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A Park for the Ages

Mil1According to Wikipedia, Anish Kapoor’s contract to create the popular sculpture, Cloud Gate (more commonly known as the “Bean”) for Millennium Park, stated that the constructed piece should be expected to survive for 1,000 years.  Even the name for the park reflects a longevity that is visionary – and forever – as it approaches its tenth anniversary.

I recently caught up with Ed Uhlir, Executive Director for Millennium Park, Inc. (MP, Inc.), to talk with him about lessons learned at the Park and what has surprised him about its success.  “The biggest thing is that it turned out to be such a huge economic engine for the city,” he said. Uhlir recognized the importance of high quality design in creating real estate value but he’s not sure anyone would have predicted the size of the impact that Millennium Park has had.  A 2011 Texas A&M report on the impact of the park tells us,

…it is clear that Millennium Park has generated the following economic impact on the City of Chicago: $490M in total park construction; $ 2.45 Billion in new construction near the park; 70,070 direct, indirect and induced jobs created by new construction in the area; a 57% increase in new residential units near the park (3,587 units since 2005); 29% premium on park units sold with views of the park; five million annual visitors which generate $1.29B in tourism dollars; $5.9M in annual operations costs that feed the local economy; 2,126 new underground parking spaces at Millennium Park; an 11% increase in hotel rooms (751 rooms) near the park; $173.5M donated by 115 founders to specific projects within the park; and 11 fortune 500 companies that donated to the park.

How did that happen?  Ed says, “It’s the world-class art and design.  It has branded the park and added value to the image of Chicago.”  And, I would add, it represents the kind of success that results from effective leadership and a strong public/private partnership. “The private partnership enabled us with flexibility and the ability to be more selective in getting great design.”

One of the things that the Millennium Park planners did so well was to incorporate great art and design that gives the park a sense of beauty beyond its landscaping and gardens.  The challenge now is to continually position the park as cutting edge, with more creative contributors.  “We do have new ‘beans’ every couple of years,” said Ed.  The formal Boeing Galleries in the Park – two outdoor galleries designed for public exhibitions – are a home for changing shows of contemporary art.  Every two years a new show is staged, generally from an artist outside the United States.

Mil2
And Millennium Park continues to expand its brand by making connections to the properties around it.  The elegant Nichols Bridgeway leads south to the new addition of the Art Institute.  East of the Park, and across Frank Gehry’s BP Bridge over Columbus Drive, there are plans for transforming Daley Bicentennial Park into Maggie Daley Park, a thirty-acre park and children’s play space, with a better connection to the city’s lakefront.

The increase in surrounding property values and the creation of new jobs is one important gauge of the park’s success, but just as important has been the impact the park has had on tourism.  One interesting measure for this, says Ed, is Trip Advisor.  There are over 2,600 reviews for the Park on Trip Advisor, with almost all of them calling their visit “excellent” or “very good.”  Ninety-eight reviewers called their Millennium Park experience “average.”  Out of curiosity, I checked out Trip Advisor reviews for a few other signature parks around the country: New York attractions take the cake with the High Line receiving 5,300 positive reviews, and Central Park has over 12,000 reviews; Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle has 152 reviews; and Discovery Green in Houston has 60 reviews.

With park visitation up to 5 million annually, the City of Chicago is focusing on its “brand” across the country and world and is opening tourism offices with one of their pitches being, “Come visit Millennium Park.”  Foreign visitors are the fastest growing group of visitors and – though still a small number in comparison to local and regional visitors – they spend more money.

Ed believes that in addition to great art and design, great programming is what brings people to the park, which hosts over 600 free events annually.  “There are lots of opportunities in this small space and everything is free thanks to donors who sponsor many of the programs,” he says.  But there is a potential conflict between donors who made gifts and wanted everything to be free for park users, and the city which needs to balance its budget to keep the programs running.  Endowments, not just for the art but for programs, are now a key part of fundraising.

