Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes two “Frontline Parks” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.
Parks are some of the most valuable assets a city can hold. Parks connect people to people. As such, they play a vital role in community building. Neighborhood-scale parks often serve as “third-places,” familiar locations where residents seek community with neighbors at the playground or dog park. Large parks often serve as the centers of their cities, reflecting community identity or brand through design and programming.
It is the enormity of this influence that demands investment to be sure that parks look good and function well, because a bad park can drag down a neighborhood, just as a good one can revitalize it.
The two parks featured last month have a long history of creating and sustaining community. By viewing their roles broadly as centers of community, they have stepped beyond “parks and recreation” and become vital civic places.
Prospect Park is a 585-acre urban oasis and boasts a stunning array of natural features, including Brooklyn’s only forest, shaded hillsides, beautiful waterfalls, and rolling meadows. The Park is home to a hand-carved carousel, the nation’s first urban Audubon Center, and a watercourse that can be explored by pedal boat or a turn-of-the-century style electric boat, the Independence. This historic urban space hosts activities year round, from ice skating and sledding in winter to team sports like football and soccer in the summer. The Park also has designated trails for horseback riding, seven playgrounds and a zoo.
Planning for the Future
Everything is operated by a partnership between the Prospect Park Alliance, the City of New York’s Parks and Recreation Department, and the community. This partnership has been instrumental in restoring the forest and lakeside, as well as offering a vast array of programming, historic preservation, and development. In order to ensure that the park will be loved long-term, Prospect Park is partnering with the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the New York City Department of Education to assist the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment prepare the next generation of stewards.
For more information about Prospect Park, please visit www.prospectpark.org.
New Orleans’ City Park, at 1,300 acres, is one of the largest urban parks in the United States. Each year, more than ten million visitors enjoy strolling beneath its 800 year-old live oaks, wandering through the Botanical Garden, visiting the New Orleans Museum of art, riding the carousel, picnicking, or fishing on the bayou. City Park is rich in New Orleans history. The original park, since enlarged, was the site of the Allard sugar plantation. During the Great Depression, it served as a key WPA investment-job-creation site, where workers dug more than 10 miles of lagoons by hand. Site furnishings in City Park were manufactured by DuMor, Inc.
Restoring a Park and a Community
In 2005, Hurricane Katrina caused billions of dollars in property damage throughout New Orleans, including City Park. 95% of the park flooded after the levees failed, resulting in thousands of felled trees and hundreds of damaged buildings. After the floodwaters retreated, it was left with $43 million in damage and had to reduce staff by 90%. These challenges have made the park’s recovery all the more remarkable; to date, $83 million in funds have been raised and a force of 35,000 volunteers have worked countless hours to restore and improve City Park.
For more information about City Park, please visit www.neworleanscitypark.com.