• 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

City park facts: Norfolk has six top ten rankings

The Norfolk Park Parks and Recreation Department has six top ten rankings in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts.

The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence works to make cities more successful through the renewal and creation of parks for their social, ecological, and economic benefits to residents and visitors alike. To achieve this mission, we believe that residents, advocates, park professionals, planners, members of the media, decision-makers, and all those who love parks need solid data that elucidates the realities of urban park and recreation systems. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power.

Norfolk is one the 100 largest US cities and ranked number 43 overall in the 2016 edition of Parkscore.  But, more exciting is its individual rankings in six out of the twenty categories that we are tracking:

  • #5 (tie) – 4.2 Playgrounds per 10,000 residents (103)
  • #2 – 8.2 Basketball hoops per 10,0000 residents (203)
  • #4- 4.9 off-leash dog parks (12)
  • #6 – 2.0 Recreation/Senior Centers per 20,000 residents (25)
  • #9 (tie) – 3.5 Ball Diamonds per 10,000 residents (86)
  • #2 – 5.8 Tennis courts per 10,000 residents (143)

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.

13,544 Playgrounds

768_x_auto-ca_larch_10262016_10

Larch Park, Los Angeles

What feature of a park does everyone expect? A playground of course!  Playgrounds have grown in both number and sophistication over the years that the Trust for Public Land has been working on building and re-working them.  While the focus on safety as well as accessibility (as governed by local and state guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act (or the ADA as we often refer to it), there’s increasingly a fun element to them, as shown by these pictures.

In terms of our City Park Facts measurement of “per 10,000 residents,” Madison is #1 with 7.1 playgrounds per 10,000 residents (173 playgrounds), Cincinnati is #2 with 5.0 (152 playgrounds), Detroit #3 with 4.7 (309 playgrounds), Omaha #4 for 4.4 (193) and Norfolk #5 with 4.2 (103 playgrounds)

720xauto-nj_sussexaveopening_112514_40

Schoolyard Playground, New York City

In terms of overall numbers, New York City is first with 1,669 playgrounds, Chicago second with 660, Houston third with 452, Los Angeles fourth with 433 and Detroit fifth with 309.

Overall, there are 13,544 playgrounds in the 100 largest US cities. Since 2010, the number of playgrounds has increased over 17%, from 11,160, with 2,394 additional playgrounds added.

Some recent Trust for Public Land playground projects include New York City, Philadelphia, East Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

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

playgrounds

Infographic from City Park Facts

Off-Leash Dog Parks

dogparkgraphic

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

 

Making Benches Work

This article has been adapted from the September 2016 issue of Parks & Recreation Magazine, the official publication of the National Recreation and Park Association. Through its pursuit of key issues, trends, and personalities, the magazine advances American parks, recreation, and conservation efforts. You can read the full-length article here.

This is the second post in a three-part series on park benches. Read the first post here.

When faced with citizen complaints and potential bench misuse, what are cities to do? Are park agencies simply doomed to be pummeled by anti-bench complainers and to then be criticized by outraged bench-lovers and park-lingerers when they remove the “problem”? Some cities have succeeded in saving their benches and maintaining parks that are safe and enjoyable for all, but it certainly requires creativity and resourcefulness, and no two cases are alike.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, when Baltimore’s Patterson Park faced the problem of inappropriate use of benches, they were steadily removed until none were left. This supposed fix didn’t actually meet park users’ needs; to the contrary, when users were asked in a 1995 survey what would make a “big improvement” in the park, 56 percent said more benches. Now, with the revived park getting much more visitation, the benches are gradually being brought back. The benefits are striking, according to Jennifer Robinson, director of Friends of Patterson Park. Patrons spend more time in the park, she says, and some are even putting the benches to use for strength-building. (That idea isn’t unusual; there is even an exercise book, 101 Things to Do on a Park Bench.”)  Not only did removing benches fail to fix the park’s problems, it actually did the exact opposite. Robinson feels strongly that the new benches were a factor in the park’s comeback.

But more isn’t all.

“Benches have to be located thoughtfully,” Robinson says. “They have to make sense with the flow of the park.” This means in areas of high activity (such as near playgrounds or sports fields), along pathways, and just inside park entrances. Putting them in well-trafficked areas helps ensure that they are used properly. There are now about 30 benches in Patterson Park – not enough, but an improvement.

benches along pathway.jpg

Benches thoughtfully located along a park pathway. Photo credit: Flickr user Pawel Pacholec.

The director of the Kansas City Parks Department, Mark McHenry, is even more explicit when he thinks about users’ needs, saying “Any feature that is traditionally put in a park, you’re going to want a bench to go with it.” In particular, he cites the need at dog parks (for owners to socialize), playgrounds (ditto, not to mention the quick snack or diaper change), and sports fields or courts.

In Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Commons, benches were removed from the central promenade because the community took issue with the noise and commotion that seemed to always hover around them. But the problem may have been more due to layout. With the benches directly facing each other across the pathway, groups often gathered on each side, talking loudly across the distance and making walkers feel threatened and uncomfortable. But the loss from the removal was keenly felt, and a new master plan calls for their restoration – this time in a new, staggered configuration that hopefully addresses the problem.

In the case of Norfolk, where many benches were removed from three different parks because of crime, the city first thinned the surrounding landscape, hoping that would solve the problem. In order to prevent sleeping, some places purchase (or retrofit) benches with obtrusive armrests at appropriate intervals. Both approaches can help, although the only true fix comes from a culture of heavy use, proper utilization, and the awareness that there are eyes on the park – including, every now and then, the eyes of rule-enforcing authority.

If It Doesn’t Have a Bench, Is It Still a Park?

This article has been adapted from the September 2016 issue of Parks & Recreation Magazine, the official publication of the National Recreation and Park Association. Through its pursuit of key issues, trends, and personalities, the magazine advances American parks, recreation, and conservation efforts. You can read the full-length article here.

This is the first post in a three-part series on park benches. 

Think about the last time you visited a park. What did you do? Did you just pass through, or did you stay a while? Did you bring a book, your dog, a Frisbee? Did you sit down? Or did you want to sit, only to find that your single option was the ground?

In 2013, the city of Norfolk, Virginia removed almost 70 benches from three small city parks. The benches weren’t in disrepair and they weren’t in a bad neighborhood. In fact, they were located in the revitalizing historic community of Ghent, and, if anything, were more than popular. Unfortunately it was the wrong kind of popularity. Following complaints of loitering, drinking, fighting, and even prostitution, the benches vanished.

3-carrying-bench-picture

Norfolk residents Carlton Pillar, left, and Gary Morton bring their own bench to a meeting about removals. Resident complaints had led to benches being taken out, but many others voiced outrage over the lack of seating. Photo credit: Hyunsoo Leo Kim, The Virginian Pilot

Continue reading