How to Improve Community Parks
There’s something almost magical about spending time outside. When people are given more opportunities to enjoy nature and breathe fresh air, they become happier, healthier individuals. Parks are dedicated spaces within your community that provide both kids and adults a safe space to play, gather, and socialize outside.
The mere existence of parks offers incredible advantages to the mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing of the surrounding community. However, with a few additional elements and new projects, community parks can make an even greater difference in your town or city. Here are a few community improvement project ideas which are sure to improve your community park.
Read the full article or skip to a specific section:
- Why Successful Community Park Designs Are Crucial
- 5 Benefits of Community Parks
- 9 Ways to Improve Your Community Park
- How to Attract Community Members of All Ages
- Start Improving Your Community Park Today
Why Successful Community Park Designs Are Crucial
Before you decide how to improve your community park, you need to think about its overall design. Believe it or not, the layout of your neighborhood park is just as important as what’s inside.
It’s essential to ensure park visitors have ample space to commune and be active. They should also have access to quiet, comfortable areas to rest, observe, and reflect. When improving your community park, consider business meetings and other structured events that may require quieter areas. That way, members can hear one another and engage in thoughtful conversation.
5 Benefits of Community Parks
Careful design considerations can help your town or city enjoy the advantages of a local park. Some community benefits of parks are:
1. Encouraging a Healthy Lifestyle
Increasingly sedentary lifestyles have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic. Whether it’s children given little to no time for exercise with an increased focus on academics or adults spending long hours at desk jobs, opportunities to stay active are limited.
Not everyone has access to a gym to work out. But community parks outfitted with fitness equipment encourage an overall healthier population, especially since everyone in the community has access to parks regardless of socioeconomic status.
2. Promoting Inclusivity Using Accessible Playground Equipment
Rally your community members around a higher set of values and work together to build play environments where children of all ability levels and backgrounds can connect. Your park can be enjoyable for every child in your community, even those who have mobility or other challenges.
Inclusive and handicap-accessible playground equipment benefits children on all levels. For those with challenges, accessible equipment allows them to play, just like everyone else. Even children without challenges benefit, as playing with children of different backgrounds and abilities encourages empathy and helps develop social and emotional skills, serving them throughout their lives.
3. Providing Space for Entertainment
Parks are perfect spots for both private and public special events. From family gatherings to city events, nothing beats a park, especially when they’re strategically outfitted to include space for various entertainment opportunities. Both kids and adults need places where they can play sports, gather with friends and family, go on a date, or relax.
While most community parks include shelters that protect picnickers from the elements, some additional features with entertainment potential include:
- Covered and open eating areas
- Barbecue pits
- Athletic fields
- Stages and theatrical venues
4. Offering Access to Safe, Clean Communal Spaces
It’s the little things that set exceptional community parks apart. Small considerations like picking up litter, regular maintenance, and landscaping show the community that someone cares. Clean parks are safer gathering spaces for the entire neighborhood. As a result, more people spend their time in the local park.
While pruned bushes, cut grass, and manicured trees are an excellent start, give careful consideration to the types of plants used. Low pollen varieties are greatly appreciated come allergy season, lowering allergy symptoms.
5. Encouraging Heightened Environmental Awareness
Parks have incredible potential to increase the health of the community, and they present an amazing opportunity to raise environmental awareness among locals, both young and old.
For some urban community members, parks are the only place where they can truly appreciate natural beauty. So, why not provide helpful information by labeling plants and trees?
Your community park can be a central pillar in your city’s green efforts. While it’s always a good idea to have ample trash bins, recycling stations throughout the park — which separate glass, plastic, and paper — bring awareness to this critical issue. The park can also sponsor annual cleanup events for members of the community to come together and spruce up their corner of the world.
9 Ways to Improve Your Community Park
In addition to making your neighborhood park more attractive, there are many other ways to improve your community. What about the streets that lead to your small public parks? Or the buildings, sidewalks, curbs, and infrastructure? Discover the top nine ways to amp up your community with improvement initiatives and city beautification projects like never before.
1. Include a Dog Park
Parks aren’t only for community members — they are for dogs to enjoy, too. Dogs love fresh air and green areas to run and play, and a dog park is a perfect amenity in your dog-friendly community. Dogs, like humans, benefit significantly from physical exercise, especially in urban environments where backyard space is rare.
Some park additions that community dogs will love are:
- Dog walk ramps
- Dog jumping hoops
- Dog steppers
- Dog agility weave poles
When dogs arrive at your park, they’ll naturally get excited to explore the dog-friendly additions. Creating a dedicated dog park is a great way to encourage dogs and their owners to stay active.
2. Establish a Free Library
The pleasure of reading books and magazines at the park is unparalleled. Create a real-life literary community on the streets of your neighborhood by establishing small free libraries for all to enjoy. Free libraries and “take a book, share a book” initiatives create a stronger community connection with a shared feeling of commitment and enjoyment.
3. Document Your Park
There’s no limit to the number of picture-worthy moments and sceneries in your neighborhood green space. Sharing the beauty of your city or town via hashtags or photo collages in your local restaurants, diners, and cafes goes a long way toward creating a sense of community.
4. Plant a Tree
Trees accomplish so much and demand little in return. Whether your goal is more shade, more serenity, or added beauty, outfitting any sidewalk, bus stop waiting area, or walking path with trees is a tried-and-true method of inspiring community pride. Many cities require tree planting permits, so check your city ordinances before you start planting around your park.
