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Thinking About Parks Globally—Speaking About Them Locally

While President Obama reports on the state of the union, mayors across the country have been delivering “state of the city” reports—and some standout themes include parks.

Memphis, Tenn., Mayor A.C. Wharton highlighted plans for a revitalized park system and a new waterfront park on a brownfield site. Describing neighborhood parks as “the backbone of our parks system,” he promised to “ensure the equitable distribution of resources and connect parks to greenlines to open up new opportunities for healthier lifestyles.” With a major parks inventory underway, and talk of new public-private partnerships with neighborhood groups to operate local parks, Memphis’s park system is an anchor of the mayor’s program to “create strong, vibrant neighborhoods.”

The new seven-acre park on the Mississippi River will replace a Lonestar concrete plant. Wharton predicted, “Before the end of the year, there will be another special place on our most important natural resource: our riverfront.”

Town Branch Commons plan

Rendering of Lexington’s planned Town Branch Commons, a new linear park. Image courtesy SCAPE.

The current of riverfront revitalization also ran strong in Lexington, Ky., where Mayor Jim Grey announced a planned linear park along the path of the Town Branch. Modeled after successful river parks in San Antonio and Oklahoma City, the proposed Town Branch Commons would daylight the buried waterway and honor its historic significance as the site of Lexington’s initial settlement. Grey heralded the park as a cornerstone in efforts to revitalize the city’s downtown, a key element in “building the experience economy” by connecting rural attractions with the urban core and creating “a great reason to work downtown, move a business downtown, live downtown, visit downtown or have fun downtown.”

North Las Vegas, Nev. Mayor Shari Buck’s State of the City address featured park projects as tools for “building a lifestyle” of stronger neighborhoods and families. With a growing adopt-a-park program, the city is focusing on completing its “Neon to Nature” recreational trail system. Buck also hailed the soon-to-open 135-acre Craig Ranch Regional Park as “a crown jewel for North Las Vegas,” noting that residents “deserve a great place to take their families, to play and to enjoy the wonderful city events that will take place there.”

Parks were recognized in several other speeches. Mayor Tom Menino of Boston heralded ongoing park renovations in West Roxbury as “investments to keep Boston a livable city for families,” while San Francisco mayor Edwin Lee applauded The Trust for Public Land’s recognition of his city as having the “best urban park system in 2012.”

Every park mention is an important step in raising the profiles of park systems and their advocates. We’ll keep listening for park references in upcoming State of the City speeches—and you can help by telling us what your mayor is saying.

Abby Martin is an intern with the Center for City Park Excellence.

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