• Who We Are

    City Parks Blog is a joint effort of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land and the City Parks Alliance to chronicle the news and issues of the urban park movement. Read more about us.
  • Urban Park Issues

  • Enter your email address to receive notifications of new City Parks Blog posts by email.

  • Archives

  • Urban Green Cover Ad

Some news from around…

  • Riverside Park will be New York’s first park to have a composting restroom.  The Riverside Clay Tennis Association hopes to break ground on the carbon-neutral complex by the end of 2011  (The New York Times)
  • “Bicycle Butlers” in Copenhagen? Parking your bicycle illegally in front of a metro station warrants city staff to move your bicycle, oil your chain, pump your tires and leave a little note asking you to kindly use the bike racks in the future (Copenhagenize.com)
  • A toppled tree in Vancouver’s Stanley Park is transformed into a work of art (The Vancouver Sun)
  • Chicago Park District counts users along lakefront trail (Chicago Tribune)
  • And speaking of Chicago, move over Millennium Park, there’s a new trendy park in town (Chicago Tribune)

From Design to Construction: The Making of Citygarden in St. Louis

Blogging about the 2010 American Society of Landscape Architects Annual Meeting and Expo, September 10-13, held at the Convention Center in Washington, D.C.

“We never thought we’d get the job,” admitted Warren T. Byrd, Jr., a principal of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects (NBWLA). “We were concerned by our lack of experience with sculptural gardens.” 

But after being narrowed down to seven finalists, and rescheduling their interview due to a crippling snow storm, the Virginia firm managed to fly to St. Louis, meet with the panel of judges and win the bid. 

Their challenge: develop a three-acre “urban oasis that is a hybrid between a sculpture garden, a botanic garden and a city park” on two of the 15-block Gateway Mall. Located between Eighth, Tenth, Market and Chestnut Streets and within walking distance of the Gateway Arch, the site was once dotted with buildings. These buildings were torn down 20-30 years ago and the site was vacant. After studying wind direction, sunlight, pedestrian access, and topography, NBWLA decided to draw on local and regional hydrology and geology, particularly the presence of the Mississippi River, and incorporate all these elements into their final design. 

Big White Gloves, Big Four Wheels. Credit: Gewel Maker (Flickr Feed)

The tricky part was incorporating the 23 sculptures already purchased by the Gateway Foundation as a gift to the city. The sculptures had to be open and accessible; there were not to be any “Do Not Touch” signs. 

The land is owned by the city of St. Louis; the non-profit Gateway Foundation owns the sculptures and provided the funding for the design and construction. 

Some highlights of the final design include a green/grey black granite meander wall, stones with multiple finishes, pavement that can withstand lots of water at a less than 5% grade, ramps imbedded into stairs, a giant TV displaying “video art,” a 2,000 square-foot café that seats 80 people inside and out, and the fountains. 

Split Basin. Credit: Gewel Maker (Flickr Feed)

Three fountains were incorporated into the park: the entry basin, 34 feet in diameter with a thin sheet of water sliding off the Eros Benato sculpture; the split basin – named for a waterfall that “breaks” the basin into two parts – 190 feet long, 20 feet wide and 16 inches deep (the upper part turns into a reflecting pool and became such a popular swimming hole for youngsters that lifeguards were hired); and the spray basin, with 104 jets – the most spray jets in any active fountain in the country – that is choreographed to 10 different musical selections, running three-fourths of the year. Nearby are plenty of seats for parents wishing to stay dry. 

The horticultural elements incorporate almost 80 percent native plants and 32 large trees. The trees line an urban promenade along Market Street and mark the old property and foundation boundaries. 

The final price tag for the project came to just under $30 million and took about 28 months to complete, from design and construction phase to opening day. The project incorporated sustainability strategies into the design, with green roofs for the café and maintenance building, rain gardens (internally imbedded and on street level), LED lights for security and safety, and porous/pervious pavement. 

Citygarden will be permanently endowed and long-term maintenance plans are in the works. St. Louis’ newest park has been a big success and truly transformed the downtown. For more information about Citygarden, go here.

