Editor's Desk - May 2015
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Designs of the Times

"Human beings are attracted to novelty: to probe the 'adjacent possible.' We didn't stay in the caves. We didn't stay on the planet, and soon we won't stay within the limitations of our biology. We move forward. We transcend our limits."       —Jason Silva

I just got back from taking my bike out on a 20-mile ride. And, with a healthy fear of the distracted driving that seems to become more and more prevalent, I can tell you that the vast majority of those bike miles were on trails, not the street—mostly the Prairie Path and forest preserve trails around my home. What's more, because of the fairly extensive trail system we enjoy, I could have taken a 20-mile ride in just about any direction from home.

The Illinois Prairie Path, where I do a good amount of my riding, was the first U.S. rail-to-trail conversion. Established in 1963, the trail spans around 61 miles in three counties west of the city of Chicago.

What began as a primarily Midwestern phenomenon eventually saw the birth of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, which opened its doors in 1986. Now, there are more than 21,000 miles of rail-trails that serve tens of millions of people each year.

The point is, at one time, this was a novel idea. And now? It's becoming more and more common to hear about communities investing in greenways and trails to make it easier for their constituents to get from one place to another under their own steam.

The thing I've noticed over the years is this: The ways things are designed matters. From the buildings and sites we use to engage in recreation, sports and fitness to our homes and larger communities, the way things are put together can be a huge boon to our well-being and happiness—or a huge challenge to overcome.

For me, having access to trails that keep me and my daughter off the roads is a boon. For others, it might be a fitness facility that doesn't make them feel like they're exercising in front of a crowd. Or a locker room that allows a stay-at-home dad to take his young daughter to the pool. Or a baseball field that provides shade protection for parents worried about overexposure to the sun's rays.

Design matters. And the more people learn about good design, the better things get. That's why it makes me happy to see how much careful attention is given to designing recreation, sports and fitness facilities and places that make it easier and more comfortable for people to engage in these kinds of activities, not harder.

What's more, as we learn more and more about people's desires and demands—as well as what's good for us—new design trends are introduced. Then, over time, as you see the benefits of those trends, they go from being a novel idea to the norm, just like community trail systems.

At one point, providing natural light in facilities was a novel idea. So was giving close attention to indoor air quality or using recycled and recyclable materials. Energy conservation wasn't much of a concern at one point, but nowadays, it's a big deal, not only to protect the environment, but also to protect the budget.

This month's issue takes a look at some of the latest design trends. Some of them are quite novel, while others are well established. But either way, we know that as these trends get designed into sites and facilities and tested over time, their success will be revealed as new facilities also adopt similar measures and take similar approaches.

What do you think will be the next new thing? And what design trends do you applaud for helping people get healthier and have more fun?


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,
Recreation Management