July is Parks and Recreation Month

The Slide Crater in Chicago's Maggie Daley Park image: Alexandra Hay
The Slide Crater in Chicago’s Maggie Daley Park
image: Alexandra Hay

To highlight our members during Parks and Recreation Month, we are taking a look back at the last annual meeting of the ASLA Parks and Recreation Professional Practice Network (PPN). At that meeting, the PPN’s co-chairs came up with a few questions to spark conversations and let the attendees get to know one another, including identifying key areas of interest and trends in parks and recreation design and moments of inspiration they’ve had in public spaces. The meeting attendees came from across the country and from all stages of their careers, from students to senior landscape architects and firm principals.

Read on to see some of the key questions, topics of interest, and inspiring places that are on Parks and Recreation PPN members’ minds.

Maggie Daley Park's skating ribbon image: Alexandra Hay
Maggie Daley Park’s skating ribbon
image: Alexandra Hay

Topics of interest for Parks and Recreation PPN members:

Balancing needs of more passive users with more vocal, well-funded sports

Bringing access to nature into highly developed, contrived parks

Construction details

Coordinating with city and regional planning

Creative outdoor experiences for children and teens

"The Sea" area of Maggie Daley Park's Play Garden image: Alexandra Hay
“The Sea” area of Maggie Daley Park’s Play Garden
image: Alexandra Hay

Dog parks – issues, surfacing choices, etc.

Early childhood outdoor experiences

Maintenance – raising awareness about its importance and funding it

Managing competitive public bidding

Multi-use trail design and trail connections to parks

Park irrigation

Partnerships with other agencies, non-profits, and corporations

Political support for parks’ legacy

Product reviews – what works well and what doesn’t

Project development and Capital Improvement Plans (CIP)

Project management

Public engagement and community involvement

Public health – opportunities for program development, partnerships, design impacts

Risk management of public playscapes

Risk-benefit analysis and liability

Specifications

Standards for needs of population – how much per 100,000 residents

Stewardship of existing parks

Synthetic turf fields – pros and cons

Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, 2014 Honor Award Winner, General Design Category image: Wade Zimmerman
Hunter’s Point South Waterfront Park, 2014 Honor Award Winner, General Design Category
image: Wade Zimmerman

Have a keen interest or expertise in any of the topics listed above, or have an experience to share? Write about it for The Field!

Trends impacting parks and recreation design:

Bringing green infrastructure into cities and designing, using, and managing it as park space

Creating different types of open spaces within new developments – neighborhood parks, plazas, etc.

Funding sources (or lack thereof) – grants, federal programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)

Inclusive design and inclusive play areas

Infilling cities with urban parks

Major art elements in parks – how to make the site iconic

Art in parks - Jaume Plensa's 1004 Portraits in Chicago's Millennium Park image: Alexandra Hay
Art in parks – Jaume Plensa’s 1004 Portraits in Chicago’s Millennium Park
image: Alexandra Hay

Nature play-based playgrounds that are very designed

Recreation programming for diverse demographics

Stormwater objectives, especially value-added visitor experience and education

The increasing need for municipalities to provide outside space for residents

Too much geometry in design

Water efficiency and sustainably designed parks – how will water conservation affect quantities of turf and traditional aesthetic values of parks?

The most memorable park or public space you’ve experienced in the last 5 years:

Aspinwall Riverfront Park, Pennsylvania – “A brand new low-budget park on a former industrial site that made brilliant use of oddball spaces to create a wide variety of experiences using inexpensive materials in creative ways.”

Denali National Park, Alaska – “Environment-centric vs. auto centric”

Downtown Providence, Rhode Island – “Daylighting the two rivers and moving I-95 out of downtown—Roger Williams’ vision”

Maggie Daley Park, Chicago – “It is dense, but functional and fun.”

Market Street Prototyping Festival, San Francisco – “Streetscape installations of interactive public art and technology—achieved a very satisfying level of vibrant interactions with other people and challenged the imagination and the senses with new ways of connecting with the natural world.”

Millennium Park, Chicago – “Everyone seems happy because of the Bean and it’s a coming together space.”

Anish Kapoor's Cloud Gate sculpture, aka the Bean, in Chicago's Millennium Park image: Alexandra Hay
Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate sculpture, aka the Bean, in Chicago’s Millennium Park
image: Alexandra Hay

Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis – “Beautiful in the fall.”

Seattle Center – “Historic park design and modern technology woven together with entertainment, creating a public destination.”

Southlake Town Square, Texas – “Traditional town space feeling.”

Wilhelma Park, Stuttgart, Germany – “It is natural, inviting, historic, and playful.

National September 11 Memorial, New York – “The noise and motion of the waterfalls.”

National 9/11 Memorial - 2012 Honor Award Winner, General Design Category image: PWP Landscape Architecture
National 9/11 Memorial – 2012 Honor Award Winner, General Design Category
image: PWP Landscape Architecture

A recent epiphany or A-HA! moment you’ve had as a planner/designer of parks and public spaces:

“Dog park dynamics.”

“Freeplay is the most important kind of recreation there is.”

Slow Down: Liupanshui Minghu Wetland Park, 2014 Honor Award Winner, General Design Category image: Kongjian Yu
Slow Down: Liupanshui Minghu Wetland Park, 2014 Honor Award Winner, General Design Category
image: Kongjian Yu

“Using a stormwater retention pond as a programming element and embracing stormwater as a focal point of a park.”

“That health—physical, social, mental—must be a standard part of park programming and design and it should be seamlessly integrated with play and stormwater.”

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