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Posts Tagged ‘parks’

Photo: Wikimedia.
Cleveland in 1922, when the city was more walkable. Note the trolleys, which eventually succumbed to Americans’ love affair with the automobile.

For decades, cities were planned around cars and the convenience of people driving in from the suburbs. Now planners are giving more thought to urban quality of life and the “15-minute city” — even looking back to the Old Days for ideas. How lovely to live in a city and be able to do most of your daily errands within 15 minutes of your home!

Adele Peters writes at Fast Company, “When Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo touted the idea of becoming a 15-minute city — a place where it’s easy to reach work, school, stores, and other destinations on a short walk or bike ride — it didn’t have as far to go as many other cities. Hidalgo has pushed for multiple changes to help cut air pollution and improve quality of life, from making a highway car-free to adding so many bike lanes that the streets now look more like Copenhagen. But Paris was already compact, densely populated, and relatively easy to walk. …

“The goal is a bigger challenge in Cleveland, which currently has a Walk Score of 57 (Paris has a perfect score, 100 out of 100). Cleveland’s 35-year-old mayor [Justin Bibb], who took office earlier this year, still wants to move in the same direction.

“ ‘We’re working toward being the first city in North America to implement a 15-minute city planning framework, where people — not developers, but people — are at the center of urban revitalization, because regardless of where you live, you have access to a good grocery store, vibrant parks, and a job you can get to,’ Bibb said in his first State of the City speech in April. …

“The city was more walkable in the past, and more people lived a short distance from their jobs. ‘We had an industrial heritage, and we had housing very proximate to these plants and factories where people worked,’ says Jeff Epstein, the city’s chief development officer. Corner stores and other neighborhood retail shops were also within walking distance from homes. But as factories closed, and highways helped spawn the growth of suburbs, city neighborhoods became much less dense, and people had to travel farther. …

“Says Jason Kuhn, communications manager at the bike advocacy group Bike Cleveland, [‘You] ended up with this network of roads that are really built for car movement efficiency, and really not for people on bikes. There’s a potential, absolutely, to turn back to the other direction and really make the city work for the people who live there.’

“New protected bike lanes that run through the middle of the city and from east to west are already planned, though the overall bike network needs to improve. ‘You might have a road where there’s a bike lane for a mile, and then maybe it’s gone for two, so it’s kind of broken,’ he says. ‘So it’s still difficult to move around the city by bicycle just because the network is incomplete.’ A new ‘complete streets’ ordinance will help improve planning and deal with challenges like wide streets that are difficult for pedestrians to cross, he says.

The city is also starting to map out assets like parks and stores and identify which neighborhoods have the most potential now to be 15-minute neighborhoods. …

“Planners are also looking at where there are clusters of amenities near transit, and looking for ways to increase the number of people living in those areas. A neighborhood called Detroit Shoreway has the basic assets of a 15-minute city, but needs around 18,000 more housing units strategically located near public transit. There’s plenty of space, they say, to build new housing, from former industrial sites to closed fast-food restaurants, underused parking lots, and land owned by the city itself.

“On the riverfront — where the water was once so polluted that it famously caught on fire, but is now much cleaner — a new 35-acre development plans to add new park space, 2,000 housing units, and new office and retail space, all designed to encourage people to live downtown and easily walk where they need to go.

“ ‘We came in with that as a fundamental objective — planning to create 15-minute neighborhoods, and also to be an essential component of getting downtown Cleveland to be part of an 18-hour city, which in essence means that folks can come downtown and find something to do for at least 18 hours of the day,’ says Kofi Bonner, CEO of Bedrock, the real estate firm developing the site. The firm just completed a master plan for the area; the first steps for construction could begin in 2024, depending on the city permitting process, but the full project will take 15 to 20 years. The development will help connect the riverfront to the rest of downtown.”

My friend Mary Ann bikes Cleveland with her family. I love seeing her photos of nighttime group rides.

More at Fast Company, here.

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Photo: Baileigh Industrial.
Above, using the Action Trackchair around the house. Wilderness adventurers love it, too.

Technology is erasing the barriers for people with disabilities who want to do everything other people do. At the Washington Post, Andrea Sachs and Natalie B. Compton wrote on Nov. 8 about a 500-pound miracle arriving in US parks: all-terrain wheelchairs.

“Cory Lee has visited 40 countries on seven continents,” they write, “and yet the Georgia native has never explored Cloudland Canyon State Park, about 20 minutes from his home. His wheelchair was tough enough for the trip to Antarctica but not for the rugged terrain in his backyard.

“Lee’s circumstances changed [recently], when Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources and the Aimee Copeland Foundation unveiled a fleet of all-terrain power wheelchairs for rent at 11 state parks and outdoorsy destinations, including Cloudland Canyon.

The Action Trackchair models are equipped with tank-like tracks capable of traversing rocks, roots, streams and sand; clearing fallen trees; plowing through tall grass; and tackling uphill climbs.