MP, Inc. currently has $25 million in restricted and unrestricted endowments (not including a $10 million pledge for the outdoor concert pavilion).  Their goal is to double that.  “The private-public partnership is important to making the park work and endowment money helps assure that the partnership continues into the future.”

Half of the board of MP, Inc. is original to when work on the park began in 1996.  Some of them feel like they have accomplished what they set out to do and are ready to move on.  Now, younger family members of original donors are joining the board as membership diversifies from those who built it to those who are committed to enhancing it.  Program endowments – such as the one from McDonalds to manage the Cycle Center and present free morning exercise programs, or Boeing’s endowment of the outdoor art gallery – are increasingly important to keeping the park successful through high quality programs.

When the park opened, The Financial Times described Millennium Park as “…a genuinely 21st-century interactive park [that] could trigger a new way of thinking about public outdoor spaces.”  These days Millennium Park is as much a venue for driving economic impact in the city as it is a respite from the tall, dark skyscrapers that surround it.  Keeping the park vibrant will require the same kind of focus on excellence that made it a success.  Like a museum, the Park will have to manage its art and attractions to keep them fresh – and cutting edge – in order to keep people coming and driving its economic impact.  And that will take new and committed public-private partnerships for managing the park for the next 1,000 years that Cloud Gate shines.

KBlahaKathy Blaha writes about parks and other urban green spaces, and the role of public-private partnerships in their development and management. When she’s not writing for the blog, she consults on advancing park projects and sustainable land use solutions.

Cities Can Have Health Promoting Park Systems Through Proximity, Accessibility, and Co-Location

The closer the park and the easier to get to, the more likely it will be used. Conversely, people who live far from parks are apt to utilize them less.

These obvious truths have implications for public health, but recognizing the problem does not automatically offer simple solutions for mayors, city councils, park directors, or urban planners. Creating new parks in a crowded, built-out city is a slow, arduous, and often expensive task. It can be done—it is being done in almost every city in the country—but it is not the only way to bring people and green space together. Much can be done outside the park fence, in the neighborhood, where the normal processes of urban construction, rehabilitation, and change occur at a faster pace.

Sometimes easiest to fix is the problem of accessibility. Some parks are underused simply because they are too hard to get to. Users may be blocked by steps, fences, walls, cliffs, railroad tracks, highways, waterways, or an unbroachable row of private residences. Some parks require a long jaunt to the other side just to gain entry. Others are literally visible from a home but unreachable by children without a chaperoned car ride.

Park access might be improved by constructing a ramp or pedestrian bridge in a key location, or by installing a traffic signal on a busy road. While such fixes might cost from $50,000 to several million dollars, that is a small price compared with what is routinely spent on highways and parking lots and would be more than offset by savings in health costs resulting from more frequent park use.

People are more likely to use parks that are close to places where they spend time: restaurants, shopping districts, libraries, gyms, and other meeting areas. In some cases parks can be sited close to such destinations. In other instances businesses and attractions can be allowed or encouraged to locate near existing parks. A mistaken Victorian sensibility sometimes holds that the “purity” of parks should not intersect with the “untidiness” of commercial areas. In fact, people like that proximity. They welcome the opportunity to buy picnic food or an ice cream cone to eat on a nearby park lawn or bench—and if that sojourn can be combined with a brisk walk, jog, or basketball game, so much the better.

Or, a large downtown destination park might be considered for a bike station, like the one offered at Chicago’s Millennium Park. There, for a membership fee, park users have access to one of 300 secure bike spaces along with lockers, showers, and a repair shop. For tourists, there are rental bikes. Completed in 2004 for $3.2 million, the facility today is so popular that it has a waiting list.

Best of all is the provision of plenty of housing near parks. This is an old concept with a new name: park-oriented development. From Lincoln Park in Chicago to Riverside Park in New York to Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, the parks surrounded by lots of people are the ones that can provide the greatest total amount of health benefits. But often U.S. cities are zoned so as to prevent that outcome. Some communities are averse to the look of taller buildings around parks; others may even think that the fewer people in the park, the better.

