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Some news from around…

  • The 159 granite blocks needed for Washington D.C.’s newest monument, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, finally arrived from China (The Washington Post)
  • The new trend in state parks:  corporate sponsorship agreements.  Georgia and Virginia take the lead by using private companies as a supplemental funding source for park maintenance,  in exchange for advertisement in the park (Stateline.org)
  • Recycled and reused:  sod from a soccer game at the Silverdome is donated to Detroit’s Patton Park (The Detroit News)
  • And in other Detroit news involving a dome, the “Mower Gang,” a volunteer group whose mission is “Winning Detroit’s Other Turf War,” mowed and wacked overgrowth at the Velodrome (Detroit Free Press)

London’s A-Mazing Trafalgar Square

Credit: Steve Punter (Flickr Feed)

Sometimes all it takes is an unusual piece of greenery to draw visitors to a part of town not very known on tourist maps. London, England’s Trafalgar Square temporarily received a laurel and thuja hedge maze at the foot of Nelson’s Column earlier this month as part of the West End Partnership’s summer marketing program. 

The program is geared towards tourists who usually bypass Theatreland in London’s West End for more popular locals such as Big Ben and the Change of the Guard. Measuring 98 feet by 66 feet, and almost 8 feet high, the labyrinth was divided into different sections, with the name of a West End street at each segment. Blue plaques with each street name provided quirky, little-known facts about the landmark. Those who reached the center of the maze were rewarded with different cultural shows and performances each day. (There was no cost to enter the maze.)  

The importance of plazas and squares in crowded downtown areas cannot be over emphasized. Having public spaces for a breath of fresh air from stuffy office buildings, smelly buses and crowded subways can be a haven to residents and tourists in cities. Looking at an aerial view of Trafalgar Square, the hedge maze was a major source of greenery in the immediate area.  

The planted hedge remained for five days to the amusement of office workers and visitors. Just months away from the release of the next Harry Potter movie, perhaps grownups and children alike were half expecting to see flying red sparks and hovering Dementors in the maze :-)  

The aerial views and a fun video of the construction of the maze can be found here.

Some news from around…

  • Last minute, generous donations allow Baltimore City to keep five of its swimming pools open until Labor Day (The Baltimore Sun)
  • When a stainless steel playground is too hot to touch, Dallas park officials find a creative way to save money:  spray-on industrial coating (The Dallas Morning News)
  • Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles is getting a clean, green and sustainable makeover beginning Spring 2011 (Southern California Public Radio)
  • Memphis announces plans to open the city’s first neighborhood skatepark in Tobey Park, September 2011 (Memphis Business Journal)
  • And opening even sooner (September 18) is Birmingham’s Railroad Park, the city’s newest downtown park (The Birmingham News)

Park Ranger Shortages in Urban National Parks

Independence National Historical Park. Credit: NPS

It is easy to forget the many different types of parkland located in urban areas. Besides municipal parks, there are also state, county, regional and national parks. In the 85 largest cities, 15 cities are home to 48 National Park units, which include monuments, houses, forts, battlefields and preserves. Washington, D.C. has by far the most national park units (21 and counting) but smaller park units in other cities are also recruiting new staff.

With half of the nation’s park rangers slated for retirement in the next five years, the National Park Service has struggled with recruitment of new staff, especially in the urban park units. Enter in the “ProRanger Philadelphia” internship program, a joint effort between Temple University and the National Park Service, that placed 13 college students in urban national parks this summer. This pilot program trains (and pays) interns the beginnings of law enforcement while also exposing them to interpretation and maintenance of the park. While the program is targeted towards Criminal Justice majors, students from any major can apply. After successful completion of the program, interns are guaranteed National Park Service jobs upon graduation from college. The 12-week summer program can begin as early as the summer after freshman year.

One of the exciting aspects of this program is that it is attracting minorities to a career path that is not really diverse within the Park Service. Many of the students participating in the program had never met a park ranger before or even visited a national park. Others had never even considered a career with the Park Service. This program is giving urban minority students an opportunity to work in a national park in their home communities and should be used as a great catalyst to bring visibility as well as new users to city parks.

Recent articles in The Washington Post and Philadelphia Inquirer highlight the program at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine in Baltimore and Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia, respectively. More information about the ProRanger Philadelphia program can be found here.

Some news from around…

  • What if urban gardening rose, literally, to a new level?  Vertical farming is a new idea that has yet to materialize in the U.S., but a variation of this new concept, an irrigation garden, has found success in England (Smithsonian Magazine)
  • For cash-strapped cities, one way to raise revenue would be to charge for Segway tours along roads through public parks.  Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park has been charging tour groups a fee to use the roads since 2004 (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
  • Berlin’s Tempelhof Park receives praise for its quick turn-around from working airport to park (The Orange County Register)
  • Development has not slowed down along the High Line.  New York’s newest park is still attracting businesses despite the recession (The New York Times)
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