Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

This is National Park Week, next year we need to hold a National Urban Park Week

-- National Park Week, April 16-24th, 2011.

Most of the press coverage on this commemoration focuses on large open spaces and monuments, especially those located in the Western United States, such as in this article from Parade Magazine, "WILD AND BEAUTIFUL: THE NATIONAL LANDSCAPE CONSERVATION SYSTEM."

National Parks and other public lands are commonly thought to be in rural and exurban settings, majestic places like Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, yet in DC and other center cities such as Philadelphia, New York, and Boston, the US National Park Service ends up controlling a lot of park space.

This becomes a problem for at least three reasons:

1. As a federal agency, the National Park Service doesn't have to be very responsive to local constituencies;

2. The Park Service is dominated by an agenda focused on the big national parks, given that this is its heritage, from the creation of the Park Service (under the Department of Interior, and and the Forest Service, under the US Department of Agriculture, plus there is the Bureau of Public Land Management, also in the Department of Interior) under President Roosevelt.

3. The general National Park Service mission is focused on preservation/conservation first, and making spaces accessible and able to be used by the public is second.

In urban settings, where the parks serve not just as places of reflection and passive activity, but also as active spaces "used" as part of the local systems of heritage interpretation, recreation and sometimes also transportation, this can create a major disconnect--for example, in how NPS regulations and practices make it difficult to incorporate DC's National Park Service-controlled lands into the locally operated bike sharing system.

In the fall, I was struck by articles in the Washington Post, "Commentary: Washington Monument security plan didn't allow for public opinion," the Philadelphia Inquirer, "For tourists and city, not re-created equal: Reconstructed Independence Mall draws bigger crowds but keeps residents at bay," and the Boston Globe, "Her quest: bringing the national parks to the people," relating to National Park Service urban park issues in those communities. The issues are pretty much the same as described above.

I wish that one of these newspapers, although all now are much more limited in staff than they once were and less likely to take on such projects, would do a series on this broad issue.

Next year, it would be nice say for the urban parks initiative of the Trust for Public Land to use the celebration of National Park Week to raise the issue of how federal urban parks are managed, in ways that often underserve local constituencies.


-- National Parks Second Century Commission -- mostly this report ignores urban park issues and doesn't provide significant guidance concerning substantive citizen engagement and input into the management and operation of parks service local audiences
-- Places Journal issue on Parks, Summer 2003
-- Project for Public Spaces Parks Initiatives
-- National Park Service Civic Engagement webpage

From the PPS article "Great Parks We Can Learn From":

Strategies for Achieving Great Parks
Through nearly 30 years of observation and analysis, PPS has identified nine strategies that help parks achieve their full potential as active public spaces that enhance neighborhoods and catalyze economic development. The parks profiled in this article provide excellent examples of these strategies in practice.

• Use transit as a catalyst for attracting visitors
• Make management of the park a central concern
• Develop strategies to attract people during different seasons
• Acquire diverse funding sources
• Design the park layout for flexibility
• Consider both the “inner park” and “outer park”
• Provide amenities for the different groups of people using the park
• Create attractions and destinations throughout the park
• Create an identity and image for the park

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

<< Home