Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Planning a Park: From Concept to Reality

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Planning a Park: From Concept to Reality

Article excerpt

In merging nature and culture the most successful cities combine such universal needs as maintaining Of restoring contact with the cycles of nature, with specific local characteristics.

--Sally A. Kitt Chapel Chicago's Urban Nature: A Guide to the City's Architecture + Landscape

In the 21st century, our parks and green spaces are how we are still able to connect, on a primal level, to the purity of nature. Parks have public health, preservation and conservation implications--from providing places for physical activity and offering safe spaces for children to play, to helping to lower crime rates. And, their aesthetic value is also a source of civic pride. In short--as we all know--our parks are vital to our communities.

Millions of acres of land in the United States are devoted to our local, state and national parks. More and more are opening all the time, but there's still more work to be done to preserve green, open spaces. Innovative projects designed to transform unusual public spaces are being started across the country. However, can any community undertake these kinds of project? If so, "how do you turn an idea into a park?

Getting Started

While there are certain common starting points for everyone, the route to get from idea to park is unique for each project.

"Typically, a park project gets started through a demonstrated need from surveys of community members, and other public input that is incorporated into the City's Comprehensive Plan and the Parks Recreation Open-1 Space (PROS) Plan," explains Mark Harrison, landscape architect with the Parks Planning and capital development manager for the city of Everett, Washington, Parks & Community Services Department. "Park property donations and park construction for new land and housing developments are also negotiated with city officials and are included in a development agreement."

Depending on the scope of the project it can either be a straightforward-process or be complex and full of intricacies Most new projects-begin with the community members who usually are the first ones to recognize the need and desire for a new park. From there, a project can go any number of directions.

"It really does depend on how big the project is going to be," says Bill Lambrecht, superintendent of Parks and Planning for the city of Wilmette, Illinois. "For a new site, typically, we are approached by residents asking us to acquire [property]. For example, the suburb we work in is virtually all residential and there is very little open space left. When a parcel becomes available, residents usually ask us to keep it open as opposed to it being developed for single or multifamily dwellings."

It is at this point that funding starts to play a part. Nothing can be done--no matter how altruistic the endeavor -without the funds to pay for the land. Here, those involved in the project can begin to employ some creativity. There are traditional funding methods and then there is the option of finding partnerships with local, like-minded organizations, such as the YMCA or local school and library districts.

"Our two most common ways of obtaining parkland is through purchase or as a dedication in satisfaction of parkland dedication requirements through the city's development process," explains Jenny Baker, Parks, Planning & Development manager with the city of McKinney, Texas. "Funding depends on the size of the park and may take several budget years. Once we hire a consultant to design the park, we hold public input meetings to find out the needs and wants of the park users and adjacent residents and specific user groups."

The Plan

With the funding in place, the real work begins. The park has to be conceptually designed, construction plans need to be drawn up and the actual building of it needs to be opened up to the public for bidding. There are a multitude of steps along the way and each is critical to ensuring the project is successful. …

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