What makes New York’s central park so successful (it’s the most visited park in the US) is, in part, the fact that thousands of people live on its periphery, which not only gives them access to it, it also creates a safer environment because there are so many eyes on the park.
Parks can be dark dangerous places when they are isolated/cut off from neighbors and neighborhoods.
What parks are not is a wilderness area.
How do I know that?
Wildlife flourishes in places where human beings don’t go, not even bird watchers. Places like the exclusion zone around Chernobyl and the DMZ between the two Koreas. For real.
Many architects, landscape architects, community associations, neighborhood activists, environmentalists, urban designers, municipal planners and politicians are not clear on this… they have come to believe parkland design is an environmental issue. It is not.
Parks are meant for active and passive use by human beings, often stuck in urban agglomerations where forest bathing and enjoying nature is as rare as winning an argument with my wife.
Active uses like, for example, being able to get a coffee, tea or muffin or being able to use a w/c that is NOT a porta potty are essential. If you simply have a grassy area and a few trees, that’s not enough.
What does Central Park contain?
-medical emergency response teams
-Central Park zoo
-ice skating rink (Wollman Rink)
-playgrounds (21 of them)
-Tavern on the Green restaurant
-Shakespeare in the Park festival
-large mouth bass fishing
-attend a concert at SummerStage
-visit Belvedere Castle
-row around the Lake
-play beach volleyball or croquet
-race model sailboats
-ride the century-old carousel
-watch a puppet show at the Swedish Marionette Theater
-make a wish at the Bethesda Fountain
-much more besides.
Prof Bruce’s self-financing Park
I’ve been working on a concept called “eyes on the park” for awhile. The idea is to have people living on the borders of the park and to make parks self-financing. It’s heresy to some but here’s a sketch I did of what it might include. Where you see $$$ in a red circle, these are financial engines.
First to free uses:
-mountain biking trails
-fenced off-leash dog park
-BBQ and picnic area
-games area (eg, chess and backgammon plus board-games)
-sports area–ping pong, croquet, pickle ball, beach volleyball, mini golf, horseshoes, cornhole, bocce, shuffleboard…
-soccer pitch/ultimate fields
Revenue-generating land uses:
-flea market stalls
-wedding pavilion and event center
-camping site and glamping yurts
-coffee, tea and sandwich shop
micro-gardens and bunkies
-residential lots on land leases around the periphery of the park (your eyes on the park).
The idea is to let entrepreneurs run the active uses on long term land leases featuring triple net rent and percentage rent.
Entrepreneurs are likely to run these services more effectively than municipalities and cities, towns, villages, counties, townships, states and provinces can achieve twin objectives too–
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Image source: Martin St-Amant (S23678) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6383576