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Urban Trails, Neighborhood Partnerships: DC’s Metropolitan Branch Trail

Abandoned rail lines running through city neighborhoods can be the perfect solution for creating a park in a high density city with little other available real estate. Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has nearly a 30 year history of providing leadership in the creation of more than 20,000 miles of new trail across the country. Today, it finds itself increasingly working in cities to forge the last connection to a regional trail system. This means tackling the shorter rail lines where their proximity to where people live, work and play make them a good choice for getting people walking and cycling.

But these urban trails require a lot more attention to get people to use them for recreation and transportation, and RTC finds itself increasingly involved in programming trails as well as building them.

“RTC used to say ‘build it and they will come,’” says Kelly Pack, RTC’s Director of Trail Development. “Now we say ‘build it, maintain it, program it and they will come.’ In urban areas people have a lot more choices. Being more engaged on the programming side really helps to build awareness and get people hooked on their own neighborhood trails – and then hopefully onto regional trail systems.”  Continue reading

The Biggest Little Park in Los Angeles

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 innovative practices in partnerships and community engagement, El Sereno Arroyo Playground has been named a Frontline Park.

“This is a wonderful example of a community coming together to see the potential to turn an empty lot into a neighborhood park. And then people in that community worked tirelessly to turn their vision into reality,” said Gina Fromer, California Director of The Trust for Public Land. “Our mission is to create parks for people, and we were happy to help this neighborhood realize its dream. Thank you to the City Parks Alliance for recognizing this unique park.”
Continue reading

Paradise Built on a Parking Lot

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.

Santa Monica, CA
Built on the site previously occupied by the RAND Corporation’s headquarters and more recently a surface parking lot, Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square (once collectively known as the Civic Center Parks) encompass 7 acres in the heart of Santa Monica. The completion of these parks represents the first step toward completing a plan for the 67-acre civic center area, which re-envisioned the area as a vibrant neighborhood with improved linkages to the Santa Monica Pier, Palisades Park, downtown Santa Monica and Santa Monica State Beach.  Continue reading

November’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.

St. Louis, MO
ForestparkBalloonsINTForest Park, which opened in 1876, is a sprawling green space in the heart of St. Louis.  At 1,371 acres, it is one of the largest urban parks in the country, and more than 13 million visitors per year come to the park to play sports, ride bikes, run, fish, practice archery, or to attend one of the many special events the park hosts, such as the Great Forest Park Balloon Race.  With so many people using the park, traffic quickly became a big concern for the organizations tasked with maintaining and running the park. Continue reading

May’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.

Boston, MA

Image Courtesy of Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

Image Courtesy of Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway is a 15 acre, 1.5 mile long stretch of parks in the heart of Boston created as part of the mitigation plan for the massive public works project known as the “Big Dig.”  Developed and constructed by the State of Massachusetts, the project reworked both road and public transit systems in downtown Boston, adding bridges, two tunnel systems, multiple interchanges, and restoring a city street network.  The state worked with local neighborhoods to develop and implement plans for the 15 acres of parks, which are grouped by the neighborhoods they are adjacent to – North End Parks, Wharf District Parks, Fort Point Channel Parks, Dewey Square Park and Chinatown Park each has their own character and features.

Image Courtesy of Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

Image Courtesy of Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

Operation, programming, and maintenance for the Greenway are handled by the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, a model example of the type of public-private partnership emerging in cities across the United States.  Funding sources include private donations, grants, and earned income, as well as public funding for maintenance and operation.  The Greenway faces some unique maintenance challenges due to the fact that it is essentially a very long, large roof garden covering an interstate, which means that it has minimal soil depth.  Despite this challenge, the Greenway is one of the few organically maintained urban parks in the United States.  Some site furnishings in the park were manufactured by DuMor, Inc.

The Greenway has quickly become a hub for activity in Boston, hosting more than 350 events in 2012 alone, in addition to regular attractions like the Mobile Food program (food trucks and trikes), a seasonal carousel, and interactive water features that attract millions of visitors each year.

For more information on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, please visit:

Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

MassDOT

City of Boston Parks & Recreation Department

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

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