• 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

Wintertime in our Parks

As we rush headlong into a week bookended by two long holiday weekends, we might not think first of what continues to happen in our parks, whether we’re in the colder northern parts of the United States or the warmer southern reaches. Increasingly, there are more and more outdoor activities during the winter months that you can enjoy in parks across the United States. So, dress appropriately and come out to work off that eggnog and pie!

2016-12-09_-_Winter_Village_General_-_Colin_Miller_(7)1

Photo courtesy of  Bryant Park

Ice Skating is a long-standing popular activity.  Close our Boston office is the Frog Pond on the Boston Common. Also popular are the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and Bryant Park in New York City. New on horizon, with a twist is bumper cars on ice at the ice skating rink in downtown Providence, Rhode Island.

FrogPondSlideshowWinterSceneSnow940px

Picture courtesy of Frog Pond, Boston Common

San Francisco is another city that combines ice skating with a variety of other activities during the holiday week at Embarcadero Plaza, a variety of free activities are offered on selected days with Tuesdays for Disc Golfing, Wednesdays: Skateboarding, Thursdays: Rock Climbing, Fridays: Skateboarding, and Saturdays for Slacklining.

25396254_10155987420333599_8308724365910841029_n

Winterfest at the Arch (courtesy of Gateway Arch Park)

Not to be outdone, Gateway Arch Park in Saint Louis Winterfest at the Arch at the Kiener Plaza in downtown Saint Louis from December 21st through January 1st has a skating along with special events including food trucks, live music, and giveaways.

slide-skijoring-2

Skijoring in With Park (courtesy of the Loppet Foundation)

The Minneapolis Park Board partners with the Loppet Foundation to sponsor winter activities including cross-country skiing, hiking and skijoring in Wirth Park in Minneapolis.

Later this winter, Saint Paul will host their annual Winter Carnival (Jan 25-Feb 10) and they are working to raise funds to build a multi-story peoples’ ice palace. The center of activities is Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul.

 

There’s many, many more activities and events planned and we’d love to hear about them as we’re (the Center for City Park Excellence at The Trust for Public Land) working to compile a longer report on winter activities in city parks. Please contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

 

 

Park Signage: 2017

I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of cities and their park systems in 2017 through my work with The Trust for Public Land as well as in my spare time.  I love examining the features of parks and have been paying close attention to signage in the past few years. I wanted to share a few of the many park signs that I saw in the past year as a fun end of the year retrospective.

– Charlie McCabe, Center for City Park Excellence, The Trust for Public Land.

 

The signage shown above is from the following cities: Albuquerque, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Dallas, Gloucester, Houston, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St John (NB, Canada), St. Paul, San Francisco.

 

 

 

Park Profile: Underground at Ink Block

A few years ago, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) decided to create some public space out of the darkened areas under the 1-93 overhead highway just south of downtown Boston.  It wasn’t the first place you’d expect a new public space.

SouthEnd_SouthBoston_UG+map+HD

Location of Underground at Ink Block in Boston (from their website)

ink-under-mural-path-veg

Murals on highway retaining walls and on the hike and bike footpaths.

The space that they had in mind was surrounded by commuter rail lines running to nearby South Station, waterfront along Fort Point Channel, and South Boston on the other side, and surface streets and the rapidly revitalizing “New York Streets” section of the South End of Boston, home to both restored factory buildings as well as new development.

ink-plantedarea

One of the landscaped rain garden / storm water garden areas.

The resulting 8-acre Underground at Ink Block, which formally opened in the fall of 2017, is part park, part water garden/filtration system, part art project, part paid parking lot, part-secured bike storage, and part dog park – all nestled under I-93 in between the South End and South Boston, owned by MassDOT,  and operated by a local property owner, National Development

ink-mural-pathB

The parking lot provides weekly parking (and resulting) revenue as well as an expanded area to hold weekend festivals, when the need for parking isn’t so great.  A series of murals, to be updated on a regular basis, cover highway retaining walls, the foot paths in and out of the Underground, as well as storage containers and electrical service utility boxes.

ink-mural-wall-c

Then there’s the goal of managing storm water. Downspouts from the highway above are channeled into a new of large, landscaped water gardens that hold runoff and slowly release it back into the ground via drains.  Signage explains how the system works.

ink-raingarden1

One of the largest rain garden / storm water garden areas.

stormwater-mgt-sign

Stormwater Management – Interpretive Signage

ink-signB

How highway maintenance is performed without damaging the park and gardens.

ink-waterfront-bostonskyline

Waterfront path and views (looking north)

ink-dogpark

Dog park double gate and “king of the mountain” mound directly behind.

ink-waterfront-look-south

Paths along Fort Point Channel, looking south.

For further information on the Underground at Ink Block, visit the official website or Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

How big or small are parks in US cities?

republicnow

For our work on the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore, we know the median size of a park in the 100 largest US cities is 3.8 acres.  We recently got a request to calculate how parks break down in size amongst the 100 largest cities.  We looked at the data a number of different ways, and how it differs based on city population as well as density.  Here’s what we found.

Overall for the 100 largest US cities (includes all public parkland, regardless of ownership by city, county, state and federal governments)

  • .25 (or less) acre: 12.3%
  • .25 to 1 acre: 16.3%
  • 1 to 2 acres: 11.1%
  • 2 to 5 acres: 17.6%
  • 5 to 7 acres: 6.9%
  • 7 to 10 acres: 7.6%
  • 10 to 15 acres: 6.9%
  • greater than 15 acres: 28.2%

We wondered if there was a difference in these breakdowns for cities with larger populations versus small populations, so we did some additional analysis.

