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The Importance of Public Space

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The following blog from Nelson Beckford, Senior Program Officer, A Strong Neighborhood Saint Luke’s Foundation, was originally published on Let’s Talk Philanthropy: a blog by Philanthropy Ohio.  

By definition, a public space is a social space that is open and accessible to people. Streets, public squares, plazas, parks and beaches are examples of public spaces. These spaces are a social utility or public good because they:

  • Promote democracy, inclusion and social cohesion allowing people from various socio-economic backgrounds to share common ground to celebrate, recreate, to remember, to reflect or protest.
  • Define a city or neighborhood, think Golden Gate Park, Public Square, Washington Square Park – the spaces are reflections of the values, culture and history of a place. Ditto with the simple neighborhood park.
  • Promote active living; when people live close to a park or trail, they walk more.

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These are just a few of reasons that drove the Saint Luke’s Foundation along with Philanthropy Ohio to form the Public Space Community of Practice. The members represent the full spectrum of public space work from funding, research, land disposition, land acquisition, planning, design and programming. The goal of the group is broad but simple: to reflect and learn from the multiple efforts happening in Cleveland around public spaces.

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We opened our first gathering with this check in question: “Public Spaces are important because____.”  From there we did some context setting, framing and highlighted public space efforts happening at various scales and across sectors, from a memorial pocket in honor of a police officer – Derrick Owens – killed in the line of duty, to a large-scale intergenerational playscape. We also gave a sneak preview of the landmark research effort – National Park Study – conducted by City Parks Alliance, the National Institute for Health and the RAND Corporation.

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Stay tuned for more information and/or opt in for one of the few remaining seats available on the Philanthropy Forward ‘17 “Why Parks Matter” learning tour where we will explore parks and public spaces that work and those that could better serve their nearby residents. If you haven’t registered, click here to sign up.

I challenge foundation staff and board to reflect on how our work (regardless of type of funding priorities/focus) touches on or is influenced by public spaces. As a member of society, take a moment to think about the value you, your family or neighbors get from the public spaces. Discuss.

 

Let’s Pass a Law to Fund Urban Greenspaces

By Nanette Barragán (D-San Pedro)

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There’s nothing like greenspace for improving our quality of life.

Unfortunately, too many families and children are denied access to a neighborhood park. They may also lack recreational facilities like basketball courts.

Greenspaces and outdoor recreation aren’t luxuries. The most livable cities are dotted by parks, and they return countless health and economic benefits. Recreation brings out people from across the community. Urban open spaces make areas more appealing to live and invest in.

Continue reading

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

Greater & Greener in Minneapolis & St. Paul

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Not too many park systems have their own lighthouses…

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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.

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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.

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trail and steps leading back to the Grand Rounds trail system

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

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