Briefly Noted

December 1, 2012, Department, by NRPA

New York City's proposed Lowline would be the city's first underground park if plans are approved.Doomsday theorists have pegged December 21 as the apocalypse based on rough interpretations of the Mayan calendar’s prophecies, and Michigan’s Grand Blanc Parks and Recreation is using the event as a tongue-in-cheek fundraising opportunity. An End of the World fundraiser and auction is planned for December 5 to raise money toward the $300,000 needed to build a second pavilion at Creasey Bicentennial Park. “The Mayan calendar says the world will end December 21. We just thought we would get a head start and encourage people to give their money to us since they can’t bring it with them,” Executive Director Kae Eidson says with a laugh. Tickets are $50 per person and include hors d’oeuvres, a wine tasting, live entertainment, and a celebrity mixer.

New York City’s Central Park Conservancy has received a gift of $100 million from hedge fund investor John A. Paulson, the largest monetary donation in the history of New York City’s park system. Half of the gift will go toward the park’s $144 million endowment, while the other half will pay for capital projects. Paulson specified his wish that part of the donation should go toward restoring the North Woods and improving landscaping near Merchant’s Gate. While the gift has been welcomed with open arms by park officials and conservancy members, it has also received its share of criticism by others who note the lack of funding toward some of the city’s poorer parks, which receive just as many, or more, visitors per acre as Central Park in any given year.

Also in New York City, a new proposal has emerged to turn an abandoned trolley terminal in Manhattan’s Lower East Side into the world’s first underground park. Recognizing the need for more green space and the lack of available aboveground space in the city, architect Dan Barasch and social entrepreneur James Ramsey developed an elaborate plan for the Lowline, a three-block underground terminal that includes custom-designed solar disks that will deliver sunlight from street level to sustain trees and other plants. The Metropolitan Transit Authority retains ownership of the property and has not yet approved plans for the project.

When the St. Charles, Illinois, Park District decided to install new playground equipment at two popular parks, it donated the two existing playgrounds to Kids Around the World (KIDS), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping children and families who have been affected by war, poverty, illness, and natural disasters. Kids Around the World will work with its international partners to refurbish the playgrounds and find them a new home where they will help children develop physical, social, emotional, and cognitive skills, and simply provide a place to play. The organization has built hundreds of playgrounds for children in more than 50 countries and also provides nutritious meals and teacher training throughout the world.

The Texas Recreation and Park society (TRAPS), an NRPA state affiliate, turned 75 on November 6. Established as the Texas Recreation Association in 1937, the organization has since changed its name three times, but the mission remains the same: TRAPS is committed to advancing the field of parks, recreation, and leisure services in Texas. TRAPS has approximately 2,000 professional and citizen-advocate members and is a major provider of education related to parks and recreation, therapeutic recreation, and other related areas, as well as training for professionals, paraprofessionals, and citizen advocates. In celebration of its 75th birthday, TRAPS is publishing a book slated for late this year that commemorates the history of the organization.

Annapolis, Maryland, officials are considering a plan to remove trash cans from city parks, a strategy they say would save money and could keep public spaces cleaner. Without trash cans, officials said, visitors would take refuse with them or learn to not produce it in the first place. Other parks across the country have adopted such “trash-free” policies, including all Maryland state parks and scores of national parks, which urge visitors to “leave no trace.” In Annapolis, the idea comes amid broader changes that, for the first time, shifted city trash service into private hands to cut costs. Annapolis initially announced it would take away every trash can in every park this fall—then quietly rolled back the plan when residents lodged more than 400 complaints in the first month.

2012 marks the 75th anniversary of Tennessee state parks, and the year-long celebration is going out with a bang. In October, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander joined members of the General Assembly and elected officials from Unicoi County to celebrate the future conveyance of more than 2,000 acres in the Rocky Fork tract near Johnson City as Tennessee’s 55th state park. Preliminarily, plans for the “park in progress” include an access road, ranger station, primitive campground, picnic area, and trails, state officials said. Rocky Fork protects more than 16 miles of blue-ribbon trout streams and is a popular hunting area for black bear, turkey, deer, and grouse. The area also is home to both state and federally endangered species, including the peregrine falcon.

City officials in Washington, D.C., have announced a plan to renovate 32 city playgrounds by next September using $30 million that includes unspent funds from other capital projects, a major upgrade for a renovation schedule that would have otherwise seen only eight new playgrounds in that time. Parks and Recreation spokesman John Stokes said Mayor Vincent Gray pushed to use the surplus borrowed funds—some of it left over from delayed or under-budget projects—to accelerate the renovation schedule after parks officials undertook a triage of playground facilities.

In an attempt to lessen the destructive impact of gray squirrels on campus at Clemson University, researchers have begun lacing sunflower seeds with contraceptives in order to quell the ever-increasing rodent population. Over the past decade, squirrels have been responsible for more than $1 million in damages to trees on Clemson’s campus. Researchers have spent the past year studying campus squirrel behavior and drawing blood to determine hormonal fluctuations, and they recently introduced the pink-dyed seeds at 16 campus feeders that only squirrels can access. If the experiment succeeds without significant ill effects to the wider ecosystem, the contraceptive plan could become more widely available to other schools, park agencies, and public places in coming years.

The American Chemistry Council presented its 2012 Innovation in Plastics Recycling Award in November to Marietta, Georgia-based Safeplay Systems—manufacturer of EcoPlay Playgrounds. ACC cited EcoPlay for its manufacturing process, which uses post-consumer, recycled HDPE plastic. Its equipment—designed for commercial use, such as in parks, schools, and child development centers—is made from a minimum of 95 percent post-consumer recycled HDPE (milk jugs). The average playground structure keeps 35,000-plus milk jugs out of landfills.


Recommended Reading: Managing Outdoor Recreation: Case Studies in the National Parks. By Robert E. Manning and Laura E. Anderson. Available from CABI Publishing (www.cabi.org). $145 (hardback), 256 pages.

As annual visitation to national parks approaches the 300 million mark, it is increasingly important to manage outdoor recreation in ways that protect the integrity of park resources and the quality of the visitor experience. This new book by Manning and Anderson provides systematic information on the management of outdoor recreation in national parks. Written for undergraduate and graduate students and as a handbook for practitioners, the book is divided into three parts.

Part 1 builds a framework for systematic and creative thinking about how to manage outdoor recreation. Part 2, the heart of the book, is a series of 20 case studies of successful outdoor recreation management in the national parks. These case studies are drawn from a diversity of parks and address a range of management issues. Part 3 develops a series of principles for managing outdoor recreation, using the case studies for illustration.

Manning is a professor with the Park Studies Lab at the University of Vermont. He is a recipient of NRPA’s Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for Excellence in Recreation and Park Research and NRPA’s National Literary Award. Anderson is a post-doctoral associate in UVM’s Park Studies Lab. The lab recently received the National Award from the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units Network.