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Denver Parks on Parade

Earlier this month, more than 30 park professionals from the US and Canada were hosted by Denver Parks and Recreation Department in collaboration with City Parks Alliance for a tour of their park system. Eighteen cities were represented, including teams from Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of Hope Gibson

Photo courtesy of Hope Gibson

The Denver team put on a first class demonstration of their expertise in planning, design, construction and programming – from the smallest neighborhood park to Red Rocks Amphitheater, a part of Denver’s mountain parks system – and in every case showing us how a twenty-first century city parks department operates: seamlessly.

From the neighborhood partnerships to the collaboration with their own city departments to alliances with social service providers, arts and music organizations, and other parks programmers, Denver’s parks department uses and leverages all the value that parks offer and its mission can muster. Citywide partners like the Trust for Public Land – perfectly exemplifying its urban mission – and the Colorado Health Foundation are working closely with the department on many of its projects; as are local developers, transit, and bicycling partners. On some of our park visits it was hard to tell who worked for whom; in fact, most simply said they worked for the parks.

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Designing Tattnall Square Park’s Rain Gardens

By Andrew Silver, Friends of Tattnall Square Park

RG1I’d never have imagined that people would love our park’s new rain gardens as much as they have, and I wouldn’t have imagined that they’d have looked so good after so little time. Still, when Friends of Tattnall Square Park first teamed with Mercer engineering students to design a rain garden, we had no idea that the road to success would take months of planning, changes, revisions, and tweaking. All we knew is that we had an oversized 60-plus car parking lot, a tiny inlet into the park, and lots of erosion and storm water eventually heading down the sewer at the low end of our park, sweeping sediment and pollutants along with it. The rain gardens have become some of the most popular sites in the park, but in order to spare you some of our steep learning curve, here are some rain garden tips that I wish would have been emphasized more in the sources we consulted. Continue reading

The Living Laboratory

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 environmental education programming, Washington Park has been named a Frontline Park.

“The Urban Ecology Center first came across City Parks Alliance as the ‘go to’ place to learn and share best practices for urban parks and are deeply honored that our Washington Park branch has been recognized on the national scale,” said Beth Fetterley Heller, Senior Director of Education and Strategic Planning for the Urban Ecology Center. “Washington Park is a gem in the heart of Milwaukee that has seen amazing revitalization in the past decade.  This award belongs to the community, as we could not have created a safe place for children and families to learn and play without deep engagement from community partners, businesses, neighbors and supporters.”

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Rebuilding Tattnall Square

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 neighborhood engagement, Tattnall Square Park has been named a Frontline Park.

“Month after month we’ve looked to the Frontline Parks highlighted on the City Parks Alliance website for best practices for non-profit park groups,” said Friends of Tattnall Square Park Board Chair Andrew Silver. “We’ve posted links to these inspirational stories on our own social media and sent them to city officials so they could better understand our national models, and to encourage the city to see our public private park organization as a long term partnership. To join the ranks of these remarkable nationally recognized park models is a powerful acknowledgement of the thousands of hours of volunteer labor and the hundreds of thousands of dollars of investment we’ve brought to this diverse and historic park.  We’re thrilled to be part of the 21st century movement to cherish, restore, and reinvigorate our public parks.”   Continue reading

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

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