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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.

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ASCE Infrastructure Report Card on Parks

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers puts together an National Insfrastructure Report Card assigning individual letter grades on a variety of insfrastructure categories and an overall letter grade on the USA infrastructure overall.

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Since 2005, Public Parks and Recreation have been one of the categories evaluated, earning a C- grade for 2005, 2009 and 2013. Sadly, in 2017, it’s gone to a D+, which mirrors the national overall grade. You can read the highlights of the report here and download a full copy here.

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A couple of key points here. First, the ASCE considers public parks and recreation as infrastructure, providing a wide variety of environmental and economic services, as we all know.  One example highlighted by the report is the work of the Trust for Public Land in Newark, NJ along the Passaic River, developing the Newark Riverfront Park.

Second, they focus primarily on federal and state reporting of parks – primarily drawing on work done by the National Park Service and supporting non-profit foundations, as well as State park systems. US city park systems aren’t included, but the Trust for Public Land through the Center for City Park Excellence will work to provide that information through our City Park Facts and ParkScore projects.

More importantly, they recommend a number of action items, including one that the Trust for Public Land and the City Parks Alliance are actively advocating for, including the reauthorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support acquisition of land and easements on land at the federal, state, and local levels.  

More of their recommendations are here. 

Questions, comments?  Contact the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land via email at ccpe@tpl.org

 

 

 

Your Input Needed: Are public golf courses being converted to Parks?

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Applewood Golf Course, Golden, Colorado – photo credit: Brian Melody

Back in 2011, the Center for City Park Excellence wrote about a growing number of public golf courses being converted to parks.  In advance of the April release of the 2017 City Park Facts, we’re looking for more recent examples of US cities converting their golf courses to parks, so if you know of a recent example, please write to us at ccpe@tpl.org.

Here’s why we’re asking.

We’ve continued to hear about the closing of many privately owned golf courses over the last decade or so, the current total number of golf courses (according to a 2015 study by The R & A titled “Golf Around the World” is currently 15,372, down from a high of 16,052 courses around the year 2000.  We do know of many stories documenting  the transformation of  private golf courses into public parks. In fact, the Trust for Public Land was a partner in acquisition projects in Portland, Oregon,  Rancho Canada, California, and Golden, Colorado.

That said, the number of public golf courses in the 100 largest cities is currently 413, but the net decrease over the past five years is just three. Some cities have closed or transferred ownership and some cities have built or rebuilt golf courses as well.

Do you have an example or a story about new uses for a public golf course?  Let us know at ccpe@tpl.org.

The Frontline Parks of 2016

Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship. The program highlights parks and programs that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges facing city park professionals and their communities. In 2016 we focused on successful park partnerships including local museums, fire departments or transportation agencies.

City parks play a vital role in the social, economic and physical well-being of America’s cities and their residents. As cities become more densely populated, planners, elected officials, and community advocates are taking a fresh look at parks and their potential to help address critical urban infrastructure and public health issues. City parks provide access to recreational opportunities, increase property values, spur local economies, combat crime, and protect cities from environmental impacts. Parks are now recognized as powerful tools for urban communities and local economies and our 2016 Frontline Parks are great examples for cities of all sizes.

As we gear up for a new round of features, we want to congratulate all of our 2016 Frontline Parks and we hope they inspire you to nominate your favorite park in 2017!

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Buhl Community Park
(Pittsburgh, PA)
The Children’s Museum teamed up with the community to turn a dilapidated plaza into a new park. Best museum entrance ever!

 

 

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Crissy Field
(San Francisco, CA)
It’s hard to believe now, but this section of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was a military airfield before it was cleaned up and restored. A+ view.

 

 

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Kathryn Albertson Park
(Boise, ID)
This gem in a ribbon of parks named for prominent Boise women was designed as a sanctuary for migratory birds and other wildlife.

 

 

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Avalon & Gage Park
(Los Angeles, CA)
A partnership between community members, the city, and a land trust turned this traffic island into a much needed park and playground.

 

 

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Buffalo Bayou
(Houston, TX)
The re-greening of Houston begins with the bayou. Take a pontoon boat tour to see the full scope of this network of waterways and parks.

 

 

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Westown Commons Park
(Grand Rapids, MI)
Thanks to a new tax levy and community volunteer effort, Westown Commons has an updated look, more visitors, and a popular new skate park.

 

 

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Frogtown Park & Farm
(Saint Paul, MN)
Why stop at gardening? The residents of this diverse community have a new park for recreation, and a working 5-acre farm for growing produce. Attending Greater & Greener, sign up for a tour!

 

 

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Buchanan Mall
(San Francisco, CA)
This activation project is revitalizing a stretch of parkland for 30,000 people in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco.

 

 

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Webber Park
(Minneapolis, MN)
Three words: Natural. Swimming. Pool. Go to Webber Park when the ground thaws, or as part of your Greater & Greener experience next summer.

 

 

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Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge
(Fort Worth, TX)
This park partnered with the fire department for prescribed burns, keeping the park clear of fire fuel and urban firefighters prepared for extinguishing property-threatening wildfires.

 

 

Bremen Street Park
East Boston Greenway
(Boston, MA)
Not only does it link new, old, and improved parks together, the Greenway also allows bike and pedestrian access to three ‘T’ stations as well as Logan Airport.

 

 

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Tanner Springs Park
(Portland, OR)
This model of park sustainability sits atop a former railyard and brownfield in northwest Portland. It’s a nice, quiet place to read those new books from Powell’s.

 

 

The Frontline Parks program is made possible by DuMor, Inc. and PlayCore.

4 Reasons to #OptOutside and be Thankful for Parks

Parks are where people gather on weekends to relax, exercise, play, and connect with their community. They are where children first experience nature. But beyond their role in recreation and social well-being, city parks also help grow local economies, create new transportation options, combat crime, and reduce environmental impacts such as storm water runoff.

On Black Friday, November 25, REI is suggesting everyone #OptOutside and we agree. Here are a few reasons why we think it’s a great time to give thanks for your local park!

PrintParks Keep Us Healthy
Parks are an ideal place for movement, providing the room needed for running, walking, sports, and other active pursuits, which are all things we need to do to live longer, healthier lives. And to work off that Thanksgiving dinner.

Parks Keep Our Air and Water Clean
In addition to creating a habitat for urban wildlife, tree cover in parks improve the air quality by absorbing carbon dioxide and pollutants. And a park’s green infrastructure — like vegetation and grassy areas— helps clean our water by capturing and filtering stormwater runoff.

PrintParks Improve Economies
It’s no secret that people love living near parks. Not only do parks raise property values, a good park system spurs local investment and can attract a better workforce by offering an excellent quality of life.

Parks Bring Communities Together
Parks can connect individuals of all ages and backgrounds by providing a space for them to meet and get to know each other. They’re a natural meeting space, whether you’re warming up for a group run, playing pickup basketball, or celebrating a neighborhood birthday party.

Interested in learning more? Download our new infographics and make the case for urban parks!