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.
ASLA members were invited to take part in this virtual forum as an opportunity to converse with peers about their observations and experiences, new developments being planned or currently underway, and what they are seeing locally in terms of park and play space usage or changes in use.
PPN leaders and members came together for small-group discussions within Zoom breakout rooms focused on what’s happening in parks and playspaces, and what landscape architects are hearing from clients and stakeholders during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tom Martin, ASLA, Environmental Justice PPN Co-Chair
Bronwen Mastro, ASLA, Parks and Recreation PPN Officer
Matt Boehner, ASLA, Parks and Recreation PPN Officer
Four discussion topics and prompts were provided to spark discussion and input from attendees, who ranged from students to firm principals who came from across the U.S., along with a few based internationally. Below, we recap key points, recurring trends, and takeaways from the conversation.
Running is one of the most popular and practiced sports worldwide. In the U.S. alone, more than 64 million people went jogging or running in 2016, representing a nearly 300% per capita increase since 1990. Relieving stress and having fun are among the top reasons Americans continue to run; however, within the growing trend are competitive races on and off road, with the passion for this starting at the youth level with the sport of cross country.
While cross country running is by no means a new individual or team sport, the planning trend for parks and recreation departments has been traditional active sports such as baseball/softball, basketball, and soccer facilities. Cross country courses historically were set up to run through parks or golf courses following simple mowed paths and painted lines, with no real infrastructure or permanence. Columbia Parks and Recreation (CPRD) and a unique partnership with the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) and the University of Missouri Athletics (MU) aims to race to the front of the growing running trend of dedicated cross country courses with the development of a championship cross country course as a stand-alone park amenity that can host a variety of running events for all skill levels.
How can you get involved?Post a photo on Instagram or Twitter of an urban wild that you care about or have spent time in. Tell us about it! What makes it unique? What was it formerly? Is it under threat in any way? Use #UrbanWildASLA and #ASLA2019 and make sure to include the location. (If on Instagram, we will only be able to see the post if your account is public.)
What will happen with this information? Your photos will be mapped and featured at this year’s ASLA conference at the panel on urban wilds.
What do we hope to learn? Since these places tend to go unmapped, by gathering and mapping these, we hope to gain greater insight into geography, patterns of use and typology of urban wilds across the country. What are some commonalities between them? What makes these places unique? Why are they important?
What do we hope to spark? A timely conversation about the place of urban wilds within our larger urban framework. How are these spaces different than parks? What can designers learn from urban wild landscapes and how they function? How should we respond to shifting patterns of abandoned land in our cities?
Wait, what IS an urban wild? You tell us! Sometimes these places are also called ‘vacant’, ‘abandoned’, ‘brownfield’, ‘forgotten’, ‘free’, ‘site taken over by wildlife,’ etc.
Join the conversation!
Follow us on Instagram @urbanwildasla to see what urban wilds others are posting!
Providing access and inclusion, to accommodate people of all abilities, continues to be a challenging proposition with many previously developed spaces. In 2013, the United States Access Board drafted guidelines for federally developed projects to harmonize with the International Building Code and to follow up on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The criteria developed from this process became mandatory in late 2013 and were incorporated into the Architectural Barriers Act (ABA) accessibility standards. Amenity areas covered by these access requirements include camping facilities, picnic facilities, viewing areas, trails, and beach access routes. The requirements were not limited to only federal lands, but also covered federally funded projects.
Criteria and ideals developed during this process are great for addressing new projects, but what about previously developed spaces and retrofitting access and infrastructure to conform to the new standards?
Upgrading previously developed projects to meet codes and regulations of new construction can be an arduous task and tough to achieve in retrofit projects. Site constraints, costs, available revenues, end user input, and key stakeholder input can influence programming and inform which existing facilities are or are not upgraded. Inclusion goals and providing ADA access to previously developed sites can also vary widely from one municipality to another, and one region to another.
One constant is that individuals with disabilities are well aware of which facilities were designed for inclusion and which ones have not been upgraded for ADA access, inclusion, and mobility.
