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Peirce: Decade for Urban Parks

City Garden, St. Louis. Read more by clicking on the image.

City Garden, St. Louis. Read more by clicking on the image.

Neal Peirce surveys the country and finds some big things going on in the world of city parks in his weekly column on urban affairs. He starts in St. Louis, writing about its new downtown city park:

Citygarden, just west of the famed Gateway Arch on the Mississippi River, has drawn crowds of people–a cross-section of the city and region’s population–from its opening hour onward……

…..For St. Louis, for years so forsaken its downtown had the feel of a big and mostly empty living room, the public’s warm embrace of Citygarden caps a remarkable comeback decade which has seen the center city draw 5,000 residents and more than $4 billion in new investment.

But there’s no single formula for new parks. Just climb up a short flight of stairs to the newly-opened “High Line” park on Manhattan’s West Side. You’ll find clusters of families and couples strolling, chatting, sipping lemonade and nibbling on waffles or sandwiches along what for years constituted a desolate and weed-choked stretch of abandoned elevated freight railroad track…..

……Or check auto-happy, sprawling Houston. Two-term Mayor Bill White has made parks a top priority. Lead example: Discovery Green, 12 once-industrial acres on the east side of downtown. Among Discovery Green’s features: a shaded walkway featuring 100-year-old oak trees, thematic gardens with native Texas plants, birds and butterflies, fountains and spacious green lawns, a model boat basin, a children’s stage, WiFi everywhere, and two restaurants. Plus lots of people watching.

Indeed, if there were ever a bonanza decade for America’s parks, this is surely it. Add stunning new parks in Boston, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Denver and Santa Fe, plus the success of conservancies in revamping great old parks in such cities as Pittsburgh, Brooklyn and San Francisco.

The whole column is worth a read.

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