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.
Increasingly sedentary lifestyles have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic. Whether it’s children given little to no time for exercise due to an increased focus on academics or adults spending long hours at desk jobs, opportunities to exercise and stay active have become limited.
Not everyone has access to a gym where they can work out. However, 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.
Supplying community parks with pull-up bars, athletic fields, leg lift loops, and more are simple, affordable improvements which provide hours of free and safe exercise for all members of the community
Inclusive and Accessible Playground Equipment
Rally your community members around a higher set of values by working 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 and be kids, just like everyone else. Even children without challenges benefit, as playing with those of different backgrounds and abilities encourages empathy and helps them develop social and emotional skills which will serve them throughout their lives.
Space for Entertainment
Parks are the perfect spot 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 a variety of 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 which 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
- And more
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. As a result, more people spend their time in the local park, making it a cleaner, safer gathering space for the entire neighborhood.
While pruned bushes, cut grass, and manicured trees are a great start, careful consideration can also be given to the types of plants used. Low pollen varieties will be greatly appreciated come allergy season, providing a major health benefit.
While parks have incredible potential to increase the health of the community, they also 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.
WHY SUCCESSFUL COMMUNITY PARK DESIGNS ARE CRUCIAL
We’ve talked about ways to spruce up your community park, but how about wrapping it all together? Believe it or not, the layout of your neighborhood park is just as important as what’s inside.
For example, it’s essential to ensure park visitors have ample space to commune and be active as well as access quiet, comfortable areas to rest, observe, and reflect. When you want to improve your community park, consider business meetings and other structured events that may require quieter areas where members can hear one another and engage in thoughtful conversation.
NEIGHBORHOOD PARK IDEAS WITH 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 the activity areas you include, whether 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 of the site.
- 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.
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. Loop 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.
SEVEN WAYS TO IMPROVE YOUR COMMUNITY
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? What about the buildings, sidewalks, curbs, and infrastructure? Read on to discover the top seven ways to amp up your community 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 the perfect amenity in your dog-friendly community. Dogs, like humans, benefit significantly from physical exercise, especially in urban environments where backyard space is rare. Creating a dedicated dog park is a great way to encourage dogs and their owners to stay active.
2. ESTABLISH A LITTLE 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.
3. DOCUMENT YOUR STREET
There’s no limit to the number of Instagram-worthy pictures in your neighborhood. 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 be sure to check your city ordinances before you start planting.
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.
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 rackspaces.
7. RECLAIM UNLOVED PUBLIC SPACES
Whether you have a small plot of undeveloped land or a patch of grass near a community park or lot, 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.
Start Improving Your Community Park Today
City beautification projects encourage the creative and social bonding of community members and create stronger relationships. These relationships forge webs of social capital, which enrich lives and strengthen 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 coming up with more projects to improve your community park, we invite you to contact Little Tikes Commercial. We’d be happy to brainstorm creative and innovative solutions to ensure your park is meeting its full potential. Request a quote today.