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Urban State Parks

Riverbank State Park in New York City, built atop a sewage treatment plant.

Riverbank State Park in New York City, built atop a sewage treatment plant.

An article in Athletic Business gives an overview of state-run urban parks. An excerpt  describes the different forms in which they come:

From a functional planning perspective, urban state parks are as diverse as the cities that surround them. Some, such as Detroit’s Tri-Centennial State Park, follow a fairly traditional state park track by extolling their state’s many and varied natural virtues. The DNR promotes the space as a “green oasis” that showcases “the natural resources collected throughout all of Michigan’s state parks,” despite it being just steps away from downtown’s most iconic skyscraper, the Renaissance Center.

Other urban state parks are more recreation-intensive. The 28-acre Riverbank State Park — one of only 11 parks in the world (and the only one in North America) to be built atop a sewage treatment facility — boasts an Olympic-size pool, a covered multipurpose rink, tennis and basketball courts, and a fitness center from its location 69 feet above the Hudson River in upper Manhattan.

In California, the Los Angeles State Historic Park, located just outside of Chinatown, focuses more on historical education by incorporating creative landscaping throughout its 32 acres. Raised subway tracks demarcate the course of the early 19th-century water system that once supported the region. The parkland also was home to the Pacific Railroad’s River Station, as well as the Pacific Hotel, the approximate boundaries of which are now marked by recycled-glass structures.

In downtown Indianapolis, the White River State Park not only ties together walkways, promenades, bridges and open spaces, it serves as a major tourist destination. Attractions include the Indianapolis Zoo, a minor league ballpark, the NCAA Hall of Champions and the Indiana State Museum.

More common, however, are urban state parks that were established for preservation or restoration purposes. Candlestick Point State Recreation Area, which is surrounded by San Francisco’s historically underserved Hunter’s Point neighborhood, is described by the California State Parks division as “the first California State Park unit developed to bring state park values into the urban setting.” Occupying 34 acres — much of which has suffered years of abuse as landfill and dumping grounds — the project involves the restoration of natural wetlands and subsequent habitat diversity that will benefit the Bay Area as well as the entire state.

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