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December’s Frontline Park

Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.


The Great Park Balloon

With its approximate 1,300-acre master plan, the Orange County Great Park is the centerpiece of the redevelopment of the publicly-owned portion of the 4,700-acre former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro. After the military base was decommissioned in 1999, several proposals to redevelop the land were put forward, including an international airport and a new housing development.  In 2002, Orange County voters approved the Great Park project.  The goal of the Great Park is to bring a world-class metropolitan park to Orange County, with a wide range of cultural, social, recreational and educational amenities.  Currently, more than 230 acres of the Great Park are activated or under construction.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors from all over Southern California enjoy the Great Park’s array of recreational and educational opportunities and participate in shared experiences, including panoramic views from the iconic Great Park Balloon that rises 400 feet in the air.  Other popular Great Park features include the Great Park Carousel, Farm + Food Lab, Kids Rock Playground, Walkable Historical Timeline, Palm Court Arts Complex, North Lawn recreation area, 105-acre Great Park Farm and historic Hangar 244.  The Great Park delivers innovative programming that activates all of these features, including free sports clinics, gardening workshops, a weekly Farmers Market, art exhibitions in the Great Park Gallery and an Artists-in-Residence program, as well as other community events. Total attendance and ridership for 2012 will exceed 750,000.


Farm Lab

The Great Park’s success with events and programming helped it earn the opportunity to host the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2013.  This award-winning competition challenges collegiate teams to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. Hundreds of thousands are expected to gather for the event October 3-13, 2013 at the Great Park, the first time the event has ever been held outside of Washington D.C. The Solar Decathlon 2013 will be the centerpiece of the XPO, a world’s fair of clean, renewable and efficient energy that the Great Park team is developing as a complement to Solar Decathlon 2013.

To learn more about the Orange County Great Park, click here: www.ocgp.org

The “Frontline Parks” program is made possible with generous support from DuMor, Inc. and PlayCore.

Lots of Parkland, Please – And Make it Nearby, Too!

New Report Ranks the Biggest Cities

Large amounts of parkland in cities is important, but equally vital is to have parks which are nearby and easily accessible to residents, according to the latest report by The Trust for Public Land (TPL).

In seven of the nation’s largest cities — New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. — nine out of 10 residents live within a one-half mile walk to a park, according to the report.

The annual City Parks Facts report, now available at http://cloud.tpl.org/pubs/ccpe-cityparkfacts-2012.pdf  is the nation’s most complete compilation of data about urban parks.  It is collected annually by TPL’s Center for City Park Excellence.

“It is not enough for a city to have a lot of park land if it can’t be easily reached,” said Peter Harnik, CCPE Director.  “These seven cities are among the best because they have parks which almost everyone can access.”

The absolute amount of urban parkland is also significant, and among the cities with the largest park acreage are Jacksonville, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles. (First place goes to Anchorage, which contains gigantic Chugach State Park within its municipal border.)

But some cities, even those with a lot of parkland, are not laid out so that the land is well-located for residents’ easy access. These places include Charlotte, Jacksonville, Louisville, and Indianapolis.

“With electronic communications making work and workers increasingly mobile, choosing where to live may be based on quality of life factors, such as parks,” said Adrian Benepe, senior vice president and director of city park development for The Trust for Public Land.   “Parks and playgrounds and recreation facilities are linchpins of quality of life in most cities.”

In addition, City Park Facts 2012 tracks numerous comparative statistics, such as:

  • Spending on parks:  leaders include Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Cincinnati and Minneapolis
  • Acres of parkland per capita:  leaders in the different population density groups are Anchorage, Fremont, Calif., San Jose, and Oakland.
  • Number of ball diamonds per capita:  leaders are St. Paul, Minn. (5.4 for every 10,000 residents), Minneapolis (5.1), Scottsdale, Ariz. (4.2), and Pittsburgh (4.2).
  • Number of off-leash dog parks per capita: Portland, Ore. (5.5 for every 100,000 residents), Norfolk (4.9), Las Vegas (4.3), Madison, Wis. (3.4)
  • Number of skateboard parks per capita: leaders are Chula Vista, Calif. (2.9 for every 100,000 residents), Colorado Springs (1.9), and Reno, Nev. (1.8).
  • Number of employees per capita: leaders are Seattle, Virginia Beach, Va., St. Petersburg, Fla., and Tampa.
  • Largest municipally-owned parks: South Mountain Preserve (16,094 acres) in Phoenix, McDowell Sonoran Preserve (16,000) in Scottsdale, Ariz., Cullen Park (9,270) in Houston
  • Oldest parks in the 100 largest cities: Boston Common, Boston (1634), Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia (1682), Battery Park, New York (1686), Military Park, Newark, N.J. (1697).
  • City parks with the most visitors: Central Park, New York (37.5 million), Lincoln Park, Chicago (20 million), Mission Bay Park, San Diego (16.5 million).
  • City Park Agencies that own the most land outside the city limits: Denver (14,221 acres), Albuquerque (10,884), Colorado Springs (6,811).

These and more are available in the report or in separately downloadable PDF and Excel files at http://cityparksurvey.tpl.org/reports.  There is no charge for any of this information.

Earlier this year, TPL launched its ParkScore project, which ranks the park systems of the nation’s 40 largest cities.  Using computerized mapping technology plus some data from City Park Facts, TPL gave highest rankings (4.5 “Park Benches” out of 5) to San Francisco and Sacramento.  (To see the full rankings, click here: https://cityparksblog.org/2012/05/23/what-is-your-citys-parkscore)