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The Value of Volunteers in City Parks

Every year, we ask a series of questions in the 100 largest US cities about parks. We ask those questions of city, county, state and federal parks agencies as well as non-profit partners including park foundations, park friends group, park conservancies and business improvement districts (BIDs). Since 2008, we have asked for volunteering numbers. We have not, to date, reported on these numbers in our annual City Park Facts. We wanted to share the latest years results since we think it’s pretty impressive.

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Planting in Republic Square, Austin

Overall, we had 85 out of the 100 largest cities submit volunteer numbers.

All told, over 16.4 million volunteer hours were recorded, up from 15.5 million hours recorded in 2015.

These hours are equal to 7,895 additional full-time staff that would need to be hired by the 100 largest cities. [This was calculated using the following formula: one full-time staff person works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year or 2,080 hours per year. We realize that this is a very conservative calculation.]

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Volunteers, Barton Creek Greenbelt, Austin

Another way to look at the contribution of volunteer hours is to assign a monetary value to them. We did this using numbers from Independent Sector. Independent Sector calculates the value of volunteering by state annually, so the amount varies in many of the 100 largest US cities, with the latest national (overall) value being $23.56 per hour. So, those 16.4 million volunteer hours are worth $411 Million using 2015 amounts.

In the meantime, we’re looking for volunteer reports from the following cities (park agencies, park conservancies, friends groups, BIDs, etc. working with volunteers) – Boise, Buffalo, Chesapeake, Chula Vista, El Paso, Fremont, Garland, Gilbert, Honolulu, Irvine, Irving, Laredo, Lubbock, Reno, and  Richmond.

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming in April to tpl.org (weblink: https://www.tpl.org/keywords/center-city-park-excellence)  If you have questions or comments about this or other city park facts, contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

The continued rise of skate parks

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The Dish at Hilltop Park in San Francisco

Skate parks remain one of the fastest growing park facilities in the 100 largest US cities. Over 141 skate parks have been constructed since we started surveying city parks departments about them in 2010. There are 365 now, with 30 opening in the past year. That’s an 8 percent increase over 2016.

In terms of total numbers, Los Angeles has the most with 35, with New York City in second place with 25 and San Antonio rounding out third with 15. In terms of our standardized “per 100,000 resident” counts that we use in City Park Facts, however, Chula Vista, California is #1 with 3 skate parks per 100,000 residents, Sacramento close behind with 2.7 and Henderson, Nevada with 2.5.

Skate parks are expensive to build, but are built to last with highly specialized construction requirements. The Tony Hawk Foundation helps many cities fund skate park design and construction. They report that over 572 skateparks have received funding and that those parks see over 5.5 million visits annually.[1] The Trust for Public Land, working with San Francisco Recreation and Parks, recently completed a revitalization of Hilltop Park, which includes the famous Dish skate park, in San Francisco.

More importantly, skate parks serve a niche of pre-teen and teens that are often under served by city parks and recreation departments. Further, they are often “self-governing” with friends groups organizing around times of day for skaters of different abilities to ride and keeping the parks organized and safe.

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming in April to tpl.org.  You can reach the City for City Park Excellence with questions or comments at ccpe@tpl.org

More skate park projects from The Trust for Public Land:

Watts Serenity Park (2015) – A packed house for park’s debut in Watts

Hilltop Park (2015) – New life for a skateboarding landmark

[1] – Tony Hawk Foundation website: http://tonyhawkfoundation.org/

The Creative Culture of Parks: Moving from Pop-ups to Permanent

Can pop-up parks and public space projects trigger investment in new public parks?  Is there a role for community-generated projects in the formal planning process?

ccop2The Miami Foundation is working to find out with its Miami Public Space Challenge, now going into its fifth year.  The Public Space Challenge uncovers the best ideas for creating, improving and activating parks, plazas, and local gathering places. Since 2013 more than 1,432 project submissions have been made and $870,000 awarded for 70 projects.  Continue reading

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!