If denser development is not possible, park use can also be increased by improving accessibility through walking, bicycling, and public transit. (Automobile access is less desirable because it requires acres of parking and eliminates the health benefit of walking and cycling.) Ample park entrances, great sidewalks, and bike lanes on connecting streets; pedestrian-friendly perimeter roads with plenty of traffic signals and crosswalks; and easy grades and smooth trails for elderly and wheelchair-bound visitors: all these contribute to great access. In large parks, high-use destinations such as playgrounds, basketball courts, and swimming pools should be sited near the edge of the park, not deep in the interior.

"Catchment Circle." The area of a circle grows by the square of the radius. If a park is easy to reach by bicycle, 16 times as many people can get to it in the same amount of time it takes to walk from a mile away. Illustration: Helene Sherlock.

Bicycle access extends the “reach” of a park 16-fold over walking. This is because cycling is about four times faster than walking, and the “catchment circle”—the surrounding area from which park users can be drawn—increases by the square of the distance from the park (see diagram on right). Thus, improving bicycle access is an important way to get more people to the park (not to mention the health benefit from pedaling there and back).

Good public transit improves park access even more. It is no coincidence that eight of the ten most heavily used parks in American cities offer subway or light-rail access within one-quarter mile, and all of them have bus service that comes even closer. In New York City major parks almost invariably have subway service. Other parks well served by subway and rail include Boston Common, Forest Park in St. Louis, Millennium and Grant parks in Chicago, and the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

As new transit lines are built, it’s sometimes possible to align them with parks. Seattle’s new streetcar line terminates at 12-acre South Lake Union Park. The city is working to increase housing and commercial density in this near-downtown location, and the alignment of park and transit is particularly helpful in reaching the goal. “Especially at lunchtime,” says former Seattle Parks Foundation Director Karen Daubert, “you can see the crowds walking off the streetcar right into South Lake Union Park. It’s the perfect connection to this waterfront refuge.”

For larger parks, internal transit can also promote access. At 130-acre Washington Park in Portland, Oregon—home to the popular Rose and Japanese gardens—special Tri-Met buses not only connect to the nearest light-rail station but also make eight stops inside the park. The service is inexpensive (or free with a transfer), runs every 15 minutes, and is aggressively advertised by the park department, Tri-Met‚ and event promoters. The route gets about 500 riders per day on weekends and 420 on weekdays. From a health perspective, taking transit results in far more walking than accessing the park in a private automobile.

Here are a few examples of the ideas presented above:

Piedmont Park, Atlanta. Health-promoting park systems appreciate density. Credit: Ashley Szczepanski.

In recent years, Atlanta’s Piedmont Park has shown a marked growth in users. There are several reasons for this, including policies that have reduced auto traffic in the park, the rehabilitation of facilities, better signage‚ and additional programming. But also significant is the fact that more people now live in areas bordering or near the park. Unlike many other urban places, the Piedmont Park neighborhood is densifying, and the park itself is serving as a significant lure for development.

Between 2000 and 2009 alone, the City of Atlanta approved building permits for 16 new multi-unit rental and condominium apartment buildings within a half-mile of Piedmont Park, and the neighborhood gained nearly 100 single-family homes. All told, the park neighborhood gained 1,880 units, or about 4,500 people, over the decade. These people are the heaviest users of the park facilities. They compound their health benefit by often walking or running to the park rather than driving there.

“Piedmont Park is one of the single biggest assets we have in the neighborhood,” said Ginny Kennedy, director of urban design for the Midtown Alliance. “In everything we do, we encourage and try to reinforce access and visibility to the park.”

Perhaps most significant, the Midtown Alliance—whose goal is to make midtown Atlanta an “exceptional place to live, work, learn, shop, and play”—spearheaded the area’s 2001 rezoning. The changes enabled many more people to live and work near Piedmont Park and benefit from its health-promoting effects.

