Groundwork USA Program - National Park Service Sustainable Communities Opportunity

Printer Friendly Number 2012-11


Date:  October 26, 2012
Subject:  Groundwork USA Program – National Park Service Sustainable Communities Opportunity  

Dear Grantees:  

We would like to provide to you the following information on the National Park Service (NPS) Groundwork USA Program.  Instructions on the application process are also attached.  


Linda M. Gehrke
Regional Administrator


Program Title:  Groundwork USA Program (Attachment to program provided in PDF version)

Lead Partners:  National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program in partnership with Environmental Protection Agency Brownfield Program and Groundwork USA.

Program Goal(s):

Brief Description:  The Groundwork USA Initiative is a growing network of community ‘do-tanks’ for the environment called Groundwork Trusts.  Locally organized and controlled, each Groundwork Trust delivers projects and programs to address local environmental justice issues through a creative mix of professional staff, volunteers, partners and stakeholders, with funding from the public and private sector.  There are now 20 Groundwork USA pilot communities across the US; 19 Groundwork Trusts are established. The network is led by Groundwork USA, a national nonprofit working to increase the effectiveness of the local Trusts with information sharing, training, resource development, technical assistance and quality control.  For more information,

Program Design:  Beginning in 1997, the Network is designed to encourage information sharing, support, and collaborative thinking among established and developing Groundwork Trusts and the communities they serve. The NPS and EPA support the Network and establishment of GW Trusts through technical assistance (NPS) and seed funding (EPA).  

Establishing a new Groundwork Trust is a multi-step competitive process and brings many public, private and community stakeholders to the table to build consensus on community assets and needs and the role for a GW Trust in their community to address those needs.  This diverse group, many who have not worked with each other before, forms a local Groundwork Steering Committee to work with the National Park Service to evaluate Groundwork for their community.  If in agreement, they apply to NPS for Groundwork USA Pilot Funding and Technical Assistance.  If their proposal is selected, they then work with NPS and Groundwork USA on in-depth feasibility study and launching strategy.  Upon completion, if the final decision is to establish the new GW Trust, NPS provides seed funding and technical assistance to help establish the new GW Trust in partnership with the local government and the partners on the Steering Committee.  The new Groundwork Trust also becomes part of the GW USA Network to draw on the expertise of the other GW Trusts and the Groundwork USA national office.

Target audience:  The focus is the community itself and their role in leading the environmental restoration of their own community.  To accomplish this, each GW Trust engages municipal government, business and civic leaders, foundations, churches, community organizations, nonprofits, residents and other stakeholders to build consensus and achieve results.  Engaging youth as leaders and doers is a high priority for all GW projects and programs.    

Role of the Community:  The community, integral to achieving success, leads the Groundwork Trust from establishing a steering committee and leading the feasibility process to governing the organization and directing and participating in projects and programs.  Results:   Groundwork USA Network Accomplishments in 2011

Results:   Groundwork USA Network Accomplishments in 2011

Evaluation:  NPS and Groundwork USA evaluate work being accomplished by the GW Trusts and the benefits to the communities they serve through quarterly reports, annual performance measures, regular network conference calls and an annual conference and Youth Summit.  Each GW Trust is also evaluated after their first year of operation and assisted through a more intensive Peer Planning and Review (PAR) which includes site visits and interviews with staff, board members and partners.   

Funding and Technical Assistance:  In addition to RTCA technical assistance, each selected community receives significant staff assistance from Groundwork USA to develop their Groundwork Feasibility Study, which includes up to $5,000.00 for the local steering committee to support their work.  If the feasibility study is approved, $80,000.00 is provided by NPS-EPA to support the launch of the new GW Trust.  The funds are disbursed over a 12 – 18 month period based on the accomplishment of a work plan to launch the new GW Trust that was agreed to by NPS and the new Groundwork Trust.  Upon successful completion of the workplan to launch the new GW Trust and a 1 year operations  review by GW USA, the new Trust is eligible to receive up to $100,000 (in $25,000, $50,000 and $25,000 increments) over three years to build capacity and undertake more project and program work.