Where Life Swirls…
Rachel Maher, Park Pride’s Communications Manager
“A successful park is ‘where life swirls.’” ~Jane Jacobs
Is there a better quote that so simply, yet vividly, describes a vibrant, lively, and well-loved park?
A park “where life swirls” is a park that is welcoming to all members of the community. It is where you’ll find people absorbed in a variety of different activities—whether it be exercising, playing, bird-watching, admiring an art installation, or reading a book—that have gotten them out of the house enjoying time with neighbors, family, and friends.
You may know of a park that doesn’t align with this vibrant description (perhaps it’s your own local park!), but each neighborhood greenspace has the potential to be the heart of the community “where life swirls.”
Though starting down the path to an active, well-used park might seem daunting, don’t get discouraged! As you begin your journey, think about the following questions:
- Who are the members of your community committed to driving change? How can you engage members of your community to participate in park revitalization efforts?
- What partners do you have, or what partnerships should you build, that can support your group with knowledge and resources?
- What are your park goals?
Get Started at the Parks & Greenspace Conference
Park Pride’s 18th Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference on Monday, March 25th is a great place to get the motivation and inspiration to jump-start your park activation efforts. Not only will you connect with people and resources that can support you and your park group, but you’ll learn from speakers who will provide case studies and practical tips that you can implement.
This year’s conference theme is, unsurprisingly, Parks are the Heart of Community, and the program will leave you with plenty of ideas about how to create a welcoming park for all members of the community—all ages, genders, ethnicities, income levels, religious backgrounds, and more.
Perhaps you want to draw people into the park through health initiatives, such as “Walk with a Doc.” Or, perhaps your community is interested in making your park known for its artistic or cultural events that foster community pride. Or maybe your primary concern is ensuring that your community has equitable access to resources that will allow you to achieve your park dreams, or that your park simply is accessible to all people. These and other paths to park activation will be explored by this year’s conference keynote speakers:
- Mitchell J. Silver, FAICP
Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
Mitchell Silver believes that “parks are our living rooms” – where people come together and create great memories. However, these spaces need to be cared for and updated in time with changing demographics. Yet upon becoming Commissioner of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, Silver discovered that 10% of the city’s parks had received no significant investment over a 20-year period. This was unacceptable. Under Silver’s leadership and with a focus on bringing quality parks within walking distance of all residents, the department launched a $285M initiative to transform 67 underserved community parks into spaces of which they could be proud.
Equity is one of the biggest challenges urban and park planners face today. Though there isn’t a defined road-map to success, Silver’s discussion will highlight practices used by his department to plan for equity and plan for people, inclusive of all populations, including age, race, income, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc.
- Nooshin Razani, MD, MPH
Director of the Center for Nature & Health, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
Nature is healing. And yet, the average American spends 7% of their life outdoors, and kids spend about 50% less time outdoors than they did 20 years ago. Inspired by important lessons learned from her children’s connection to the great outdoors, pediatrician Dr. Nooshin Razani is working to reverse that trend. Since 2014, she has routinely prescribed time in nature to children and their families.
Through her discussion, Dr. Razani will share the healing power of nature, its ability to help children learn to socialize, cooperate, and grow into successful adults, and why our urban park spaces must make and keep room for the enjoyment of our natural world.
- Gil Penalosa, MBA, PhDhc
Founder and Chair of 8 80 Cities; Chair of World Urban Parks
Today, there are more older Americans then there ever has been before, and they are also living longer. This simple fact requires that we begin to think about designing our cities differently. Gil Penalosa is the founder of 8 80 Cities, a non-profit organization grounded by a simple but powerful question: What if everything we planned in our cities had to be great for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old? This concept extends to our park spaces and our access to them.
Penalosa will leave you inspired and focused on tactics to creating a vibrant city with healthy communities where all people can live happier, more fulfilled lives.
Additionally, a featured panel discussion, moderated by Chris Appleton, Founder and Executive Director of WonderRoot, will highlight the important role that the arts hold (or should hold!) in community parks for reflecting and enhancing cultural identity and neighborhood pride.
As the program and breakout sessions continue to develop, we’ll share updates on the Parks and Greenspace Conference webpage and on the Facebook event page. I am confident that this year’s conference will leave you energized to return to your neighborhood park with fresh eyes for creating delightful, vibrant, swirling park spaces across the city. I hope to see you there!
Registration today: parkpride.org/conference.