“ ‘I’ll finally be able to go on these trails for the first time in my life,’ said the 32-year-old travel blogger, who shares his adventures on Curb Free With Cory Lee. …

“In 2017, Colorado Parks and Wildlife launched its Staunton State Park Track-Chair Program, which provides free adaptive equipment, though guests must pay the $10 entrance fee. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources has placed off-road track chairs in nearly a dozen parks, including Muskegon State Park. …

“South Dakota is [expanding] its squadron: On Tuesday, the South Dakota Parks and Wildlife Foundation unveils its second all-terrain chair. South Dakota resident Michael M. Samp is leading a fundraising campaign to purchase up to 30 chairs. Last year, Samp’s father packed up his fishing pole and piloted a track chair to Center Lake in Custer State Park. He reeled in trout, just as he had before he was diagnosed with spinal cerebral ataxia. …

“This month, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will wrap up its months-long pilot program that tested out the chairs in five parks. … Said Jamie McBride, a state parks and recreation area program consultant with the Parks and Trails division of the Minnesota DNR, ‘People have told us this is life-changing.’

“The Georgia initiative was spearheaded by Aimee Copeland Mercier, who suffered a zip-lining accident in 2012 and lost both hands, her right foot and her left leg to a flesh-eating bacterial infection. Copeland Mercier, a psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, tested several types of all-terrain chairs before committing to the Action Trackchair, which several other state programs also use.

“The Minnesota-based company was founded by Tim and Donna Swenson, whose son, Jeff, was paralyzed in a car accident. The original design resembled a Frankenstein of sporting goods parts, with snow bike tracks and a busted boat seat. Today’s model could be an opening act at a monster truck rally.

“ ‘I was floored by what it could do,’ said Copeland Mercier, whose foundation raised $200,000 to purchase the chairs at $12,500 each. ‘Oh my gosh! I can go over a whole tree trunk, up a steep incline and through snow, swamps and wetlands. If I took my regular wheelchair, I’d get stuck in five minutes.’

“Each program has its own reservations system and requirements. For Georgia’s service, visitors must provide proof of their disability and a photo ID, plus complete an online training course available through All Terrain Georgia. Once certified, the organization will forward the rental request to the park. Copeland Mercier urges visitors to plan ahead: The certification course takes about an hour, the foundation needs 72-hour advance notice and the park requires a 48-hour head’s up.

“ ‘These are 500-pound chairs,’ she said. ‘There are some risks involved.’

“The Minnesota DNR, which owns and maintains its five chairs, advises visitors to call the park to reserve a chair. …

“Track chairs can conquer a range of obstacles, but they do not work in all environments.

“ ‘You need the width. If two trees are too close together, the wheelchair can’t pass between them,’ Copeland Mercier said. ‘And some inclines are too steep. The chair also can’t go down staircases.’

“To steer visitors in the right direction, parks have created maps highlighting the trails designated for the track chairs, such as Staunton State Park’s trio of routes that range from roughly three to four miles. … McBride said one goal is to erect markers that would provide detailed information about the hike, such the extent of accessibility. ‘We want to let people know if they can get all the way to the waterfall or halfway,’ he said, using a hypothetical example.

“Copeland Mercier also has a wish list. She hopes to expand the network of chairs to other parts of Georgia, such as the coastal, southern and central regions. Once the foundation acquires several vans (another aspiration), the staff could move the 30 to 40 chairs (ditto) around the state to fill fluctuating demand. She is also eyeing other states.

“ ‘North Carolina is next,’ said Copeland Mercier, who divides her time between Atlanta and Asheville, N.C. But the grand plan is even bigger. ‘The goal is to alter the U.S.A.,’ she said.”

More at the Post, here.

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Pedestrians take advantage of some sunshine to walk down the High Line park in New York

Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters
More than just a tourist attraction, Manhattan’s High Line is a development destination, says author Richard Florida.

Have you walked on Manhattan’s High Line when it’s not too crowded? It is a magical linear garden high above the dusty streets of the city.

And what about the magnificent parks in New York?

I’m in the city now and, having had beautiful walks in the extraordinary Central Park, am determined do a post soon on the genius of designer Frederick Law Olmsted and the supporters who made his urban landscapes possible.

Today’s post, however, is on the economic value of beauty in cities — not that beauty ever needs to be justified in terms of dollars and cents. But it’s worth noting.

Richard Florida asks at CityLab whether cities “benefit from a beauty premium? According to a new study by two urban economists, it seems that they do.

“The study by Gerald A. Carlino of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia and Albert Saiz of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, examines the connection between a city’s beauty and key growth indicators. A raft of previous studies have found a connection between economic and population growth and urban amenities (a broad category ranging from parks to restaurants, art galleries, and museums). But this study takes a much closer look at the effects of beauty itself.

“To get at this, the researchers measure attractiveness in a unique way: through tourist visits and photos of picturesque locations. … The study compares its own measure of urban beauty to more established measures of urban amenities such as parks, historic spaces, proximity to coastlines, bodies of waters or mountains, the size of the tourism industry, and more. ..

