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Some Evidence of Park Usership Increases

Local park agencies around the country are reporting increased usage this year. With an economy in the red, the nearby green of parks seems to be convincing people into so-called “stay-cations” that don’t require travel expenses. In Minneapolis, there was a more-than 15 percent increase in the number of visits to the city’s regional parks.

And in Chicago, park agencies are seeing more outdoor-movie goers, ball players and grass loungers. A recent Chicago Tribue article:

Scores of Chicago-area municipal parks…..have attracted visitors like ants to egg salad during this coolish summer. Many parks are hosting larger than normal turnouts, officials say. Evanston and Des Plaines report surges in picnic-area rentals. Naperville is adding new programs for budget-conscious locals, while Aurora is seeing big crowds at a popular — and free — tram ride.

The reasons for the uptick in usage are simple, according to members of the Martinez and Vazquez families who recently rented a pavilion at Camelot Park in Arlington Heights for their annual daylong barbecue.

With 50 people attending the event, they looked for a convenient, reasonably priced place to fire up the grills, finding both at Camelot Park, where $35 gets the group a pavilion for the day and the use of nearby basketball, baseball and beach-volleyball courts, plus a playground for the youngsters.

The Chicago Park District also is seeing an uptick in use:

Officials who run the district’s summer “Movies in the Park” program report that larger crowds are the norm this year, Lemons said……It’s difficult to track day-to-day attendance at the 570 parks around the city. But anyone wondering about their popularity only had to check out a recent weeknight at Eckhart Park in the West Town neighborhood. The shouts of players locked in a fierce full-court game on the outdoor basketball court competed with the squeak of shoes on hardwood from the gym in the nearby fieldhouse and the splash of swimmers at the pool in the Ida Crown Natatorium. Outfielders stood practically back-to-back as softball teams competed on the park’s two diamonds. Dogs fetching sticks dodged deep fly balls to right field, while kids on bikes weaved around a soccer ball that skittered away from an impromptu match near the play lot.

More to come next week on parks and usership this year next week with the release of TPL’s annual statistics on city park systems.

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