Midtown Greenway, Minneapolis. Health-promoting park systems locate parks and trails so as to benefit from other uses. Credit: Freewheel Bike Center.

Since its opening in 2000, Minneapolis’s Midtown Greenway has quickly become one of the best-used bike routes in the country, largely because it combines a park-like experience with true functionality. The mostly below-grade former rail line is quiet to ride, bordered with green, and unbroken by street intersections. Yet its almost six-mile length parallels a major commercial street only one block away, offering easy access to grocery and hardware stores, restaurants, video rentals‚ and pharmacies. “Fast, safe, and pleasant” is how Midtown Greenway Coalition Director Tim Springer describes the linear park—but it is also convenient. Instead of returning home from a bike ride and climbing into the car for errands, many Midtown Greenway users are able to multitask. The greenway leads them to their needs, and their needs lead them to the greenway.

The city has consciously helped. When a massive old Sears warehouse was converted into the Midtown Global Market, officials built a connection from the greenway and also landed a federal loan to create the Freewheel Bike Center‚ which provides storage, repair, rentals‚ and sales. Next door is a coffee shop. Nearby, the new Sheraton hotel has an outdoor patio overlooking the trail (and directs guests to rent bikes from Freewheel). The greenway also intersects with transit along the Hiawatha light-rail line, giving some Minneapolitans a car-free commute with morning and evening exercise to boot. All in all, the collocation of the park with diverse destinations has made this not only a greenway, but a “healthway.”

Want to know more ways urban park systems can best promote health and wellness?  Read this publication from The Trust for Public Land.

A Tale of Two Trails: Designs Released for New York’s High Line Phase III and Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail and Park

New York and Chicago are often pitted as rivals with regards to parkland acreage (38,060 acres vs. 11,959 acres, equating to 4.5 and 4.2 acres per 1,000 residents, respectively), and this month was no different.  Last week both cities released designs to the community for the next latest and greatest thing in the park world — elevated rail trails — and the designs couldn’t be more different.

A sneak peek at the High Line Phase III. This view shows the future 10th Avenue Spur. Credit: Brian Kusler (Flickr Feed)

New York’s High Line has been generating buzz since before its 2009 opening, and the overwhelming success of its first two phases (there were 3,000,000 visitors in 2011) have kept the public anxiously awaiting the last and final phase.  Held up by land ownership issues and fundraising nightmares in a struggling economy, Friends of the High Line scored an amazing win last fall with a record-setting $20 million donation from the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, the single largest donation ever made to a New York City park.  The generous gift helped build up the park’s endowment and also paid for the design of the last section.

Phase III of the High Line, the last half-mile segment of the abandoned rail line, differs from the first two phases in that it is being constructed simultaneously with Hudson Yards, the 12 million square foot office and residential complex.  The park will be fully built out on the majority of the eastern section of the historic railway, and an interim walkway will be built over the western section.  The park will wrap about the redevelopment and will feature either amphitheater-style seating or an open gathering space with plantings, a spiraling “Guggenheim-esque” staircase providing access to the street level, Play Beams for children, walking paths, and the ever popular “peel-up benches” that are in the first two phases.

The estimated total cost of capital construction on the High Line at the rail yards is $90 million, with $38 million already raised by the conservancy.  A zoning text amendment is already in the works to set a framework and cover approximately 30% of the estimated total cost.  Construction is expected to begin this year and finish by the end of 2013, with a full public opening in spring 2014.

The Bloomingdale Trail and Park. This rendering shows a separate pedestrian zone and bike path.

Unlike the High Line, Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail and Park will be a multi-use trail as well as a destination linear park.  Steadily moving ahead despite fundraising challenges, the design plan for the entire 2.7-mile elevated rail trail was released last week, and included addressing the conflicting needs between speeding cyclists and slow-moving pedestrians.  While the High Line bans dogs, skateboarders, cyclists, and runners, the Bloomingdale Trail and Park will be an arterial connecting four different neighborhoods and providing alternative modes of transportation for commuters.

