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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.

 

Atlanta Parks Visit

by Charlie McCabe

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The great lawn at Piedmont Park in Atlanta

In late June, I visited Atlanta, participating in a forum on Atlanta’s Parks hosted by Park Pride as well as several meetings organized by the Trust for Public Land’s Georgia office. Sadly, it was raining much of one of the two days that I was there, but I still managed to get out and see a number of Atlanta’s parks.

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Charlie presenting at the Park Pride forum. Yes, there were lots of charts, tables and maps. 😉

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Mural along the Beltline

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Amazing Sculpture/Swings at Piedmont Park

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Sprayground at Historic Fourth Ward Park (it was raining, so not many people out there….)

While Atlanta is ranked 50th in ParkScore, it continues to add parkland and build out a number of parks, including the Atlanta Beltline, and the forthcoming Cook Park, which is a current Trust for Public Land project, which recently held a groundbreaking.  I managed to explore a portion of the Beltline (between early evening downpours) as well as Piedmont Park, some of the Olmsted Brothers developed neighborhoors as well as Historic Fourth Ward Park.

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Rainy evening along the Beltline, with more artwork.

Our Trust for Public Land team in Georgia is working hard on both Cook Park as well as the Chattahoochee River Corridor in Atlanta.

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A big part of the function of Historic Fourth Ward Park is managing stormwater runoff, which is does really well.

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A view of the storm water ponds and system at Historic Fourth Ward Park.

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wildflowers and more murals along the Beltline

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Amazingly awesome slides at Piedmont Park.

City Park Facts: The largest city parks

Many people often think of one of the most famous city parks, Central Park in New York City, as one the biggest. Nope.  Not even in the top 20 largest city parks.

The biggest city park in the 100 largest cities in the US is McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona, weighing in at 30,500 acres.

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Photo by the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy

Below is a list of the top 18 city parks, along with links to their websites for additional information. (Note: if a park extends beyond the boundary of the city, only the acreage within the city is noted here.)

  1. McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale: 30,500 acres. [friends group: McDowell Sonoran Conservancy]
  2. South Mountain Preserve, Phoenix: 16,306 acres.
  3. Sonoran Preserve, Phoenix: 9,487 acres.
  4. Cullen Park, Houston: 9,270 acres.
  5. Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego: 6,932 acres.
  6. Jefferson Memorial Forest, Louisville: 6,218 acres.
  7. Lake Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City: 6,190 acres.
  8. Forest Park, Portland, Or: 5,172 acres. [friends group: Forest Park Forever]
  9. Lake Houston Wilderness Park, Houston: 4,787 acres.
  10. Shooting Range Park, Albuquerque: 4,596 acres.
  11. Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis: 4,284 acres. [friends group: Eagle Creek Park Foundation]
  12. Griffith Park, Los Angeles: 4,282 acres.
  13. Loblolly Mitigation Preserve, Jacksonville: 4,201 acres.
  14. Mission Bay Park, San Diego: 4,108 acres.
  15. Far North Bicentennial Park, Anchorage: 3,924 acres. [friends group: Anchorage Park Foundation]
  16. Piestewa Park, Phoenix: 3,766 acres.
  17. Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, Fort Worth: 3,630 acres.
  18. Rio Grande Valley State Park, Albuquerque: 3,186 acres.

City Parks Facts 2017 will be released on April 19, 2017 at www.tpl.org.

City Park Facts is a collaboration between the many city, county, state and nonprofit parks agencies and conservancies that work with us to submit their data and we appreciate your continued help and involvment. The staff of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land works to present this information in a thorough yet easy-to-use format, and your feedback is important for future editions. You can contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

Follow our new twitter feed @CityParkFacts

 

Disc Golf: Steady Growth

Have you played disc golf? It shares a lot in common with [regular] golf. A great video overview is here. A wikipedia overview of Disc Golf is here. But, the best way to learn is to head out with a group of golfers and try your hand (and wrist) at it.

According to our latest surveys of the 100 largest US cities, there are 186 disc golf courses in parks, with 51 new courses built and opened since we started collecting data on disc golf in 2013.

Which city is the capital of Disc Golf? In terms of sheer numbers, Charlotte boasts 14 courses, Houston in second place with six courses and Austin and Kansas City tied for third place with five courses each.

But in terms of courses per 100,000 residents, Tulsa (7 courses) leads the way with 1.7 courses per 100,000 residents, with Durham (4 courses) at 1.6 and Charlotte (14 courses) at 1.3, tied with Lexington, KY (4 courses), also at 1.3.  Overall, there are 186 disc golf courses in the 100 largest US cities, rising from 138 in 2013 when we began surveying cities about them.

And for those who want to know more about the professional side of things, visit the Professional Disc Golf association website. They report that there are over 5,000 disc golf courses in the United States, with “most open to the public.”

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/