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Suburbs Creating City Parks

The Washington Post covers a new park in suburban Fairfax County outside of Washington, D.C. — the kind that we may be seeing more of in suburbs that are looking to become more city-like. Here’s an excerpt:

When you think of a suburban park, you might think of something rolling and green, with a little mulchy square for a playground and perhaps a backstop that hints at a baseball diamond.

If so, Fairfax County would like you to expand your definition.

On Saturday, the Fairfax County Park Authority dedicated Merrifield Park, a little brick plaza with benches and a fountain, hemmed in on one side by a sleek new complex of condominiums and shops called Merrifield Town Center. Though not necessarily a park in the way some might be accustomed, it performs a similar function: providing area residents with a little space and respite, somewhere to read, meet a friend or lure the kids away from their video games to enjoy some fresh air.

As the county’s first developed, public “urban park,” Merrifield is being held up as a model for the park of the future in the urbanizing areas of Fairfax, where open land is scarce, back yards are virtually nonexistent and common areas must be equally suitable for cubicle refugees at lunchtime and families out for a picnic. In particular, officials said, it is emblematic of the kind of thinking that will be necessary to make Tysons Corner, which is poised for a massive urban-style redevelopment, into a vibrant, walkable and attractive community.

“The county is changing, so our park system really needs to change,” said Sandy Stallman, the authority’s manager of park planning. “The county is moving toward more urban development in places like Tysons and some of the revitalization areas. The suburban park model just needed to be updated to coincide with that new urban paradigm.”

3 Responses

  1. Suburbs are trying to create that unique city feel and identity, while cities are trying to create that safe, sterile atmosphere found in the ‘burbs. Oh the tangled webs we weave.

  2. As we transform our suburbs by creating new urban centers within them, we need to take a systems approach to creating open space. Such urban open space systems are important to the health of people, the environment and the local economy. We are working in the suburbs of Washington DC, in Montgomery County, Maryland. We are creating ways to estimate open space needs based on land use mix and trends in how people use urban space; on strategies for creating an open space system on top of a multiple ownership/suburban property pattern; and on the variety of tools available to achieve success: such as creative zoning and funding. We look forward to hearing from others ….

    Margaret K. Rifkin RLA AICP, Urban Designer
    The Montgomery County Planning Department

    Brooke Farquhar , Park Planning Supervisor
    The Montgomery County Department of Parks

  3. Margaret and Brooke, thanks for your comment. Information on what you are doing in Montgomery Co. would be useful to a lot of people out there trying to do what you’re doing. We hope to be in touch with you more as you progress.

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