Reinvesting in Baltimore’s Green Gems

A recent article in Urbanite Baltimore discusses Baltimore’s third place ranking of parkland per 1,000 residents when compared to cities of similar population density.  But when compared to spending per resident, Baltimore ranks 49th and is tied with Philadelphia and Arlington, Texas.

In the 19th century, Baltimore was one of the greenest cities, with the creation of Druid Hill Park, Patterson Park and others.  But as other older cities such as New York, Chicago, and Boston have made huge investments in their park systems by adding new glamour parks, Baltimore has been neglecting its own green gems.

The biggest problem in Baltimore has been a lack of working together between the private sector and the public agency,” [Peter] Harnik says. “The private sector can’t do it alone, and in 90 percent of all cities the public sector can’t do it alone either.

While the poor economy has depleted city funds, the general lack of support from government and local businesses has not helped the situation.  To make matters worse, there has also been high turnover among staff in the Parks and Recreation Department.

There have been some successes, namely with the work of the neighborhood group Friends of Patterson Park, but much more is needed.

“I would like to see that every park has a ‘Friends’ group, and every city has an umbrella group that lobbies the city council and lobbies the mayor, almost like a union,” Harnik says. The city also needs a deep-pocketed conservancy that channels private contributions to parks. “They’re the ones that step up to the plate and do extraordinary fundraising to build a beautiful parks system.”

For a more in-depth discussion of the work the Friends of Patterson Park have done in Baltimore, read this article from Landscape Architecture.  For more information about Druid Hill Park, see an earlier post.

Some news from around…

  • New York’s public garden designer Lynden B. Miller discusses her new book Parks, Plants and People:  Beautifying the Urban Landscape on WNYC’s The Leonard Lopate Show.  Listen to the 23 minute radio clip here.
  • Did you know Baltimore’s trees outnumber people more than four to one?  Too bad the city’s forestry and horticulture divisions, the departments responsible for planting new trees in Baltimore, have been eliminated due to budget cuts.  Looks like it is now up to the private sector to plant more trees and increase that ratio (Urbanite Baltimore)
  • A new park built on the ruins of a 1,300-year-old imperial palace in Xi’an, China will open October 2010 (English News-China)
  • Detroit’s William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor will receive a $25,000 grant from Coca-Cola to aid in design and construction of an indoor-outdoor play facility (Detroit Free Press)

U.S. City Park Facts Released, Park Visitation Enormous

2010 City Park Facts

The 85 largest U.S. cities have more than 1.4 million acres of city parks, according to new data released today by The Trust for Public Land. The city park systems profiled in the report serve 58 million urban residents, offering 11,160 playgrounds, 9,167 ball diamonds, 1,349 swimming pools, 514 dog parks, and 400 public golf courses, among other facilities.

“In this time of economic adversity, we need great city parks to keep the hearts of our communities beating,” said Peter Harnik, Director of TPL’s Center for City Park Excellence. “These are the publicly available places city dwellers can go to enjoy the outdoors, stay in shape, and recharge their souls.”

Harnik notes that large cities spent $5.8 billion on their park systems and recreation programs in 2008, but they also collectively suffer from at least $6.4 billion in additional deferred repairs and improvements.

“If we don’t solve this maintenance problem, our children won’t have safe places to play, and their generation will be saddled with the costs,” Harnik said. “Parks are no different from other infrastructure; they need investment to keep them up.”

Park Visitation Enormous
City parks serve far more users than any other parks, from highly publicized annual festivals to normal day-to-day walk-throughs. The biggest parkland events attracted over 10 million visitors last year, including Fourth of July festivals in San Diego, Philadelphia, Boston, Houston, and Nashville; arts festivals in Oklahoma City, St. Petersburg, and Durham; and concerts in San Francisco, Madison, New York City, Riverside, Calif., and Newark, N.J.

The report, 2010 City Park Facts, includes statistics on urban park acreage, spending, staffing, and facilities. The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, releases the data annually through its Center for City Park Excellence.  View the report here.