Most design firms and communities are embracing the concepts of sustainability and resiliency. However, as with all ambitious initiatives, implementation is the greatest challenge. Three actions landscape architects can take to put theory into practice are to:
plan and design every park and open space project as a High-Performance Public Space (HPPS),
plan and design parks and open spaces as part of an integrated public realm, and
help create a culture that fosters the adoption of innovation in the planning and design of public spaces.
The concept of a HPPS evolved from my doctoral research at the University of Florida, where I was trying to determine the factors that led to the adoption of innovation in the planning and design of public spaces. More specifically, I wanted to learn why some public agencies and design consultants adopt sustainable design principles in their parks and public space projects, and others don’t. In order to find the answers, I first needed to develop criteria to identify examples of successful projects to study, which I referred to as High Performance Public Spaces.
I defined a HPPS as “any publicly accessible space that generates economic, environmental, and social sustainability benefits for their local community.” A HPPS can be a park, trail, square, green, natural area, plaza, or any other element of the public realm that generates all three types of benefits. Working with a group of over 20 sustainability experts, we developed 25 criteria for a HPPS including economic criteria such as “the space sustains or increases property values;” environmental criteria such as “the space uses energy, water, and material resources efficiently;” and social criteria such as “the space provides places for formal and informal social gathering, art, performances, and community or civic events.” A space had to meet at least 80% of the 25 criteria in order to qualify as a HPPS. The full list of criteria is shown below.
Some say two heads are better than one. The Wheeling Park District discovered this concept applies to public agencies, too.
It makes sense. When agencies establish partnerships, the communities they serve benefit from the collective mission and expertise of each agency. Oftentimes an overarching mission of one agency may support a neglected, yet critical, component of another agency.
Such was the case when the Wheeling Park District partnered with Community Consolidated School District 21 (CCSD21) to design and develop a new playground at Mark Twain Elementary School, and, at the same time, create a neighborhood park within an underserved community. This creative project, a partnership between the Park District and the School District, fosters the goals of both agencies, and, most importantly, the Wheeling community.
In 2010, the Wheeling Park District conducted a Community Attitude and Interest Survey (CAIS) to determine the parks and recreation needs of the Wheeling community. The results of that survey showed an overwhelming need and desire for improved and developed neighborhood parks. In fact, development of neighborhood parks was one of the most selected responses under the category of “Actions Most Willing to Fund with Tax Dollars.” This data has been a driving component of the Wheeling Park District Strategic Plan.
A tour of extraordinary park experiences, made possible through public/private partnerships.
During a recent visit to some of Houston’s premier parks, the city revealed a commitment to extraordinary park experiences made possible through public/private partnerships.
Hermann Park Conservancy is a mature organization ably led for the past 15 years by Doreen Stoller, a life-long Houstonian who spent her early career in the high tech business before taking on the leadership of the Conservancy. My first awareness of having arrived in the 445-acre park was a glimpse of the park’s name carved in a beautiful limestone planter down the center of a grand, historic entrance into the park known as the Grand Gateway. We arrived at a roundabout with Sam Houston proudly astride a horse on a massive granite plinth. City park workers were busy planting new rose bushes along the handsome entrance boulevard.
My Lyft driver was pleased that I was heading to the Conservancy’s office, where he coincidentally serves as a volunteer. He told me to “let Doreen know that Patrick says hi!” This speaks to the depth of the Conservancy’s role and Hermann Park’s important place in the Greater Houston Community. I was particularly interested in visiting the Hermann Park Conservancy as it was one of the case studies in the landmark report “The Future of Balboa Park: Keeping the Park Magnificent in its Second Century.”
“Play is the highest form of research.”
– attributed to Albert Einstein
An Unfulfilled Need
In the 1950s I loved exploring nature in an unstructured setting. Nearby windrows, vacant lots, and scrambling on the boulders in nearby hills offered exploration and adventure.
The exploration and investigation of a natural setting is not available to many of today’s urban and suburban youth. This loss—often replaced by cell phones and digital gaming—creates a deficiency unique to this century: nature deficit disorder.
Exploring natural environments is fundamental to providing future adults with the appreciation and knowledge they will need to cope with environmental degradation. Local parks could offer children and families the opportunity to experience, appreciate, and learn how nature works.
