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13,544 Playgrounds

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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)

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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

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Infographic from City Park Facts

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.

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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

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Can Parks Do Double Duty? Philadelphia Shows How

The following is an excerpt from City Parks, Clean Water, a report by the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence that examines the role of urban parks in managing stormwater. This is the fifteenth installment in a series of 20 posts.

Can a park be both a stormwater management unit and a recreation area? With proper negotiation, conversation, and careful planning, yes! However, it’s not common that goals easily jibe and that multiple benefits are received enthusiastically by every constituent. A rain garden can be beautiful, but if it replaces a soccer field, it might raise objections unless that sports venue is replaced. Philadelphia handles this problem with a Stormwater Plan Review Team, which brings together water department and parks department staff to evaluate green infrastructure projects for potential conflicts with park uses.

The city has not canceled any stormwater management projects because of recreation conflicts. However, Jessica Brooks, manager of the Green Stormwater Infrastructure program at the water department, says, “We’ve definitely moved them, made the surface portions smaller, or made them completely subsurface in order to allow for other uses to be maintained.” She notes, “We need to be very sensitive that we’re not taking out a space that is used for picnicking, sports, or other gatherings. This is often less obvious than you might think. It requires us to talk to the park users to really understand what they do and what they love.”

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Terraced weirs in Philadelphia’s Cliveden Park slow water during a rainstorm. (Jessica Brooks)

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Philly Pumptrack Offers a New Twist on Cycling in Fairmount Park

Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation and stewardship from across the country. The program identifies city parks that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges faced as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures and urban neighborhood decay. In recognition of its partnerships and community engagement, the Philly Pumptrack has been named a Frontline Park.

The Pumptrack is located in historic Fairmount Park, the heart of Philadelphia’s park system.  Although it is well-loved and boasts a healthy number of visitors, the park’s design (or lack thereof) has created some issues with programming and accessibility.  Some areas have no amenities at all, and others become degraded due to misuse.  Where Fairmount wings into the West Parkside neighborhood, the area was used as an illegal dumping ground, and more than a playground would be required to attract local residents and community investment.  Continue reading

Parks: One of the Most Important Ingredients of a Successful City

(Republished from NextCity)

An audience member at the Philly Parks Future Forum last week called the panelists assembled a “dream team.” The experts represented parks agencies from Seattle, New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Chicago. Presented by the City Parks Alliance, the forum wasn’t so much an event to unravel the issues that Philly parks will face specifically, but to discuss how city parks are one of the greatest assets to our country and how they are progressing nationally. Philadelphia Daily News writer Sandra Shea moderated the panel of parks and recreation officials, who shared what’s been working in their necks of the woods. Here are five important takeaways from the Forum.

1. Seattle’s New Park District Was 20 Years in the Making
Proposition 1, which called for the creation of a Seattle Park District, passed with 53 percent of the vote in August. Prop 1 did away with the need to return to voters to secure funding, permanently backing parks through property taxes. (This new source of revenue will be in addition to the $89.5 million that Seattle already receives each year from the city’s general fund.)

What turned the tide? Seattle Parks and Recreation Acting Superintendent Christopher Williams said it was Mayor Ed Murray’s outspokenness on the issue. Since city officials at Parks and Recreation don’t run for their jobs, they don’t campaign on their stances. Williams said having a public face mattered. “I can’t say enough about advocacy,” he stated.

Williams said the Seattle department knows it still answers to voters, and because of that responsibility, he suggested, parks departments everywhere should be using a strong performance management model, relying on spreadsheets and data and report cards to track success.

2. 96 Percent of San Franciscans Can Walk From Their Homes to a Park in 10 Minutes or Less
According to The Trust for Public Land, close to 10 million Americans live within a 10-minute walk to a park. According to San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg, some 800,000 of them live in San Francisco. Ginsburg got more than a few laughs from the Forum audience when he pointed out that many of those park visitors have four legs: San Francisco’s a city of 80,000 children … and 150,000 dogs.

Of course, just having abundant park space isn’t enough. Ginsburg pointed out that as San Francisco’s population continues to grow, his department is focused on modernizing one of the oldest park systems in the U.S. by acquiring more land to create new parks. He pointed out that prioritizing long-term capital planning (thanks to former Mayor Gavin Newsom and current Mayor Ed Lee) is making that expansion possible. Ginsburg emphasized that investing in children — in their health and public safety — with parks improvements was better than paying on the “back end in emergency rooms.”  Continue reading