Smarter Parks, Smarter Cities

by Kelsey Jessup

image: Yalp Interactive

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.

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