People say the memories of certain smells stay with you for a lifetime. Corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day, the sterile smell of a dentist’s office, athletic socks in a gym bag or the Xylene-based color design markers I used in the 1980s back in college. Even my ice skates have a familiar smell. Not bad, just familiar—like old leather mixed with slush.
I was driving through the neighborhood near my childhood home where I grew up on the northern edge of Milwaukee County, and I decided to take a slow drive down memory lane. Everything looked smaller than I remembered, except the trees. Eventually I ended up at the neighborhood park where I spent countless hours playing pickup ball games, hanging out with friends, and ice skating.
Yes, ice skating. Every single day. After school, after dinner, and on weekends.
Today, there are increasingly more cities, parks departments, and real estate developers asking designers to create smart parks. The definition of what makes a park “smart” is still evolving and, up until now, there hasn’t been a comprehensive, reliable source to learn about smart parks precedents and the technology that exists specifically for parks and public spaces. SMART Parks: A Toolkit is exactly what has been needed. It provides landscape architects and planners everything they need to know and how to be ready for the next client that asks for a smart park. – Ed Krafcik, ASLA, Parks & Recreation Professional Practice Network (PPN) Officer
“Advancements in technology impact every aspect of our lives—how we work, play, and live,” says the City of Chicago’s Mayor, Rahm Emanuel. And cities like Chicago are becoming “smarter,” using technology to enhance livability, workability, and sustainability. Yet, some aspects of cities are being left out of planning, most blatantly: public parks. To help address this, the UCLA Luskin Center for Innovation recently released SMART Parks: A Toolkit, a compilation of technologies that can be used in parks to increase environmental sustainability, visitor enjoyment, and maintenance efficiency.
The Luskin Center unites UCLA scholars with forward-looking civic leaders to address the most pressing issues confronting our community, nation, and world. Parks are a critical part of urban infrastructure and have been a Luskin Center priority. Staff and students have created multiple reports on how to increase and enhance community green spaces, including a toolkit on parklets (small innovative parks), how to transform underutilized alleys into multi-functional “green” alleys, and never-before-told case studies and lessons learned from successfully-implemented development projects along the LA River greenway. This research helps municipalities, nonprofits, and communities reinvent, regenerate, and rethink their cities and park spaces.
These 20-minute Speed Sessions are a great opportunity to speak in front of a group of your peers without having to commit to a lengthy presentation. Whether you are a first time or experienced speaker, NRPA invites enthusiastic professionals to share your stories and experiences at these sessions.
Speed Session proposals are due by March 24, 2017. Visit the NRPA website for more details and to submit your session ideas.
Today, the National Park Service celebrates 100 years since its founding on August 25, 1916. People all across the nation are taking advantage of this birthday year to visit National Park sites to enjoy all that these special places have to offer.
In the photo above are 4 of us landscape architects hamming it up at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, in Yellowstone National Park during a visit in 2014. Craig Coronato, FASLA, and fellow landscape architects were recently invited by the Friends of Yellowstone and the Park Director to look at ways to restore the historic trails and overlooks around the canyon. When asked about the value of this park, Craig states, “Yellowstone has a way of making you feel insignificant, yet overwhelmed to be in it.”
This year, my family and I visited several National Park sites, including Fire Island National Seashore, Governors Island National Monument, and many National Memorials and Sites in Washington, DC. These sites not only offer beautiful views and scenery but also demonstrate the rich history and culture of our nation, offering public places for reflection and remembrance.
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.
The National Park Trust Announces an Expanded Kids to Parks Day School Contest
May 21, 2016 is National Kids to Parks Day and to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, now 100 schools will win grants!
This national contest—open to all under-served public, public charter, and private schools across the U.S.—aims to empower students to create and plan their own park experience by inviting them to submit proposals for a Kids to Parks (KTP) event at a park in their community. With help from the National Park Service Centennial Challenge fund and other support, the National Park Trust (NPT) is looking to award 100 schools with park scholarships of up to $1,000. Schools should implement their KTP event during May 2016, but exceptions will be made to accommodate school schedules. This contest also supports the President’s Every Kid in a Park initiative to get every 4th grader to a park this school year! The deadline for entries is Friday, March 4. Winners will be announced Friday, March 25 on the NPT website.
