New park development and expansions are being seen throughout the U.S. as many regions are moving away from the sprawled suburban developments that first drew attention away from urban centers and their area parks.
Over the past five years, 29 of the nation’s largest cities have added nearly 14,000 acres of new park land. The biggest increases in park space have been in sprawling municipalities like Houston and Jacksonville, but even densely packed older cities such as Cleveland (with 187 new acres) and Philadelphia (22 acres) are finding ways to create new open space. The following are examples:
• The BeltLine (www.beltline.org) – estimated at $1.7 billion to $2.8 billion – will add bike trails, running trails, park space, and mass transit to area surrounding downtown. Upon completion the project will double Atlanta’s park acreage and become the city’s largest park. The first portion of the park, a multi-use trail, opened in 2011. Four trail segments were completed at year-end 2015. The complete 22-mile historic rail corridor and 33 miles of multi-use trails will be opened in phases through 2030, bringing together 45 intown neighborhoods
BEST CITY PARKS in USA Photo Gallery
• Private donors financed Discovery Green (www.discoverygreen.com), a 12-acre park located near several major hotels, the George R. Brown Convention Center, and two of the city’s sports venues: Toyota Center and Minute Maid Field. Opened in 2008, events, festivals, performances, and children’s festivities are held at the $122 million park.
Los Angeles, CA
• Grand Park (www.grandparkla.org) opened in 2012. Designed for a major concert, a farmers’ market, or a participatory dance recital, the park attracts office workers, suburbanites from across the region, tourists, and urban dwellers who call downtown L.A. home.
“Sandwiched between City Hall and Disney Hall, Grand Park is the latest attempt to revitalize a neighborhood where sidewalks once rolled up by nightfall but now bustles with a new restaurant or bar opening seemingly every week. Depending on whom you ask, it elicits comparisons to New York’s Central Park or San Francisco’s Union Square – and a couple of the most enthusiastic supporters even liken it to the Champs-Elysees.”
The New York Times
• Portions of Orange County Great Park (www.ocgp.org) opened in 2011. At the Great Balloon Park, the first attraction to open, free flights rise 400 feet above the surrounding landscape, serving as a public observation deck for the Great Park’s
development. Construction continues and, when complete, the $1.1 billion Great Park will be 60% larger than New York’s Central Park. Located on a former military base, the park will include a 2.5-mile man-made canyon and a massive wildlife corridor. The plan also calls for museums, open space, sports facilities, riparian corridors, commercial agriculture, botanical gardens, woodlands, and 45 holes of golf.
• The 4,500-acre Shelby Farms (www.shelbyfarmspark.org), a former prison farm, opened as a recreational area in the 1970s. A master plan was put in place in 2008 to direct a major re-design of the park. An 18-hole disc golf course opened in 2010 near the welcome center of the park, and additional hiking and biking trails have been added. The Tour de Wolf, an unpaved trail, takes hikers and bikers through the woods of Shelby Farms Park for 6.1 miles. Horseback riding is allowed in parts of the park and on a few trails. Bison have been introduced to the park and one million trees are being planted. An extension of Patriot Lake is planned to accommodate more boating and surfing activities. There is also a working farm in the park.
• Construction of The Underline, a 10-mile walkway under the Metrorail, from the Miami River to Dadeland South Station, is set to begin in 2016 and continue to 2022.
New York, NY
• Among the most ambitious park developments is the plan to convert the Fresh Kills landfill in Staten Island to a 2,315-acre recreation area. The former landfill will include biking trails, boating and fishing spots, waterfront restaurants, and art. At 2,200 acres, Freshkills Park will be almost three times the size of Central Park and the largest park developed in New York City in over 100 years. The site is already rich in birdlife and areas of the site were opened to visitors in 2012 for birdwatching as well as to view the projects under construction.
• Olympic Sculpture Park (www.seattleartmuseum.org/visit/olympic-sculpture-park), a nine-acre park which opened in 2007, was built on a former oil-transfer site. The sculpture park is visited by about 400,000 people annually.
Free outdoor gyms are being added to city parks across the U.S. The Fitness Zones program, developed in 2009 by the Trust for Public Land, serves as a model for the fitness gyms and helps cities fund outdoor health playgrounds. Zones usually have six to eight exercise units but some, such as one in New Orleans, have 18.
In Florida, Miami-Dade County’s Parks, Recreations and Open Spaces has 11 Fitness Zones, with plans to add them in all 40 parks.
St. Petersburg, Florida, opened five Fitness Zones. One, the Azalea Park Fitness Zone near the Veterans Hospital, is the first in the nation to have equipment that is wheelchair accessible.
“In 30 years as parks and recreation director,
I have never seen as much of an immediate impact. One of our goals is to improve the health of our citizens. It’s just really been a win, win, win, win.”
Sherry McBee, Director
Parks and Recreation Department
St. Petersburg, Florida
In California, Los Angeles County has 41 fitness areas in its parks.
116.6 Market Resources
2015 Field Report, National Recreation and Park Association, 2015. (www.nrpa.org/proragis/reports/)
National Recreation and Park Association, 22377 Belmont Ridge Road, Ashburn, VA 20148. (800) 626-6772. (www.nrpa.org)
Trust For Public Land, 660 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20003. (202) 543-7552. (www.tpl.org)