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City Parks: Important Foundation for Youth

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By Catherine Nagel. Originally posted on Together We Play

As more people are moving back to urban areas, the importance of close-to-home parks is increasing – perhaps most for children. For those who don’t have a backyard to play in, the local park serves myriad functions: a portal to experiencing the natural world, a community hub where families and neighbors get to know each other, and a place for outdoor learning to help build skills of all kinds through organized activities.  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. Urban planners, elected officials, and community advocates recognize these benefits and are taking a fresh look at parks as an important part of civic infrastructure. Continue reading

City Park Facts: Volunteering in Parks

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Volunteers on the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Austin, TX 2011

In our press release announcing the 2017 edition of City park facts, we focused on the role and the importance of volunteers working in park systems in our 100 largest US cities. We have not reported this information in prior years, but we’ve included it in the downloadable spreadsheets at www.tpl.org/cityparkfacts/  We also wanted to expand upon the data a bit this blog post.

Volunteers in parks and recreation perform a wide of variety of roles, from coaches, referees and volunteer groundkeepers to helping plant, weed, mulch and water.  Volunteers work alongside park staff as individuals and groups.

So, here are theshighlights of the impact that volunteers make in our park systems by highlighting the results in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016:

Volunteer hours have risen from 9.8M in 2008 to 16.4M in 2016.  (It was 11.2M in 2010 and 15.5M in 2013.)

The value of those hours has risen from $206M in 2008 to $411M in 2016.  The value is calculated using data from Independent Sector, which calculuates the value of an hour of volunteer time by state every year.  (It was $250M in 2010 and $282M in 2013.)

Assuming that a full-time parks staffer worked 2,080 hours a year (40 hours times 52 weeks), volunteer hours are equal to an additional 4,733 full-time positions in 2008, growing to 7,895 positions in 2016. (It was 5,391 positions in 2010 and 7,440 positions in 2013.)

Looking at the value of volunteer hours as a percentage of the operational budget for parks in the 100 largest US cities, it was 4.1 percent in 2008, growing to 5.8 percent in 2016.

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 their continued help and involvement. The staff of the Center for City Park Excellence 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

Off-Leash Dog Parks

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Infographic from City Park Facts, 2017

Off-leash dog parks continue to grow in number in the 100 largest cities in the US, with 731 reported in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, an increase of 29 new dog parks since 2016.  Leading the pack in terms of numbers are New York City with 133, San Francisco with 32, Portland, Oregon with 33 and Las Vegas with 26.

In terms of our “per 100,000 resident” counts, however, Boise is first with 6.8 dog parks per 100,000 residents. In second place, Henderson, Nevada is tied with Portland, Oregon with 5.3 dog parks per 100,000 residents; Norfolk, Virgina is #3 with 4.9, Las Vegas and Madison, Wisconsin are #4 with 4.1, and San Francisco is #5 with 3.8 dog parks per 100,000 residents.

Unique among many dog parks are the communities of friends group that organize to help both manage and maintain the spaces as well as fostering community. One of the biggest challenges is keeping the areas, um, poo-free. Milling about with fellow neighbors and neighbors’ dogs creates a certain kind of “peer pressure” that encourages everyone to be mindful. And we’ve heard this phrase more than once from dog park organizers: “Its probably not your dog, but pick it up anyway!”

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming April 20 to tpl.org. If you have questions or comments about this or other city park facts, contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

 

Please Be Seated

By Charlie McCabe

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Parc Centre chairs and tables, The Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston

Last year, the Center for City Park Excellence wrote a great article titled “If It Doesn’t Have a Bench, Is It Still a Park?” that appeared in Parks and Recreation Magazine (you can download it here.

The good news is that benches aren’t the only seating possibility in our parks and public spaces.

My personal experience in working in parks in Austin, TX, Boston, MA, and  New York City has certainly given me the opportunity to consider (and fix, sand, re-paint, and clean) many a bench. While park benches are iconic, more and more parks and public spaces in cities and towns across the United States are using moveable chairs. Over the past decade, I’ve used three different types of these chairs, and thought it would be helpful to weigh in on the pros and cons of each and why you should consider moveable chairs for your park or public space.

We’ll always have Paris The moveable seating movement (if you will) came from several parks in Paris, most notably Luxembourg Gardens. The bistro chair, often paired with small round tables and manufactured by Fermob , is portable, foldable, and easy to move and manage. With the re-birth of Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan, this became the chair of choice and about 10 years ago, cost about $35 each, making them reasonably affordable and relatively easy to replace.  [Currently, the metal bistro chair is just over $108 retail.] Fermob has a wide variety of chairs and tables; another style we see more and more in city parks and in public spaces is the Luxembourg (as in Garden) side chair, which currently retails for about $350.

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Fermob Bistro Chairs (and Tables), The Boston Common.

Midwestern Roots

A more recent competitor is the Parc Centre Chair by Landscape Forms. More durable than the Fermob Bistro chair, as well as easy to slide across park spaces and stackable, they are also very durable and cost about $245 each, retail.There’s also a matching table in varying sizes which cost up to $690 retail. The design is such that it’s hard to stack and carry more than two, which makes them much more likely to stay put.

I’ve seen the Parc Center chairs in many colors in parks and plazas across the US in the past few years; I would bet they are the most popular currently. You can’t go wrong–if you can afford them.

Inexpensive yet trendy

The Plastic Resin Adirondack Chair rounds out our options. Weighing in at just a few pounds, they cost $20 and are able to seat people up to 250 pounds. You can buy five for the price of one Fermob Bistro chair or 12 for the price of one Parc Centre chair. No, they won’t last as long and yes, they can walk away. But, there are so many of them out there in our cities and towns that they probably won’t, and, they are very awkward to carry, which make it harder for them to be “liberated.”

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Relaxing in Adirondack Chairs, Dewey Square Park, Boston

These are my “go-to” option currently, as they allow you to experiment with seating in parks and plazas where there currently isn’t any. And, they are stackable and lockable to pass the “300 pound drunk sailor rule”–a common saying by the Director of Operations for a park where I used to work.

One caveat: some people think they’re tacky. Maybe, but with careful color choice and good care they will provide long lasting and attractive seating anywhere, for even the lowest budget.

Lock things up

After spending plenty of money on park seating, the last thing that you want to do is lose what you have.  Generally, the ability to stack the seating and use loop cabling and a strong padlock will do the trick.  For any of the chairs, just stack them so the pile is too heavy to pick up. Then, slip a cable around the seat and through the back opening and secure it with a padlock.

For the Parc Centre Chairs and Tables, put four chairs around the table and use a cable that pulls one leg of each chair tight under the table and secure it with a padlock.  The Rose Kennedy Greenway uses this approach and it works great, since the combined weight of the table and four chairs is at least several hundred pounds.

Do you have a favorite chair for parks and public spaces? Or more questions?  Write us at ccpe@tpl.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