5. Turn Trash and Recycling Cans Into Colorful Creations
You may have considered commissioning artists for murals and other forms of street art, but what about trash cans, bike racks, and other furnishings? Turning everyday neighborhood items into colorful masterpieces is an excellent way to liven up your community park.
6. Add Commercial Bike Racks
As more communities are following the bike loop trend, make sure your city accommodates its riders with commercial bike racks and DIY rack spaces. Installing a commercial bike rack in your community park attracts more visitors, as over 47.5 million people ride bicycles in the U.S. By attracting more people, you boost visitor perception, too.
7. Reclaim Unloved Public Spaces
Whether you have a small plot of undeveloped land or a patch of grass near a community park, there are many ways to turn unloved public spaces into lush green areas. Simply “seed bombing” a hard-to-reach patch of land can yield remarkable results.
8. Create a Central Hub
A park designed for multiple activities helps all community members feel welcome. To successfully create a community park with various areas for rest, reflection, conversation, and exercise, a central hub or gathering space is critical.
As an urban planner or architect, you can position the hub so park visitors can see all or most of the activity areas. The central gathering space can be adjusted for any shape, size, or other site considerations. Additional design ideas for your neighborhood park include:
- Create “rooms”: One of the most effective ways to improve your community park is to create “rooms,” such as pavilions, terraces, or overlook shelters, where people can gather and converse. Elevate these rooms with comfortable elements such as fireplaces, skylights, or fire pits. Or, consider adding small gardens around the base and sides for added appeal.
- Include a variety of activities: The more activities your community park can accommodate, the better. Ensure your gathering space has open access to all of the activity areas you include, like athletic fields, amphitheaters, playgrounds, or other play spaces.
- Incorporate elements of discovery: Spark interest and encourage exercise with opportunities for exploration. Create a lookout with spectacular views or incorporate kiosks, games, and trail signage along the discovery paths to educate people about the surrounding geology and cultural history.
- Provide a place for people to socialize: The best neighborhood parks allow people to share time with others. Whether it’s a small circular area with barbecue pits, benches, and picnic tables or a concession stand with seating, it’s important to provide a communal space for socialization.
9. Link Walking Trails Back to the Central Gathering Space
Walking is easier on the joints than other forms of exercise and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. For this reason, consider incorporating walking trails and paths into your neighborhood park design — just make sure to circle them back to the hub.
If you’re looking for design ideas for small public parks, loop trails are a must. These trails lend a sense of spaciousness and variety for hikers, even in smaller parks. With out-and-back trails, community members can enjoy the plethora of changing views while walking on a loop trail.
How to Attract Community Members of All Ages
With those improvements in mind, you can also make changes that encourage visitors of all ages to your park. Some ways you can attract community members across all age groups are:
Support Physical Abilities of All Ages
People of different ages have varying physical abilities, namely older children and older adults.
Young children are actively developing their fine and gross motor skills. Consider tailoring to this younger demographic by providing playground equipment for varying ages. By age, young children benefit from playground equipment like:
- Toddlers: Toddlers begin to gain movement, practicing their gross motor skills and strengthening their fine motor skills. They’re using their bodies more and enjoy independent play. Toddlers benefit from individual activities on the playground, such as activity panels.
- Preschoolers: Preschoolers can use their bodies more purposefully, now able to independently run, climb, jump, swing, and more. They enjoy independent activities like sliding and swinging.
- School-age children: School-aged kids are beginning to play with one another and engage in more physical play. At this age, advanced gross-motor playground equipment, like climbing towers, is beneficial.
Some older adults above the age of 50 experience difficulties in gross or fine motor activities. Older adults and adults with disabilities may have problems walking long distances, climbing steps, standing on their feet for long periods, and lifting heavy objects. Support these individuals by creating sitting areas and other site amenities.
Create a Flexible Design
According to a survey by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), people visit community parks to be with friends and family. Groups also visit community parks to:
- Be physically active
- Be closer to nature
- Learn a new skill or craft
Satisfy group needs by creating a flexible design so everyone can be together while engaging in recreational fun. Consider making a seamless design between the playground and seating area, by putting the seating area within the perimeter of the playground. That way, if the children want to play on the playground and older adults want to sit and play a board game, both parties are satisfied.
Increase Marketing Efforts
Gain community awareness by improving your park’s marketing efforts and reaching groups of different ages. Some things you can do to increase your marketing efforts are:
- Vocalize invitations: Host activities at your community park and advertise them to community members. By vocalizing invitations to your park, you capture the attention of more people. And, by planning events, you’re sparking interest and intrigue in potential visitors.
- Build community alliances: Consider creating relationships with other people or organizations in your community to widen your reach. Build partnerships with libraries, businesses, hospitals, schools, non-profit organizations or retirement homes to combine audiences.
- Encourage stewardship: Encourage your partners and other non-profit organizations to host events at your community park. By hosting public events at your park, visitors will feel a stronger community tie.
Start Improving Your Community Park Today
City beautification projects encourage the creative and social bonding of community members, creating stronger relationships. These relationships forge webs of social capital, enriching lives and strengthening community members’ sense of belonging.
By implementing even one or two of these community park ideas, you’ll see immediate benefits to the overall health and happiness of those who have the privilege to enjoy this space.
For help brainstorming more projects to improve your community park, we invite you to contact Little Tikes Commercial. We’d be happy to help you design creative and innovative solutions to ensure your park is meeting its full potential. Request a quote today.