If you know a teacher or school that wants to get Kids to Parks, please share this information with them today. Volunteer to help them with their event by talking to students about landscape architecture and how we design great parks like the one they are visiting. This is a great way to interact with future landscape architects and expand understanding of our profession! Don’t forget to post on social media using #KidsinParks, #Landarch, and #NPS100 to show your support and broaden our reach.
Help us brainstorm the future of parks and public spaces (we’d really like to know what you know…and what you are thinking about)!
At the ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO in Chicago this November, be sure to attend an engaging gathering of your fellow Parks & Recreation PPN members on Sunday, 11/8 @ 12:45 PM. Given the rare opportunity to tap into the collective knowledge and experience of landscape architects from across the country, we couldn’t resist the idea of facilitating a hands-on session to capture your thoughts about the trends influencing your work, the sites and experiences that are informing your thinking, and the information you need to improve and enrich your practice.
We will be using this networking opportunity to hear the experiences that are influencing your practice; to identify the specific trends, subject matter, and areas of interest that will be most important to in the immediate and far future; and to have your input on a content management plan that we can use to set the specific direction of the PPN in the year ahead.
In addition to facilitating and disseminating the collection of expert ideas on parks and public spaces, we want to offer Parks and Recreation PPN members the opportunity to actively contribute to the PPN community in a meaningful way that will directly influence future PPN activities. The PPN is a resource that is only as strong as we all can make it.
This month, the National Recreation and Park Association is celebrating 30 years of Park and Recreation Month, and we’re inviting you to take part. The mission parks have had since the start—to serve the people, and give them a place to appreciate nature, exercise, socialize, and have fun—is as important as ever. July is a great month to get out and enjoy parks, so the ASLA Parks & Rec Professional Practice Network (PPN) would like to challenge you to show off your favorite park and activities in parks, highlighting what you consider the best feature of that park (or parklet!). Think big or small, tangible or experiential, amenity or observation. Take photos and post to Instagram, Twitter, or your favorite social media platform and include what you value most about the park. Don’t forget to add #JulyPRM30 and #ThisIsLandArch. You can view all posts on the #JulyPRM30 tagboard.
To get you started, here are some guidelines and samples for your posts, courtesy of NRPA:
Official 2015 Park and Recreation Month Hashtags
#JulyTBTChallenge (contest hashtag—you can find more information about this year’s contest at nrpa.org/july and on NRPA’s blog, Open Space)
The ASLA Annual Meeting starts today! This year’s theme, Resilience, could not be more appropriate as cities around the nation are faced with natural disasters and economic struggles over the past few years. Landscape architects are well positioned to lead cities through these challenges and work towards building resilient communities. Parks and Recreation is an invaluable part of the fabric that builds these resilient cities by creating public spaces that foster community building. Please join us for our PPN meeting this year!
At the Parks and Recreation PPN Meeting Sunday afternoon, we will discuss our PPN’s goals for the upcoming year. We will discuss how the PPN can better support your practice and identify topics and issues that are important to you as well as identify topics for Online Learning webinars and posts for The Field. Bring recent success stories to share! We are also looking for a few volunteers to serve as a PPN Co-Chairs and/or Officers starting after this year’s Annual Meeting. Please attend the PPN Meeting in Denver if you are interested to learn more about serving as a chair or officer.
July is Park and Recreation Month, and this year’s theme is: OUT is IN. Agencies can register as official participants to have their Park and Recreation Month events added to the main listing, which includes activities across the United States ranging from outdoor dance and exercise classes to kickball, white water rafting, volleyball tournaments, garden tours, and family hikes.
Park and Recreation Month this year also comes with a social media challenge: participants are asked to share their photos on Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #JulyOUTisIN. Prizes will be awarded to the best photos of an indoor activity being done outside.
With Memorial Day weekend comes the unofficial start of summer, and though the water may still be chilly at this time of year, many people will be heading to the closest beach for some start-of-summer celebrations.
For those in New York, and especially on Long Island, Jones Beach State Park is a destination that epitomizes summer. Though only 20 miles from New York City, Jones Beach could not feel further removed from the suburbs nearby, only a few causeways away. And, like Flushing Meadows Corona Park, Jones Beach is a site that has been dramatically transformed to create the iconic space we enjoy today.
