• 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

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.

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

Why Urban Parks Are Essential Infrastructure

As we talk about rebuilding our infrastructure, we need to remember that parks are as important to our cities as roads and bridges.

By Catherine Nagel, originally published: Voices of the Governing Institute

The new presidential administration has signaled a strong desire to rebuild our infrastructure, especially in our cities. This is sparking a renewed and welcome national conversation on how to make it happen. But along with roads, rails, bridges and water systems, let’s remember the profound role that city parks play as a necessary ingredient in those plans. Urban parks are not luxuries; they are essential infrastructure for 21st century cities.

Nearly 80 percent of Americans live in urban areas. Increasingly, many of our cities are challenged by aging water and transportation systems that are nearing or exceeding their designed capacity. Complicating the picture, a new focus on environmental resilience to flooding and other natural disasters is driving city planners to more strongly consider “mixed-use” infrastructure. Urban parks are the very definition of mixed use.  Continue reading

ParkScore: St. Paul is #2

ParkScore badges_Instagram_2017_2 St. Paul

Repeating their number 2 position again in 2017 is St. Paul Parks & Recreation! Congratulations!  St. Paul has a park within a ten-minute walk of 96 percent of their citizens, with 15 percent of the city as parkland and a median park size of 3.7 acres.  You can check out all of the details here or check out their map here.

You can experience all that St. Paul has to offer in their award winning Parks department by attending the City Parks Alliance Greater & Greener International Urban Parks Conference July 29-August 2. Over 1,000 parks advocates, designers, programmers, planners and professionals will be there and it’s a great way to learn more about what our urban parks are doing.

mears-park-st-paul

Mears Park, downtown St. Paul

And check out The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore with the 2017 rankings of the 100 largest US city park systems. Questions? contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

st-paul-bikeway

Separated bikway nearing completion in downtown St. Paul.

.

 

ParkScore: Minneapolis is #1

ParkScore badges_Instagram_2017_1 Minneapolis

Congratulations to the Minneapolis Parks Board and the City of Minneapolis for being number one for the FIFTH year in a row! Minneapolis has a park within a ten-minute walk of 97 percent of their citizens, with 15 percent of the city as parkland and a median park size of 6.6 acres.  You can check out all of the details here or check out their map here.

Click on the photo to view the Minneapolis ParkScore profile and score results or here.

Better yet, make plans to join 1,000 park advocates, planners, programmers and managers at the Greater & Greener Parks Conference in Minneapolis and St. Paul (#2) July 29-August 2 and see the number 1 and 2 city parks systems for yourself.

Sheridan Memorial Park_Trust for Public Land Event_05-24-2017_61H

Micheal Langley (Greater MSP), Charlie McCabe (The Trust for Public Land), Jayne Miller (Minneapolis Parks Board) and Melvin Tennant (MeetMinneapolis) celebrate the fifth #1 win in a row)