by David Barth, PhD, ASLA, AICP, CPRP
Over the past three decades, landscape architects and park planners have made great strides in addressing community-wide issues through park design. Parks have been designed to create jobs, store and treat stormwater run-off, provide socially-inclusive gathering spaces, combat climate change, increase property values, attract new businesses, promote health and fitness, stabilize neighborhoods, and generate other community-wide benefits.
Most of these efforts, however, have been implemented on an individual site basis rather than a system-wide basis. The majority of parks and recreation system plans address traditional parks and recreation improvements, rather than community-wide issues. And the typical parks and recreation system master planning (PRSMP) process hasn’t changed significantly over the past century and a half since architect Horace Cleveland presented his Suggestions for a System of Parks and Parkways for the City of Minneapolis in 1883!
In my new book, Parks and Recreation System Planning: A New Approach for Creating Sustainable, Resilient Communities, I propose a new approach to system planning that not only addresses traditional parks and recreation challenges, but is also robust and comprehensive enough to address broader community-wide issues. Key tenets of this approach include:
- planning parks and recreation facilities as elements of a larger, interconnected public realm;
- considering alternative dimensions of parks and recreation systems, such as social equity and climate change, from the onset of the planning process; and
- planning every site in the system as high-performance public space (HPPS).
This broader perspective encourages parks and recreation agencies to transcend their silos—and leverage their resources—to plan and collaborate with other public and private agencies to meet as many of the community’s needs as possible.