Almost all older, heavily urbanized cities are facing a shortage of parkland and open space. As density and property values increase, cities are less likely to purchase large parcels of land for recreation. As a result, urban populations have fewer opportunities to exercise and socialize outside, which exacerbates chronic health issues such as asthma and obesity. The solution may lie in the creative strategy of utilizing lands owned by utility companies within the urban core.
Anaheim, California, like most cities, is growing in density. Anaheim’s 820-acre Platinum Triangle is emerging as a high-density, mixed-use area that is replacing older industrial developments. The area is nestled between the SR-57 and I-5 freeways and surrounds Angel Stadium and the Honda Center, two of Orange County’s most prominent sports and entertainment venues. However, this high-density development has few opportunities for large scale recreation or nature parks.
In the early 2000s, it was apparent that the City of Anaheim needed to find open space near the high-density Platinum Triangle that would provide a connection to nature and give residents and visitors a place for exercise. The City of Anaheim forged a creative partnership with the Orange County Water District (OCWD), the largest landowner in Anaheim and owner of Burris Basin, a 116-acre ground water replenishment facility on the west bank of the Santa Ana River only half a mile north of the Platinum Triangle.
Is it possible for a small community to breathe new life into an aging but much used and loved “Central” Community Park? Can new improvements be successfully implemented over time with minimal disruption to thousands of annual visitors? The answer for one community was resoundingly yes. The article “A Commitment to Parks: Kirkwood, Missouri,” published on LandscapeOnline.com, provides an overview of Kirkwood’s efforts to achieve the goals of its park master plan while still meeting the recreational needs of the community.
Anatomy of a Park (AOAP) has had a long and successful career. First published in 1971, it was originally a series of lectures by Albert Rutledge to Parks and Recreation students aiming at careers in Park Management and Administration. I was the illustrator and case study developer of the first edition. I’ve continued as the illustrator and became the author for the subsequent editions (1986, 2003).
The purpose of those original lectures and the resulting book was to build a bridge between the designers of parks and the users of parks. Our goal was to explain our profession as landscape architects to people who would represent park users, administer park systems, and who would hire the design professionals who would bring the parks to life. This new update, Edition IV, provides new information as a supplement to the timeless resource. What follows is a sneak peak at the updates and plans for the new edition.
You may have heard the phrase a tired dog is a happy dog. This may or may not be true, but it is true that most dogs need physical activity and social interaction to make good pets. Dog parks are a great venue to provide both of these in a safe, contained environment and have become very popular.
However, with popularity comes use, over-use, and risk. The following site outlines common challenges with dog parks and provides suggestions for those thinking of providing one.
With National Kids to Parks Day, May 18th, looming right around the corner it would be great for our members to organize activities that bring even more children into the parks we design and love. This article gives you some great options for high profile partners to make your “Kids to Parks Day” a success.
Do you have a goose issue in your park, too much poo, too much noise, scaring the kiddos? Take a look at how the City of Cupertino is going to try and handle their overabundance of geese in City Parks.
Over the years our municipality has taken out outdoor fitness courses or seen them severely underutilized. Could it be because of our weather here in Colorado? Perhaps, but maybe this new effort to design attractive and unique fitness solutions specific to outdoor parks will reopen opportunities to provide this sort of service in our parks. I am particularly intrigued by the City Art Gym information posted in this article.
Landscape architects and designers are constantly faced with the challenge of designing safe and attractive play areas. One particularly important aspect is the need for shade and weather protection. The importance of adding shade to playgrounds has come to the forefront as daycare owners and playground designers realize the importance of sun protection, especially for children who are particularly susceptible to the sun’s damaging effects.
Climbing into the arms of a sweet smelling southern magnolia tree, splashing in the miniature waterfalls of a limestone lined creek, and sifting through a playground of pea gravel in search of ancient sea fossils are a few of my treasured memories of enjoying the freedom to explore the natural world that surrounded me as a child.
Due to shifting societal priorities, children today have fewer opportunities to engage in these types of open-ended activities than their parents did just a generation ago. In his 2005 book, “Last Child in the Woods”, Richard Louv draws on decades of research from various disciplines and summarizes that, due to this trend, kids in the U.S. are suffering from what he terms “nature-deficit disorder.”