase access to affordable, locally grown fruits and vegetables and healthy food choices through a wide variety of programs, including community and school gardens, urban farms, local and mobile farmers markets, community supported agriculture shares, healthy corner store campaigns, and culturally relevant nutrition and cooking classes.

Advancing Active Mobility

Groundwork Indianapolis Green Team biking to the White River Trail
Groundwork Indianapolis Green Team biking to the White River Trail

Communities across the country are realizing that investment in pedestrian- and bike-friendly infrastructure can meet multiple bottom lines: improving air quality, increasing business district livelihood, and nurturing healthier communities. By working with neighborhood residents to create urban greenways, increase safe biking and walking infrastructure, and encourage alternatives to driving, Groundwork Trusts support communities in becoming more physically active and pursuing healthier and more environmentally sustainable transportation alternatives.

Creating Parks, Greenways & Open Space

Working on the Richmond, CA Greenway. Photo courtesy Groundwork Richmond.
Working on the Richmond, CA Greenway. Photo courtesy Groundwork Richmond.

Groundwork Trusts operate in neighborhoods that are often disproportionately impacted by vacant lots and abandonment, illegal dumping, contamination, and other blight, and underserved in terms of quality parks, trails, greenways, and other healthy living infrastructure. Hand-in-hand with local residents, Groundwork Trusts reclaim vacant, contaminated, or underutilized public lands, transforming them into valued community assets, including pocket parks, greenway trails, community gardens, recreation facilities, and nature preserves.

In Florida, Groundwork Jacksonville is spearheading the development of The Emerald Trail – a ten-year endeavor to connect fourteen neighborhoods within the urban core through a network of parks, trails, and green spaces. When complete, the project has the potential to be a catalyst for social and economic development in Jacksonville, from encouraging healthy lifestyles and promoting public safety, to spurring economic growth and neighborhood revitalization. In California, Groundwork San Diego is working hand-in-hand with residents to reconnect the Chollas Creek Watershed to the waterfront district through a network of trails and bike paths.

Through projects like these, Groundwork Trusts are increasing access to green space and parkland, encouraging physical activity, and helps redress health equity issues in marginalized neighborhoods experiencing sustained disinvestment. Planning and creating more safe spaces to gather, play, and relax helps improve the health of Groundwork community members and spurs all kinds of additional community benefits, including increased civic engagement, youth development, and job training opportunities, enhanced urban aesthetics and safety, and more attractive environments for residents and businesses.

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Fostering Climate Resilience

Groundwork Providence stommwater management trainees complete rain garden
Groundwork Rhode Island stormwater management trainees complete rain garden

Groundwork Trusts are based in low- and moderate-income communities and communities of color which are hardest hit by the health and economic impacts of our changing climate. Across the Groundwork USA network, they are taking innovative community-based approaches to lessen the effects of global climate change and increase local climate resilience.

At the confluence of the Saw Mill and Hudson Rivers in downtown Yonkers, NY, Groundwork Hudson Valley operates Science Barge, a floating demonstration urban farm. Run entirely “off the grid” using renewable solar- and wind-energy sources, Science Barge grows fresh food in a greenhouse with no pesticides, no runoff, and zero net carbon emissions.

Several Groundwork Trusts are also developing innovative green infrastructure projects to build climate resilience and strengthen public health in their communities. Groundwork Milwaukee is training community teens and young adults to build rain gardens and install rain barrels to collect stormwater runoff and prevent the flooding caused by more frequent and severe storms. The Groundwork New Orleans Building Climate Resilient Communities project teaches students to design, build, and install solar-powered charging benches on or near bus stops, providing community members with clean energy to use during daily commutes and during emergency power outages. And in Rhode Island, Groundwork Providence is building a new and lasting force for neighborhood-led change by training young adults in green infrastructure and stormwater management construction.

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Expanding the Urban Tree Canopy Equitably

Groundwork Lawrence Green Streets Program Flyer
Through Groundwork Lawrence’s Green Streets program, Lawrence residents are eligible to receive up to five free trees for their property. The goal of the program is to increase the tree canopy coverage to at least 5 trees per acre to measurably reduce the urban heat island effect.

In urban settings, trees play an especially important role in community health and climate resilience. A well maintained urban tree canopy can reduce the “heat island” effect in over-paved cities, improve air quality and reduce asthma rates, provide shade and respite, buffer noise, lower heating and cooling costs, capture stormwater and reduce water pollution, add beauty and value to homes and other property, and much more. From Groundwork Lawrence’s Green Streets program which aims to re-build the tree canopy to reduce the health and financial impacts of extreme heat to Groundwork Richmond’s role as Urban Forestry program where they engage the community in planting trees to reduce pollution and tracking greenhouse gas sequestration, Groundwork Trusts are working to improve tree coverage in underserved urban neighborhoods and are leading efforts to increase urban tree canopy and grow the next generation of urban forestry advocates.