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Green Infrastructure in Grand Rapids

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 unique approach to partnerships and green infrastructure, Joe Taylor Park in Grand Rapids, MI has been named a Frontline Park.

“The completion of Joe Taylor Park was a major milestone for our community and set the stage for us to have critical conversations about sustainable park design, equity and access, maintenance and funding, and partnership development,” said Steve Faber, Executive Director of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

“We selected Joe Taylor Park as a Frontline Park because it exemplifies the power of urban parks to build community and make our cities sustainable and vibrant,” said Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance. “We hope that by shining the spotlight on Joe Taylor Park, we can raise awareness about the ways investment in our nation’s urban parks pays off.”
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The Changing Shape of America’s Playgrounds

Contributed by Kevin Rossignol

America’s playgrounds have undergone a transformation over the past few decades. The once tall and sprawling wood and steel structures have been slowly replaced in favor of playgrounds that put safety, rather than enjoyment, above all else.  If you venture out to a park with a newly built playground, what you’ll find is a multi-colored configuration lined with a soft rubber padding that seems slightly out of place amongst the grass and trees.  The iconic playground structures adults remember growing up with, such as see-saws, jungle gyms and tall slides, will almost certainly seem smaller and modified, if they are present at all.

These newer playgrounds represent a fundamental change in the way play infrastructure is designed. In decades past, playground designers focused on providing structures and activities that posed a challenge to kids.  Jungle gyms, monkey bars and tarzan ropes provided children with thrills, such as tall heights and fast speeds, while simultaneously aiding with essential developmental skills, like risk assessment and spatial judgment. Though older playgrounds may trigger nostalgic memories from a seemingly bygone era, the enjoyment they provided came with risks.
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The True Stars of Southern California (Part I)

By Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance

Recently, a group of City Parks Alliance members  visited a dozen park projects in Los Angeles and Orange County, as part of CPA’s 2013 Summer Tour of Parks.  We met with experts and learned about new approaches to park management, programming, funding and stewardship.  Our local hosts from the Los Angeles Park Foundation, Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department, California State Parks Foundation, Orange County Great Park, and The Trust for Public Land led the 35-person group from 12 cities through neighborhoods, along the Los Angeles River and down to Irvine.  Scholarships and support for this year’s tour were also provided by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.
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August’s Frontline Park

Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” 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.

New York, NY

????????Bryant Park is a 9.6 acre park adjacent to the New York Public Library in Midtown Manhattan. Despite its prime location and rich history, the scenic landmark suffered from a high crime rate and lack of visitors in the 1960s – 70s, and mounting concerns led The Rockefeller Brothers Fund to commission a report detailing the degraded state of the park. In 1980, with support and guidance from Mayor Edward I. Koch, the NYC Dept. of Parks and Recreation, and the New York Public Library, the Bryant Park Restoration Corporation (now the Bryant Park Corporation) was established to improve the park, with Daniel Biederman and Andrew Heiskell at the helm. Continue reading

July’s Frontline Park

Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” 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.

Los Angeles, CA

After the 2008 financial crisis sent property values plummeting, many cities around the country ended up with a surplus of foreclosed residential and commercial properties. In densely populated but park-poor South Los Angeles, the surplus created a unique opportunity to address the issue of access to open space and fitness facilities.

FLPark1

The City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks’ 50 Parks Initiative is a public-private partnership that will add more than 170 acres of new parks to the city of Los Angeles, many of which will be less than an acre in size and located in the city’s underserved neighborhoods. The majority of the parks will be built on vacant and foreclosed lots, which will help to address blight and safety concerns.

The Department of Recreation and Parks partnered with the Los Angeles Parks Foundation, the California Endowment, the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, the Department of Water and Power, and the Department of Housing to identify resources, funding sources, and to engage the community around the creation of a new park on 76th Street. The site was a foreclosed property, the project qualified for federal funds through the Neighborhood Stabilization Program and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. To minimize maintenance and energy costs, the park was designed and built with sustainable and security features that will ensure longevity, including large capacity solar-powered waste bins, drought tolerant plants, automatic fence locks, motion-activated cameras, smart irrigation, and LED lighting.

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Even though the park’s footprint is small, its effect on the community has been anything but. Since the park opened last year, property values in the surrounding neighborhood have gone up, children no longer play in streets and driveways, and residents have formed a community group that organizes exercise and arts programming in the park. If the 76th Street Park story is any indication, the 50 Parks Initiative is well on its way to becoming a great success.

For more information on 76th Street Park and the 50 Parks Initiative, please visit:

Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks

Los Angeles Parks Foundation

Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust

The “Frontline Parks” program is made possible with generous support from DuMor, Inc. and PlayCore.

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