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Denver Parks on Parade

Earlier this month, more than 30 park professionals from the US and Canada were hosted by Denver Parks and Recreation Department in collaboration with City Parks Alliance for a tour of their park system. Eighteen cities were represented, including teams from Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.

Photo courtesy of Hope Gibson

Photo courtesy of Hope Gibson

The Denver team put on a first class demonstration of their expertise in planning, design, construction and programming – from the smallest neighborhood park to Red Rocks Amphitheater, a part of Denver’s mountain parks system – and in every case showing us how a twenty-first century city parks department operates: seamlessly.

From the neighborhood partnerships to the collaboration with their own city departments to alliances with social service providers, arts and music organizations, and other parks programmers, Denver’s parks department uses and leverages all the value that parks offer and its mission can muster. Citywide partners like the Trust for Public Land – perfectly exemplifying its urban mission – and the Colorado Health Foundation are working closely with the department on many of its projects; as are local developers, transit, and bicycling partners. On some of our park visits it was hard to tell who worked for whom; in fact, most simply said they worked for the parks.

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Mexico City Parks Revival: Partnerships in Action, Part II

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Downtown Mexico City, with one of the world’s largest collections of seventeenth to nineteenth-century architecture, is working hard to reconnect its buildings and parks with pedestrians.  When our group of City Parks Alliance board members traveled to the city in October, we headed downtown after our visit to Chapultepec Park and passed through much construction – the narrowing of streets, the widening of sidewalks, and the remaking of downtown parks such as the Alameda Central.  We also had the chance to climb to the top of city hall to see its rooftop garden, and then gazed down on the main plaza in the historic center of the city, the Zόcola, a gathering place for Mexicans since the Aztec era and filled that day with a giant book fair.

In the Alameda, made iconic in the Diego Rivera mural “Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in the Alameda,” concrete sidewalks have been replaced by marble, and tarp-covered vendor stands were kicked out – a renovation that cost about $18 million.  The newly opened park, anchored by the Palacio de Bellas Artes, is green, walkable, and a respite in the midst of a bustling city.

But the most impressive re-creation we saw was the Parque Bicentenario.  With over 50 acres, the park is ten times as large as the Zόcola and sits on a former refinery site.  It was named Parque Bicentenario in recognition of the 200th anniversary of Mexico’s independence.
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The True Stars of Southern California (Part I)

By Catherine Nagel, Executive Director, City Parks Alliance

Recently, a group of City Parks Alliance members  visited a dozen park projects in Los Angeles and Orange County, as part of CPA’s 2013 Summer Tour of Parks.  We met with experts and learned about new approaches to park management, programming, funding and stewardship.  Our local hosts from the Los Angeles Park Foundation, Los Angeles Recreation and Parks Department, California State Parks Foundation, Orange County Great Park, and The Trust for Public Land led the 35-person group from 12 cities through neighborhoods, along the Los Angeles River and down to Irvine.  Scholarships and support for this year’s tour were also provided by the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.
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Brooklyn Bridge Park: New York’s Latest Innovative Harbor Attraction

One of New York’s newest parks, Brooklyn Bridge Park blends the historic with the latest in landscape innovation to create what the weblog Gothamist calls “the most spectacular and stunning addition to the city’s parks system in recent memory.” Located on the site of a former port that shuttered in the 1980s due to dramatic shifts in shipping practices, the work-in-progress park opened its first two sections in 2010, the culmination of more than 20 years of sustained community advocacy to persuade elected officials at the city and state level to support and implement an 85-acre park plan.

Sunset on the pier. Photo Credit: Julienne Schaer

The resulting master plan mixes active and passive recreation in a sustainably designed site that incorporates vestiges of its industrial past and capitalizes on the singular vistas to the harbor, bridge and Lower Manhattan skyline. With a 50-yard-line view of nearly every architectural marvel and monument New York City has to offer, it’s no wonder the park averages 60,000 visitors per summer weekend, even though its first phase of development won’t be fully completed until 2013.

Beyond the views, the park has also drawn favorable attention for its lush plantings and innovative playgrounds. The park is further distinguished by its self-sustaining financial model, which uses carefully selected development sites within the boundaries to generate revenues for its ongoing maintenance.

At this summer’s Greater & Greener: Re-Imagining Parks for 21st Century Cities, the international urban parks conference being presented by the City Parks Alliancefrom July 14 to 17, park professionals, environmental advocates and attendees from all over the world will get to see all this first hand, with several featured events taking place at Brooklyn Bridge Park to show off its various aspects, including a guided tour with planners and designers, and an outdoor screening of the documentary “Olmsted and America’s Urban Parks.”

Jane's Carousel.
Photo Credit: Julienne Schaer

New York City Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe has stated a particular fondness for Brooklyn Bridge Park, referring to it as a “true 21st Century park model,” and praises the partnership behind it. “It [the public-private model] doesn’t work in all applications, but particularly in the case of Brooklyn Bridge Park [and Hudson River Park on Manhattan’s west side], the properties were formerly shipping piers, so they used to be income-producing. So when the city and state no longer needed them, the land could have been just sold off to the highest bidder. But we didn’t.  We have parks instead…. Hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment [was spent] to build fabulous waterfront parks. And when you see a beautiful park, you also see growth in property values, and then that spurs more new development.”

To learn more about Brooklyn Bridge Park, visit www.brooklynbridgeparknyc.org

For more information on how to register for Greater & Greener: Re-Imagining Parks for 21st Century Cities, please visit www.urbanparks2012.org.

City Parks Alliance Seeks Nominations for “Frontline Parks” Section on Website

“FRONTLINE PARKS” highlights urban parks that are creating economic, environmental and social capital through new kinds of partnerships.  This feature on CPA’s website (www.cityparksalliance.org) promotes inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country.

Twelve parks – one each month – will be featured on CPA’s website home page in 2012.  Each “Frontline Park” story will show how parks and their stewards are on the forefront of creating healthier, more sustainable cities.  With each month’s feature, CPA will coordinate with each park partner a joint press release for local, national, and social media to announce their selection as a “Frontline Park.”  Featured parks will also be included in CPA’s quarterly e-newsletter Benchmarks distributed to hundreds of CPA members and on the City Parks blog.

We are looking for the best stories.  Is there a non-traditional leader who has helped to bring about change in your local park?  How has park programming helped to address pressing urban issues, such as public health, job creation or community revitalization?  Have you done something really fun and innovative to increase revenue, cultivate volunteers or educate young people?  How did a crisis create an opportunity to build a new partnership?  Stories should be related to one or more of the following topics:

  • Community Capacity Building
  • Design
  • Economic Development
  • Education
  • Environment
  • Funding
  • Health
  • Maintenance
  • Programming
  • Public/Private Partnerships
  • Safety
  • Transportation
  • Workforce Development

For more information about application guidelines, please click here: Frontline Park Nominations