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Forging New Partnerships in Birmingham

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.

aerialphotographRMPBirmingham, AL
Like many industrial legacy cities across the United States, Birmingham is undergoing a transition.  Formerly the “industrial capital of the South,” the city is moving away from steel production to a more knowledge-based economy, including banking and medical research.  Fifteen minutes from downtown, the iron ore-rich mountain that so many companies depended on for raw materials has been undergoing a transition of its own, thanks to a dedicated group of citizens and community leaders in Birmingham who came together to create Red Mountain Park.

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Denver’s New Freedom 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.

NFParkDENintDenver, CO
New Freedom Park was built on a 2-acre vacant lot in an east Denver neighborhood that is home to hundreds of refugees from countries like Burundi, Somalia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, and Nepal, most of whom live in affordable housing communities.  Before the park was built, the weed and broken glass-strewn vacant lot on East 13th Avenue became the site of a small community garden and a gathering place for residents.  There was clearly a need and enthusiasm for the space to be developed into a larger garden and even a park, but the city did not have adequate resources for design and construction, so the Department of Parks & Recreation approached The Trust for Public Land about taking on the project.
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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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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.

FLPark2

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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