Parks build community
Last year, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) launched “Parks Build Community,” a program for restoring blighted urban areas through purposeful park restoration and development. “Research shows that the well being of communities are directly connected to the vitality of their parks and open space,” says NRPA CEO Barbara Tulipane. “We must draw attention to the core functions that America’s urban parks play in terms of improving physical and mental health, supporting local economies and strengthening the environment.”
NRPA joined Washington Parks & People (WPP), the District of Columbia and George Mason University for the largest community park revitalization in Washington’s history. The partners chose Northeast D.C.’s Marvin Gaye Park — once dubbed “Needle Park” for the rampant drug use within its borders — where WPP had already removed more than 3.5 million pounds of trash, thousands of hypodermic needles, and 78 abandoned cars.
Redevelopment included the installation of a state-of-the-art, environmentally friendly playground, landscaping and beautification, a youth-run farmer’s market, an amphitheater and the rebuilding of 1.6 miles of trails. The revitalized park was dedicated in August 2009. “For years prior to the revitalization, the park was a vacant and sometimes dangerous place,” Tulipane says. “Now it provides a safe place to connect and recreate for 600 surrounding residents and thousands of visitors.”
As part of the project, the partners studied how strategically designed urban park facilities can influence the health behaviors of at-risk youth and underserved populations. In addition, NRPA is developing a tool kit that will assist municipalities in redeveloping parks and open spaces. The research study and tool kit are scheduled for completion in this summer.
- Read the “Measuring the green in greenspace” feature to learn about a new LEED-style rating system that is emerging to guide sustainable park development.
- Read the “July is Park and Recreation Month” sidebar to learn what events communities are planning to celebrate parks.
Amy Kapp is communications manager for the Ashburn, Va.-based National Recreation and Park Association.