In addition to its urban views, the Bloomingdale Trail and Park would keep its retaining walls as a linear gallery with colorful murals and gritty graffiti.  There will be eight access points to the trail, spaced roughly a half-mile apart, and five of the entryways will be from ground-level parks.  Instead of modernistic stairways, berms would form gentle upward slopes from two of the parks, another two parks would have entries as ramps, and the last park would be an L-shaped berm at the trail’s western end.  The multi-use path would be 14 feet wide and have gentle curves and dips to serve multiple purposes, including ever-changing views for pedestrians and speed bumps for cyclists.  Trees and shrubs would also serve triple duty by providing shade, habitat for birds, and a separation zone for the pedestrians and bike path.  In fact, Chicagoans are so concerned about this separation (to avoid a repeat of the pedestrian-cyclist disasters that plague the Lakefront Trail), that there is a proposal for 1.5 miles of pedestrian pathways that would run parallel to the multi-use trail.  Of course there still needs to be room for the benches, art, and lighting on the 30-foot-wide trail.

So far more than $37 million has been secured in federal anti-congestion and air-quality funding for the project’s $46 million first phase, with the remaining $7 million to come from the private sector (Exelon Foundation is said to be giving $5 million, their largest single grant, while Boeing and CNA are each donating $1 million) and $2 million from the Chicago Park District.  Construction is expected to begin as early as next year, with the park opening in phases in fall 2014.

The High Line may only be 1.45 miles long, but it offers New York residents and visitors a completely different park perspective, a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of urban living.  The Bloomingdale Trail and Park, twice as long as the High Line, will be Chicago’s first elevated park and the longest elevated park anywhere in the world, and will offer its residents and visitors a connection to different neighborhoods and transportation opportunities toward and out of downtown.

Creating Parkland via Rail Trails

A ninth excerpt from the recently released book published by Island Press called Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities. In this post, we look at some cities who have created parkland by converting abandoned railroad corridors into rail trails.

In 1963 famed Morton Arboretum naturalist May Theilgaard Watts wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Tribune. “We are human beings,” she wrote. “We walk upright on two feet. We need a footpath. Right now there is a chance for Chicago and its suburbs to have a footpath, a long one.” Her visionary and poetic letter led to the creation of the Illinois Prairie Path and marked the beginning of the rails-to-trails movement.

Until the interstate highway program in the 1950s, the world’s best-engineered rights-of-way were railroad corridors. Hills and cliffs were excavated, valleys filled, curves softened, tunnels dug, bridges built, all to provide routes of exquisitely smooth gentleness with little or no cross-traffic. They were also extraordinarily well routed from, to, and through the centers of activity–cities. Today, 130,000 miles of these marvelous linear connections have been abandoned. Already, 1,500 segments totaling 15,000 miles have been turned into trails for biking, skiing, skating, running, and walking. Most are rural but the urban ones almost invariably become the spines of city biking networks that also include on-road bike lanes and other feeder-collector routes. Rail trails have become focal points for nonmotorized transportation and recreation in Seattle; Washington, D.C.; Boston; Indianapolis; Dallas; Cincinnati; Spokane; Milwaukee; St. Petersburg; Albany, New York; Arlington, Virginia; Barrington, Rhode Island; and scores of other cities and towns. And there are still abandoned corridors available for conversion into trails.

The Stone Arch Bridge portion of the St. Anthony Falls Heritage Trail going towards Minneapolis. Credit: Brian Monberg, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

Minneapolis shows the multiple types of rail trails and their power to affect a city’s park, recreation, and transportation systems. Most dramatic is the Stone Arch Bridge over the Mississippi, built by railroad baron James J. Hill for his Great Northern route to Seattle. Opened in 1883, it was in rail service until 1978. Rescued from demolition, the bridge was refurbished for non-motorized use through a variety of federal, state, and local funds and ultimately turned over to the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Today it is the keystone of the bicycle/pedestrian network in both Minneapolis and St. Paul.

