How Departments of Parks and Recreation Are Making the World a Better Place

How Departments of Parks and Recreation Are Making the World a Better Place

A deeper look at the contribution that the Departments of Parks and Recreation have made to the world. In the late 1800s, parks were known as “pleasure grounds.” These large tracts of land were located on the edges of large cities and were meant to simulate the countryside for wealthy urban dwellers. This was the problem with these early parks — they weren’t meant to be used and enjoyed by the working class, who had no easy way to get to them. In 1930, Robert Moses, an early commissioner of New York City’s Parks Department, changed the way parks and recreation departments around the world operated. It was because of his justification for spending money on urban parks that other cities were able to follow his lead, grow their park systems, and create public spaces that are literally changing the way the world lives and plays.

Departments of Parks and Recreation - Can you imagine New York without Central Park; credit:

Can you imagine New York without Central Park; credit:

Departments of Parks and Recreation

Nations Take the Lead One such park system that has not only brought recreation to the masses but has also been a leader in conservation and restoration is the United States National Park Service. According to its website, the national park system comprises 407 areas and covers more than 84 million acres, with public lands in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. WATCH: An Epic sampling of America’s National Parks

These include national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and even the White House. Their success and influence can be shown in their visitation rate: More than 273 million people visited a National Park Service site in 2013. Want more park related articles, check these out:

Other countries have also turned to parks to teach the masses about conservation and sustainability. In places like China, where overpopulation and a lack of resources are common problems, parks are becoming more than just places to seek relaxation or play a game of pickup basketball.

Departments of Parks and Recreation - Yanweizhou-Park

Yanweizhou Park – “40,000 visitors each day”. Credit: Turenscape

China Leading the way in sustainable Design China is setting the precedent for sustainable design. In parks such as Yanweizhou Park and Lotus Lake Park, these designs are taking life and teaching millions about lost ecology and sustainability. Wetlands, lakes, and aquaculture pools are on display for visitors to observe and even interact with, all while teaching that sustainable urban practices are an attainable goal.
Departments of Parks and Recreation - Lotus Lake Park. Credit: Integrated Planning and Design Inc.

Lotus Lake Park – The parks upper ponds are large visual feature that include water cascades and plantings of the famed double-headed lotus flower. Credit: Integrated Planning and Design Inc.

Improving the Lives of Urban Residents Two other parks created to make their cities better places to live and work would have to be Boston’s Dump Shoreline (Part of Millennium Park) and New York City’s yet-to-be-finished Freshkills Park. Both parks departments are practicing the art of reclamation to bring back land lost to landfills and create stunning and award-winning parks. In the Boston neighborhood of West Roxbury, Millennium Park sits on what was once the Gardner Street Landfill. The landfill was capped using topsoil from the city’s infamous “Big Dig.” The area is known as “urban wild” and provides visitors with a glimpse into the past and what the shoreline probably looked like before development. 3 Times Bigger Than Central Park Once it is completed in 2036, New York City’s Freshkills Park will be three times larger than Central Park, according to its NYC Parks website. The property was once the world’s largest landfill, but soon will be home to playgrounds, athletic fields, kayak launches, horseback riding trails, large-scale art installations, and much more. WATCH: The Fresh Kills Story: From World’s Largest Garbage Dump to a World-Class Park

Systems Becoming Models for Future Development Around the World And at the forefront of this park is public safety, due to its location. The land the park sits on is being capped with an impermeable plastic liner and eight additional layers of barrier material to separate the new park space from the landfill below. Systems in place to manage the landfill gas and leachate byproducts include visible white stacks of flare stations and the extensive underground network of piping and drainage channels. These systems are becoming models for cities around the world seeking to make the same reclamations.

No Park is Too Small for the Departments of Parks and Recreation

In addition to these grand gestures, smaller parks are also changing the lives of adults and children around the world who live in huge urban cities by simply giving them green areas in which to relax, play, and enjoy a rare glimpse of nature that they would otherwise not be able to experience.

Departments of Parks and Recreation - "Creative Commons   Paley Park on a cloudy, chilly late winter afternoon". By Jim.henderson  licensed under CC

The coolest pocket park in the world – “Creative Commons Paley Park on a cloudy, chilly late winter afternoon”. By Jim.henderson licensed under CC

What can be learned from exploring and studying the varied departments of parks and recreation from around the world? Most certainly, these parks are not only meant for play, but can also have life-changing effects on both the people that enjoy them and the cities that build them. So take time to visit a park today. Without visitation, cities might not build these areas, and the world would be changed for the worse. Recommended Reading:

Article by Erin Tharp Return to Homepage

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