Putting People into Park Design

February 20, 2020, Department, by Gina Mullins-Cohen

Gina Mullins Cohen Standing Pond 410

Public parks serve as the ultimate equalizer by welcoming people — regardless of culture, race, age, abilities or income level — to recreate, experience and learn. This is a belief that park professionals strive toward every day. To accomplish this, it is essential to include this principle from the first imagining of a park through its design, creation, implementation and subsequent management. Over and over, we see that the key to equitable and inclusionary practices is the involvement of diverse individuals and groups from the start, to consider their feedback and act upon their ideas. In this issue of Parks & Recreation magazine, we look at ways to engage various groups and partners throughout the park design process to ensure our equity values are realized.

Our cover story this month is Part 2 of an ongoing series on the Chouteau Greenway. While Part 1  focused on the project’s initial public relations strategy and public outreach efforts, the story in this issue by author Vitisia Paynich, titled “St. Louis: A Path Toward Equitable Design,” discusses how the greenway’s new Framework Plan acts as a blueprint for social equity and economic prosperity for residents all across the city of St. Louis, Missouri.

In the North Baton Rouge neighborhood of East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana, is Greenwood Park, home to the Baton Rouge Zoo, a culturally significant amenity that was at risk of being relocated. In the feature story, titled “Designing with Community in Mind,” contributors Anna Cawrse and Joshua Brooks describe how the Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge and Sasaki, a design firm, are addressing and reversing a decades-long pattern of disinvestment in this community through the reimaging of Greenwood Park and the Baton Rouge Zoo.

Throughout the park design and maintenance process, many park agencies turn to public-private partnerships, conservancies and advocacy groups for funding assistance. However, there is another funding source to be tapped — one that, sometimes, is a challenge to navigate for park professionals. In the feature, titled “Making Corporate Partnerships Work,” author Maura Lout explains how park agencies can engage corporate-sector partners for financial, marketing and media support to increase corporate social investment and meet the strategic, long-term goals of both parties. If this subject piques your interest, be sure to read the upcoming August 2020 issue of Parks & Recreation magazine, which will feature an article from contributor Gordon Feller, founder of Meeting of the Minds, that expands on this topic.

I’d also like to note that we have retracted an article, titled “Building Water Confidence,” that was printed in the January 2020 issue, from the Parks & Recreation website and ezine version of the publication. Safety is always the primary concern for NRPA and for dedicated park professionals everywhere. The program featured was highly specialized, requiring strict supervision. Prudent feedback voiced by members alerted us to potential safety risks to the general public. We thank those who are diligent about promoting awareness of best safety practices.

Gina Mullins-Cohen is NRPA's Vice President of Communications and Chief Marketing Officer