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Toronto’s Park People: Making Sense of Community Engagement in the Parks Business

Involving citizens and communities in the process of managing city parks may represent a new way of doing business for public park agencies, but it is an increasing necessity to have a constituency that supports and advocates for what the agency does. How a parks department is organized to accept and use different kinds of resources – including funding and volunteer support – will require unprecedented collaboration between the networks of public, private, and philanthropic actors, with a strong community base. Cities across the U.S. are coming to understand this, and so are some of our neighbors to the north.

In 2011, Peter Harnik at the Center for City Park Excellence suggested to Dave Harvey that he “throw everyone into a room” to talk about the need and value of a park partnership organization in Toronto. And he did. Representatives from 25-year old friends groups met newer friends of the parks’ groups and none knew of the existence of the others. As one person noted, “I’ve been working for years on my parks friends group and you are the first person to call and offer help.” The first meeting offered an opportunity for a wealth of pent-up sharing that turned into Toronto’s Park PeopleContinue reading

Boulder Gets “Bee Happy” to Prevent Hive Loss

By Yvette Bowden, Director of Parks and Recreation, City of Boulder

Welcome to Boulder, a lively town nestled at 5,430 feet against the scenic backdrop of Colorado’s Rocky Mountain Front Range. Our town is famed for its active lifestyle, 300+ days of sunshine a year, and an entrepreneurial spirit, crowning the quaint cityscape as America’s Startup Capital and among the nation’s “Best Places to Live”. Boulder’s unparalleled quality of life is at the core of our department’s commitment to cultivating a long-term vision for our community’s future, health, and well being – including our neighbors, the bees.

Yes, bees.

Honeybees have been around for millions of years and they have incredible abilities. Bee brains can defy time and bees have different personalities. They also play an important function in our environment. A third of our national food production depends on bee pollination. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that honeybees pollinate 80% of the country’s crops. However, the national honeybee population is in steep decline.  Continue reading

Returning the Boldness of the World’s Fair to a San Antonio Park

“…the fair is fun, southwest style, but what San Antonio does with the center-city site after October will be the real measure of Hemisfair’s success.”

Ada Louise Huxtable, Architecture Critic
New York Times, April 4, 1968

Hemisfair1The 1968 world’s fair is the beginning of this story. The fair was built on a 92-acre site on the southeastern edge of downtown San Antonio, acquired mainly through eminent domain. Many structures in what was considered a blighted area were demolished and moved to make room for the fair, with some more important historic sites spared and preserved.

From April to October in 1968, about six million visitors came to the city. In typical fair planning, once the fair was complete the city lacked a good transition plan. So they put a fence around it and the site sat unimproved for 47 years.

It was a fantastic location for the fair, on the River Walk and near the convention center. In fact, the fair changed perceptions about the struggling River Walk and the city that reinvigorated its draw as a tourist destination.  Continue reading

A Different Kind of Tragedy of the Commons (Part 2)

“The question is: How do you improve access to parks and open space but not trigger this shift in property values and land uses that completely transform a community?”

Jennifer Wolch, Dean of the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley

My last blog post included a look at Chicago’s new 606 trail and related discussions about gentrification and how the project will impact the neighborhoods it passes through. Beth White, Chicago Director for The Trust for Public Land, a sponsor of the project, says that the overall goal is “to give everyone a walk in the park and connect people to nature, each other, public transit, and bike trails.” She notes that the Bloomingdale Trail will reunite four ethnically and economically diverse neighborhoods and that their 80,000 residents, nearly a third of them children, have been separated by the railway since it was built in 1910.

GF1 Continue reading

Philly Pumptrack Offers a New Twist on Cycling in Fairmount Park

Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. In recognition of its partnerships and community engagement, the Philly Pumptrack has been named a Frontline Park.

The Pumptrack is located in historic Fairmount Park, the heart of Philadelphia’s park system.  Although it is well-loved and boasts a healthy number of visitors, the park’s design (or lack thereof) has created some issues with programming and accessibility.  Some areas have no amenities at all, and others become degraded due to misuse.  Where Fairmount wings into the West Parkside neighborhood, the area was used as an illegal dumping ground, and more than a playground would be required to attract local residents and community investment.  Continue reading


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