A few blocks away is the Midtown Greenway, created from a former Milwaukee Road track that maintained separation from traffic by being sunk in a box-shaped trench below street level. The 5.5-mile trail today serves several thousand bicyclists, runners, and skaters per day; in the future it will also host an extension of the light-rail system on a parallel track in the same trench. The corridor was bought for $10 million by the Hennepin County Regional Railroad Authority. Trail engineering and construction, which cost $25 million, was paid from a variety of local, regional, state, and federal sources. Annual maintenance, which includes lighting and snow plowing, comes to about $500,000 a year.

A couple of miles north, a different set of tracks has been converted into the Cedar Lake Park and Trail. This isn’t a rail-to-trail, it’s a rail-with-trail. When the Burlington Northern Railroad decided to divest itself of an underutilized freight yard, it kept one track for through service and sold the rest to the Park Board. The Board erected a fence and converted the wide industrial facility into a model nature habitat with three meandering, parallel treadways–two one-way paths for cyclists and skaters, and one soft-surface path for walkers and runners. With an extraordinary amount of community support, volunteerism, and sweat-equity, the 48-acre project cost only $3.5 million to acquire and develop, and it was finished in a record six years.

Six years is a record? Well, yes. Creating a rail trail, candidly, is not easy. The land ownership issues are confusing. Legal and regulatory complexities stretch from the local level to the state capital to Washington, D.C. A review of years-to-complete-a-trail validates the difficulty: for the Capital Crescent Trail in Washington, D.C., eleven years from conception to ribbon-cutting; for the Pinellas Trail in St. Petersburg, fifteen years; for the Minuteman Trail in Arlington, Massachusetts, eighteen years; for the Metropolitan Branch Trail in Washington, D.C., twenty-two years and (as of this writing) counting.

But the final results justify the heartache: These are truly “million-dollar trails.” Other than on a former railroad track, it is simply not possible in an existing built-up community to create a new pathway that is long, straight, wide, continuous, sheathed in vegetation, and almost entirely separated from traffic. And the annual usership numbers reveal the pent-up desire lines: 2 million on the Minuteman Trail outside of Boston; 3 million on the Washington and Old Dominion Trail outside of Washington, D.C.; 1.7 million on the Baltimore and Annapolis Trail; 1.1 million on the East Bay Bicycle Path outside of Providence, Rhode Island; and 1 million on the Capital Crescent Trail in Washington, D.C.

Many park directors initially shy away from taking on the challenge of a rail-trail. This is a serious mistake. In addition to all the connectivity and usership values, rail trails often have ecological and historical values very much in keeping with an urban park system’s mission. With corridor widths of 60 to 100 feet, or even more in the West, they frequently harbor interesting, unusual, and rare plant species on their margins, as well as having bridges, tunnels, and stations. Moreover, trails are so popular that they have radically increased the support base for virtually every park agency that has ever taken one on.

The reality is that creating one of these trails is so tough that it virtually requires a partnership between a park department (or sometimes a public works or transportation department) and the private sector (usually a citizen group, sometimes a foundation or corporation). The financial and legal issues are too much for a group of volunteers to handle alone, while the political issues are too intense for a government agency without citizen support. Some of these conversions are so difficult that a national organization, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, formed specifically to provide technical, legal, financial, and political assistance to communities around the country. The Trust for Public Land is another national organization that has been unusually active with creating urban rail trails.