For cities with populations in the 600,000 to 800,000 range (Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Seattle, Washington, DC.), we found the following:

  • .25 (or less) acre: 16.6%
  • .25 to 1 acre: 19.5%
  • 1 to 2 acres: 10.7%
  • 2 to 5 acres: 16.6%
  • 5 to 7 acres: 6.1%
  • 7 to 10 acres: 6.9%
  • 10 to 15 acres: 5.3%
  • greater than 15 acres: 18.2%

For cities with populations under 250,000 (Arlington (VA), Baton Rouge, Boise, Chesapeake, Fremont, Garland, Glendale, Hialeah, Irving, Norfolk, North Las Vegas, Reno, Richmond, Scottsdale, Winston-Salem), we found the following:

  • .25 (or less) acre: 6%
  • .25 to 1 acre: 14.6%
  • 1 to 2 acres: 10.7%
  • 2 to 5 acres: 20.1%
  • 5 to 7 acres: 8.6%
  • 7 to 10 acres: 9.2%
  • 10 to 15 acres: 9.1%
  • greater than 15 acres: 21.9%

Finally, we also looked at cities with lower population densities* (10 to 15 persons per acre) and found the following:

  • .25 (or less) acre: 17.2%
  • .25 to 1 acre: 19.5%
  • 1 to 2 acres: 10.9%
  • 2 to 5 acres: 15.5%
  • 5 to 7 acres: 5.5%
  • 7 to 10 acres: 6.9%
  • 10 to 15 acres: 5.6%
  • greater than 15 acres: 19%

(*-includes Anahiem, Arlington (VA), Baltimore, Buffalo, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Oakland, Seattle.)

Stay tuned for further analysis as we dig into our ParkServe index. (7700 cities, towns and communities rated for 10 minute walk to a park access.)  Below is a screen shot showing results from suburban Boston.

Arlington-map-big

Giving thanks for our city parks

It’s the busiest travel day of the year as I write this, and I’m looking out from my window at the Trust for Public Land offices in Boston over the historic Granary Burying Ground and its amazing canopy of trees which is a historic park and a very popular tourist destination in its own right. I can see people walking along the paths, looking for final resting places of John Hancock, Sam Adams and Paul Revere.  At some point, we’ll hear tour guides in colonial dress talking about the site and its place in history.  It’s great to have a window seat overlooking a city park, given my work at the Trust for Public Land.

acadia-steps

2017 has been filled with highs and lows, but I’m thankful for my job – researching trends, best practices and the many ways that park agencies continue to care for our urban park systems. Since late September, we have been conducting our annual city parks survey which provides the data for creation of our two big annual “publications” – City Park Facts – an almanac of the parks systems of the 100 largest U.S. cities as well as the ParkScore Index , a ranking of the park systems of those same 100 largest U.S. cities.

For the first time this year, we’re surveying several hundred non-profit park foundations and conservancies that work hand in hand with the city, county, state and federal agencies that operate, maintain and program our 2 million acres of parks in our 100 largest cities. For the nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population that lives in those cities, parks are both natural refuges as well as playgrounds for 60 million people who live in those 100 largest cities, as well as millions more in the communities that surround them.

It takes a lot of work to keep our parks and public spaces in good working order. And, a string of natural disasters have challenged our parks agencies in a number of communities for sure. Severe wind, rain and flooding have knocked parks, trails and indoor facilities out of commission for weeks and months.  Park agency employees have lost cars, their homes, and personal possessions. Tons of debris and silt have clogged waterways and linear parks with flooding. National parks, preserves and forests in Florida and Puerto Rico have been severely damaged. And then, there is the cycle of drought and flood that parts of the U.S. experience with seasonal regularity, often resulting in the loss of homes, loved ones and beloved public spaces.

That said, we as a country continue to rise to the challenge and look for ways to donate, volunteer and vote for our parks. As Adrian Benepe, SVP at the Trust for Public Land noted in a recent Huff Post piece, voters in 26 communities approved $1.5 B in bonds for parks and conservation in November elections. In both Houston and south Florida, people contributed to funds to help park staff who lost their homes and possessions with donations – over $95,000 raised in Houston and thousands raised for National Park Service staff in south Florida and the keys.

In addition, many Americans contribute their time (16.4 million hours donated to the 100 largest U.S. city parks systems in 2016 alone), and donate funds to both public and non-profit parks agencies. Here’s two things you can do for your own parks over the next week.

First, while the day after Thanksgiving is usually known as Black Friday (when the holiday shopping season begins officially) is also known as #OptOutside day, begun by REI three years ago when they decided to close all of their stores and give their employees a day off. I am planning on going on a hike, myself, but it can be any activity and if the weather is cooperating where you live, you should too!  Bring your family, friends, dogs. Take photos. Tell others. (My helpful tip – bring a trash bag and pick up any trash or recycleables that you find along the way.)

The second day is next Tuesday, November 28, as known as #GivingTuesday. Started by the 92nd Street YMCA in NYC, it is a global day of giving, with many parks and environmental non-profit organizations participating.  Please consider a donation to The Trust for Public Land and the City Parks Alliance (the two parks non-profits that bring you this blog) as well as the many great parks foundations and conservancies doing work in our cities and communities across the US. They need your help more than ever.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your parks!

remy-charlie

The author (Charlie) and one of his hiking partners (foster dog Remy)