Build Community at Your Park
Parks can provide a range of opportunities for an entire community to get engaged in exercise, sports, play or simply sitting back and enjoying the view. With so many different ways to outfit a park site, it can be challenging to figure out the best options for your community. With community involvement, careful design and the right partners, you can collaborate to create a park that will engage and grow your community.
Q: We'd like to create a park where our whole community can get active. What should we consider?
A: There are many ways you can get your community out to your park for fun and exercise, from playgrounds and spray parks to sports fields, dog park and cycling infrastructure. Combining these elements with input from the community and using best practices in design will grow a space where people of all ages and interests can gather to move and improve their physical, mental and social health.
Active areas are important, but you also should be sure to include picnic areas and benches for individuals and families to enjoy, along with fountains and aquatic elements. Consider it an escape from the everyday—the perfect retreat for the entire community to connect, move and soak in the beautiful surroundings.
Q: Are there ways to encourage people of all ages to get active in and around the playground?
A: Teens and adults accompany kids to the playground, and will appreciate it if you give them something to do, too. Benches and shade will provide comfort for caregivers who want to rest and watch the kids at play, but you can also provide more active choices.
Fitness options are available for adults of all ages and abilities. Consider installing outdoor fitness equipment near the playground, so caregivers can supervise while getting a workout. These spaces generally have enough room for six to 15 pieces. Select a combination that develops aerobic, core and muscle fitness, as well as balance and flexibility. To assist communities in this effort, look for "Outdoor Adult Fitness Parks: Best Practices for Promoting Community Health by Increasing Physical Activity,"—a 62-page guidebook that demonstrates through case studies and research how fitness parks containing outdoor fitness equipment improve community wellness, as well as laying out design considerations and planning needed to implement a well-rounded adult fitness park.
For teens who are just past their playground days, consider a fitness-focused obstacle course or climbing wall. These are attractive to teens and make exercise fun. Don't forget that many teens get to the park on a bicycle, so be sure to provide paths for bike traffic and a place to store bikes. Bike repair stations are also useful for cyclists of all ages.
Q: Our park is dog-friendly, but many community members would like to be able to let their dogs play. What should we consider?
A: Dog parks are in high demand, providing dogs and their owners a place to socialize and be active. Look for "Unleashed: Off-Leash Dog Park Design Trends and Planning Tips," a resource that explains best practices in dog park development, including building community support, as well as designing and programming the space.
Be sure to include a range of amenities, including pet waste stations, fencing, seating, access to water fountains, shade and maybe even some agility equipment for adventurous pups.
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