More than that, trail advocates are fierce in their commitment to these facilities–many see them literally as “do or die” opportunities. In Seattle, when the Post-Intelligencer newspaper reported that the Burlington Northern Railroad had secretly sold off a piece of track that had been slated for a continuation of the Burke-Gilman Trail, cyclists were so outraged that they chained their bikes across the entranceway of Burlington Northern’s Seattle headquarters and began a vehement protest that stayed on the front pages for two months. (The railroad, which had sold the land to an out-of-state tycoon for a place to dock his yacht, found a way to rescind the deal and the corridor is now the trail extension.)

The Capital Crescent Trail as it enters Bethesda, Maryland, 7 miles from its starting point in Washington, D.C. Credit: Barbara Richey, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy.

In Washington, D.C., when the National Park Service was unable to get a quick congressional appropriation to save the Georgetown Branch from being developed by CSX Railroad into a string of million-dollar homes through a national park, land developer Kingdon Gould III loaned $12 million of his own money and held the land for a year until Congress acted. (The corridor is today the Capital Crescent Trail, centerpiece of what will eventually be a 20-mile “bicycle beltway” within the nation’s capital.)

The latest innovation is the overhead or trestle trail. Influenced by the creation in Paris, France, of the Promenade Plantée (“Planted Walkway”), activists in New York, Chicago, and St. Louis have all discovered abandoned rail trestles and launched campaigns to bring them back as trails. First to open, in 2009, was New York’s High Line, a sensational tour de force in the now-chic former meatpacking district. The walkway (which from day one was so crowded with pedestrians that bicycles were not permitted) includes sophisticated plantings, architectural landscaping reminiscent of railroad tracks, artistic benches and chaise longues, a viewing gallery with picture window overlooking 10th Avenue traffic, a large wall of glass panes dyed every hue of the Hudson River, food carts, seating areas, and more.

A bit less upscale but considerably longer and designed for cyclists as well as walkers, Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail is expected to open in segments as funds for the $45-million conversion are found. The Bloomingdale Trail should serve recreational cyclists as well as purposeful commuters since one day it could join an interconnected trailway linking all the way from Lake Michigan to the Mississippi River. St. Louis’s Iron Horse Trestle will also prove helpful to cyclists, runners, and walkers of all stripes since it passes over busy Interstate 70 and leads toward the popular Riverfront Trail along the Mississippi River.

Grapeland Water Park and Mary Bartelme Park Selected as July’s “Frontline Parks”

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.

July’s Frontline Parks are known for keeping patrons cool and for their unique water conservation technology.

Grapeland Water Park

Grapeland Water Park is the first public water destination attraction within the City of Miami.  With four pools that include slide play structures, a lazy river and recreation pool, the facility has brought splashy fun to the backyard of a community.  The bright and colorful environment was designed by acclaimed international artist Romero Britto.  A popular destination for families and groups, the park is located adjacent to an exit off a major highway in Miami, making it accessible for those who live in the neighborhood and surrounding counties.  During the summer, it’s common for the park to hit peak capacity several times a day.  The combination of innovative water conservation technology, creative design and fitness/recreation programs for people of all ages and abilities make Grapeland a wonderful warm weather neighborhood attraction.  Site furnishings in Grapeland Water Park were manufactured by DuMor, Inc.

Mary Bartelme Park

Occupying the site of a former infirmary, Mary Bartelme Park combines a sense of history with modern, innovative design elements.  This uniquely designed green space in the West Loop serves a community that has experienced tremendous growth over the last 10 years.  The Chicago Park District worked with the local elected officials, community members and nonprofit organizations to create a park that specifically caters to the neighborhood.  The size and amenities in this park give it the feel of a local space, but the unique design and location make it an appealing regional destination.  Innovation abounds in this park, from using pieces of the original infirmary building in seat walls to capturing and storing all storm water with permeable paver paths.  But one of the most popular features manages to conserve water and keep park patrons comfortable at the same time.  Using only three gallons a minute, each of the five stainless steel fountain gates emit a fine mist of vaporized water on hot Chicago days, cooling off families while immersing the area in a cloud.

Frontline Parks is generously supported by DuMor, Inc.  and  PlayCore.

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