Parks Serve as Beneficial Infrastructure for Many Cities

By: Bill Eller

When you think essential infrastructure, you may not think about parks or playgrounds, but providing residents a place for recreation garners socioeconomic benefits, and parks designed for mixed use also can be used in water management and transportation.

A park will increase adjacent properties’ value by 15 to 20 percent, and businesses cite the presence of a robust park system as one of the top three reasons to relocate to a community. While parks generate revenue with user fees, they also generate indirect revenue through hosting special and sporting events – America’s local parks generate $154 billion in economic activity.

Parks, especially in urban settings, provide psychological restoration, lowering stress and mental fatigue and improving concentration, and surveys have shown that minor crimes, such as vandalism, graffiti and littering, are reduced near greenspaces.

Many cities are reclaiming industrial corridors, such as railways, and turning them into linear parks, including bike and walking paths – and residents are using them for transportation to work, school and shopping. Parks, both existing and new, can be part of a city’s green infrastructure by diverting storm water away from sewer systems and acting as a natural filter.

These aren’t the only exciting developments in park improvements – inclusive playgrounds, designed to be accessible to children with mobility, sensory and neurological issues have been gaining attention and support. An inclusive, or all-abilities, playground can include ramps, wider aisles, soft ground surfaces and accessible swings and merry-go-rounds for children with mobility difficulties. It also can include sensory games or musical equipment and safe, quiet spaces for children on the autism spectrum.

Whether through planning a new space or converting an existing space, envisioning parks as infrastructure addresses a variety of needs facing contemporary communities, including population density, environmentalism, health and accessibility.

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