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Griffith Park – Historic and in Need of a Conservancy?

Many people might not know that Los Angeles has a 4,218 park right in the heart of the city. Griffith Park was donated to the city 112 years ago by industrialist Col. Griffith Jenkins Griffith — who wanted to create the largest urban park in America. (He accomplished this task, but Griffith Park has not been the country’s largest for some time now.) An L.A. city commission recently voted to make the park an historic landmark — all of it. What this means is unclear. Will activities and change be over restricted or properly protectected?

In any case, like other large urban parks of much lesser size, Griffith Park does not have a conservatory (e.g. Central Park Conservancy or Forest Park Forever in St. Louis). With the L.A. city parks budget under continued strain, does Griffith Park need a conservancy?

Thick Green Line

P&R Now, the blog of Parks and Recreation magazine has a post up from Abby Cocke of Baltimore’s Parks and People giving her take on Majora Carter’s (of Sustainable South Bronx) keynote speech to the Recreation and Park Association’s annual conference in Baltimore. Just one excerpt here, but the paragraph below describes both an innovative idea to connect people to parks and the fact that parks embody both the social and the environmental.

I was tickled and inspired when she showed a slide of a green line painted down the sidewalk to lead people to parks, and I was fascinated as she went into depth about other youth/jobs focused environmental programs that had sprung up in the South Bronx, including green roofing and computer modeling to turn junk into useful items. She also mentioned the importance of green jobs for things like managing stormwater and mitigating the effects of the urban heat island. I wondered which ideas would be more familiar to the majority of the audience – the social or the environmental ones? Parks, of course, embody the meeting point of these two values.

Freeways to Parks

Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland, Ore., the site of a former freeway.

Next American City’s Daily Report writes about the Congress for the New Urbanism’s push for tearing down freeways in several cities.

Urban designers took the freeway, which was perfectly suitable as a connector between cities, and tossed it into the city itself……… It sliced through cities, severing their once-convenient grid systems. It blocked access to lucrative waterfronts and cleaved into neighborhoods.

And today we are left with a decision to make on this aging infrastructure: “Do they demolish the existing infrastructure to make way for surface roads and boulevards? Or do they invest in freeways yet again, when it makes even less sense to do so – given their crummy past and the ever-rising cost of gasoline?” CNU, arguing more for the first option, prepared a list of ten North American freeways ideal for demolition.

One of the best examples of a freeway teardown that already occurred is found in Portland, where the former Harbor Drive freeway was converted to a boulevard and the now very popular 40-acre Tom McCall Waterfront Park, named for the Oregon governor who helped make the teardown occur back in 1974.

Transit and the Most Used U.S. Parks

Houstons Hermann Park before and after light rail and other improvements.

Houston's Hermann Park before and after light rail and other improvements.

A brief look at the connection of parks and transit. Turns out most of the most visited parks in the United States have mass transit access. (See table below.) And with the exception of Mission Bay, most of the parks below are probably reached by transit in high numbers. Central Park and Prospect Park have no parking really at all, so your choices are limited as to how to get to the park: walk, bike, take transit or find a parking spot around the perimeter of the park somewhere.

Some cities have strategically placed transit in popular parks where parking cannot be additionally provided — most notably the light rail stations at Minneapolis’ popular Minnehaha Park, Houston’s noted Hermann Park and the planned stop at Atlanta’s Piedmont Park on the Beltline transit loop. As cities look to expand or even begin mass transit projects — light rail, bus rapid transit, trolleys and upgraded bus services — park officials and advocates may want to insert themselves into the debate on where perspective stops and lines go. Giving residents transit access to parks reduces dependence on cars, provides access to needed amentities and releaves the need to provide parking.

The Ten Most Visited Parks in the United States & Access by Transit
Park City Users Transit Access
Central Park New York City 25,000,000 Subway (B,C lines) & Bus
Lincoln Park Chicago 20,000,000 Nearby “El” (Brown, Red Lines) & Bus
Golden Gate Park San Francisco 13,000,000 Nearby Light Rail (N Juda LRT) & Bus
Mission Bay Park San Diego 12,000,000 Bus
Forest Park St. Louis 12,000,000 Light Rail & Bus
Balboa Park San Diego 12,000,000 Nearby Light Rail (Am. Plaza stat. & Bus
Coney Island Beach & Boardwalk New York City 10,600,000 Subway
Fairmount Park Philadelphia 10,000,000 R6 Regional Rail, Bus
The National Mall Washington, D.C. 10,000,000 Subway (Blue,Orange lines) & Bus
Prospect Park New York City 8,000,000 Subway (F, Q, B, 2, 3 lines)

Atlanta’s Beltline: Add Stormwater Management to the Benefits

Progress is being made on Atlanta’s face-changing Beltline project, as a two-mile segment of trail recently opened, and groundbreaking just occurred on the project’s first new park. We’ll be posting on the Beltline’s progess and different aspects of what it is all about — trails, parks, economic development and transit.

But today, we’d like to highlight a feature of the first new 35-acre Beltline Park being converted from a former industrial area. The park will add acreage, provide the base for economic development and enhance recreational opportunities in the surrounding area, but it will also signficantly alleave stormwater issues in the area. A stormwater detention pond will be constructed as the centerpiece of the park and will help reduce overflows in the low-lying area. The Beltline is addressing parks, transit, housing and economic development, and now we see, stormwater management through its enhanced green infrastructure. “This project not only helps eliminate a serious problem, it also provides an attractive and functional amenity,” City Dept. of Watershed Management Commissioner Rob Hunter said.