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New Public and Private Funding Strategies for Urban Parks

By Catherine Nagel. Originally published: Meeting of the Minds 

Across the country, urban parks are enjoying a renaissance. Dozens of new parks are being built or restored and cities are being creative about how and where they are located. Space under highways, on old rail infrastructure, reclaimed industrial waterfronts or even landfills are all in play as development pressure on urban land grows along with outdoor recreation needs.

These innovative parks are helping cities face common challenges, from demographic shifts, to global competitiveness to changing climate conditions. Mayors and other city officials are taking a fresh look at parks to improve overall community health and sense of place, strengthen local economies by attracting new investments and creating jobs, help manage storm water run-off,  improve air quality,  and much more. When we think of city parks holistically, accounting for their full role in communities, they become some of the smartest investments we can make. Continue reading

The Power of City Parks

By Catherine Nagel, originally posted: Toro Grounds for Success

Nearly 80 percent of Americans live in urban and metropolitan areas. For them, city parks are an important part of everyday life, as places where children play, families recreate, and neighbors come together. For those who don’t have backyards, these local parks are often the closest experience to nature available. But beyond their outdoor recreation and community role, city parks also support local economies, offer transportation solutions and reduce environmental impacts such as storm water runoff.

Urban planners, elected officials and community advocates recognize these benefits and are taking a fresh look at city parks as powerful tools for supporting healthy, resilient and economically competitive cities.

Continue reading

Greater & Greener in Minneapolis & St. Paul

lighthouse

Not too many park systems have their own lighthouses…

falls

St. Anthony falls on the Mississippi

We’re just six weeks away from the start of the Greater & Greener Urban Parks Conference in Minneapolis and St. Paul and we want to encourage you to attend.  You can register on the website.

realbridge

hike/bike trail footbridge over a stream that empties into the Mississippi.

Recently, the Trust for Public Land held their first all-staff in person meeting in many, many years on the campus of the University of Minnesota and we were able to enjoy a little of these two great park systems. The weather was great and it should be an amazing conference there.  We’re posting a few pictures of what we saw to encourage you to register and join us. (The Trust for Public Land is a sponsor and will be well represented at the Conference. And of course, the City Parks Alliance is the presenter of the Greater & Greener Conference.

bridge

trail and steps leading back to the Grand Rounds trail system

bikecoop

building1

Great architecture can be found in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

What City Planners Can Learn From St. Paul’s Parque Castillo

By Catherine Nagel. Originally published: NextCity 

In St. Paul, Minnesota’s Parque Castillo, local artist Craig David is creating an installation celebrating the life of the late activist Nicholas Castillo, the park’s namesake. David is carving the benches that will surround the park’s “Celebration Lawn,” a grassy area that is part of a larger park makeover.

City parks have always served as a forum for cultural exchange and expression. Parque Castillo, and the new installation, are prime examples of a fresh direction in park design and programming known as creative placemaking. Creative placemaking seeks not only to renew important community landmarks like Parque Castillo, but to imbue them with a deeper sense of place that engages residents by celebrating local culture.

Craig David’s art depicts local Latino history, culture and the inspiring activism of Castillo and others who shaped the community. Thanks to his vision the park is infused with a cultural context that gives it soul. So compelling is this integration of public space and art space that park commissioners and Craig David recently earned the Toro Urban Park Innovation Award to help fund the project.

parque castillo plan

Continue reading

Prioritizing Equity in Planning (and Paying for) City Parks

By Catherine Nagel, originally published: NextCity.

It has been said that no great city is truly great unless it has great parks. When we think of our nation’s leading cities, it is the iconic parks — Central Park in New York, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Millennium Park in Chicago, Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Griffith Park in Los Angeles and Boston Common — that leap to mind. Beyond these singular parks, however, a broader view of city park “systems” reveals a more nuanced portrait, one tinted by inequity in funding and facilities.

Thousands of lesser-known neighborhood parks are the backbone of America’s park system. Often, they are the nearest — and sometimes the only — natural environment available for urban communities. Yet, despite their importance, public agencies struggle to meet the basic budgetary maintenance and programming needs of these parks. All too often, this equity imbalance falls along racial and economic lines.

Over the past several decades, the funding landscape for urban parks has changed dramatically through public-private partnerships that are taking on a greater role in park design, programming and operations. While philanthropic and civic sector investments have helped fill a growing need for outdoor recreation opportunities, especially in downtown areas, similar investment from public and non-traditional sources is needed, as well. Continue reading