“The study finds evidence of a significant beauty premium for cities and neighborhoods. A city with twice as many picturesque locations as another city saw 10 percent growth or greater in population and jobs from 1990 to 2010. In fact, urban beauty ties with lower taxes as the most important predictor of overall population growth in cities. Plus, these cities disproportionately attract greater numbers of college graduates. Cities in the top 25 percent of picturesqueness saw nearly 3 percent higher growth in the number of college grads than those in the bottom 25 percent. …

“City beauty is not an effect of size, the study finds: Smaller and medium-sized places with more parks, historic buildings, proximity to water and mountains, and clearer skies and less rain are perceived as beautiful as well.

“It’s not just metros broadly that benefit from an urban beauty premium, it’s specific neighborhoods within them. A large number of studies have documented the back-to-the-city movement of younger, more educated, and more affluent people to the urban center. These studies typically document the urban influx into neighborhoods near the Central Business District (CBD), the downtown commercial core of a city. …

“Urban beauty is a powerful tool for economic growth and urban resurgence, but with it comes gentrification and displacement. As the authors of the study put it: ‘Rents, incomes, and educational attainment increased faster in urban beautiful neighborhoods but at the cost of minority displacement.’

“Urban policy makers have to take in the full costs, as well as the benefits, of urban beautification into account. They could mandate that developers who create new condominiums adjacent to publicly created and valued amenities pay more in taxes, provide some affordable housing, or employ local residents in their projects. Cities can devote the increased revenues from beautification projects to affordable housing, workforce development, and the reduction of concentrated poverty.”

Read more here.

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Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle 
Artificial turf is installed in a park under construction in San Francisco, which claims to be the first city with a park near every home.

More and more research is showing that access to nature and urban parks improves not only quality of life but the health of city dwellers. Municipalities save, too, when they have healthier residents.

Recently San Francisco was able to claim the distinction of being first in the nation to offer a park 10 minutes from every home.

Lizzie Johnson reports at the San Francisco Chronicle, “In 10 minutes, you can load a TV episode on Netflix, check your mail waiting for BART or make an avocado toast. Now, you can add to that list: take a walk to the park.

“San Francisco is the first city in the nation to have every resident live within a 10-minute walk of a park or open space. The percentage is calculated by the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit that facilitates the creation of parks and analyzes park systems for the 100 largest cities nationwide. …

“But don’t expect to see a small army of city workers and volunteers with stopwatches in hand counting their steps. The data were gathered using a complex geographic mapping program. The average person can walk a half-mile in about 10 minutes, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, which counts even your two legs as a mode of transportation. The distance has to include sidewalks — crossing highways or skirting canals doesn’t count.

“ ‘We developed this as the gold standard,’ said Adrian Benepe, the Trust for Public Land’s director of city park development. ‘A 10-minute walk to a park is an important indicator of the livability of a city.’ …

“Criteria for the nonprofit’s annual ParkScore analysis also includes the number of individual parks, overall spending and facilities upkeep. …

“The city has spent $355 million in bond and general fund money over the past four years to purchase land, renovate dilapidated parks and improve open spaces. In 2012, voters passed the $195 million Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond to fix up neighborhood parks.

“Those measures made the difference in reaching the No. 1 spot, said Recreation and Park Department Director Phil Ginsburg.

“ ‘It speaks volumes about this city’s commitment to open space,’ he said. “It is the reflection of literally a century and a half of decisions regarding parks and open space.’ ”

More at the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Photo: Evensi

My husband and I alternate between our two sets of grandchildren on Halloween. Last year we got a kick out of seeing John perform the role of MC for the costume fashion show at the park on his street. Although we won’t be there this year, I’m glad I got to see my oldest grandson in this year’s Yoda costume and his sister as a mermaid. Her puzzlement about the way the bottom of her costume was cut led to explanations of mermaid anatomy and collaboration on mermaid drawings.

This year we join the Providence grandkids (one gentleman fire chief, one lady construction worker) for the gathering at Brown Street Park and the annual parade through blocked-off Providence streets.

Brown Street Park has many Friends (changed to “Fiends” for the holiday). It’s in an upscale neighborhood near the university and flourishes because of people who both care about it and know how to raise money. If only all Providence neighborhoods were like that (which I say because behind one place where I volunteer, there’s a filthy campsite where drugs are sold. I am told the city cleaned it up once, but the vacant lot reverted to its current sorry state. How I wish the city would try again and neighbors would feel that they could go in and plant a garden or something!) But I digress.

If you go to the Friends of Brown Street Park website, here, you will find a well-organized group of volunteers soliciting help from other potential volunteers for initiatives such as the Hallloween party and parade, the summer concert series and the Earth Day clean-up.

In poor communities, good things can happen, too, but no outsider can come in and decree what those good things should be. First come efforts to build trust among all neighbors, as suggested here, then come deliberations about what neighbors actually want. I am going to look into getting the city to deal with that no-longer-vacant lot. It’s so disturbing for children who attend nearby activities. All neighborhoods should be safe for children.

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