Guest Column - March 2007
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Community Impact

The power of multi-generational destination parks

By Matt Miller


Economic boost

An additional benefit of a destination park is the possibility for stimulating the local economy. The Lewisburg park, for example, is a public-private partnership centered on a mutual goal to better a community.

Because of their wide appeal, destination parks can put a town on the map and increase traffic to other nearby attractions. Like any new attraction, a destination park will initially draw curious patrons simply because it is new. Once established, the destination park not only becomes its town's staple of recreation, but also shares its success with the entire community by increasing traffic to existing businesses and stimulating new business growth.

As the local economy becomes increasingly active, property values also may increase. According to a study conducted by The Trust for Public Land in Salem, Ore., urban land located directly next to a greenbelt was worth $1,200 more per acre than urban land only 1,000 feet away. Over time, the enhanced recreational area and more active local economy created by the park will attract new families and couples looking to relocate and businesses hoping to expand.

Community unity

According to park planners who assisted in the Lewisburg project, the park has sparked strong community spirit that extends far beyond the borders of the park. One of the park's greatest attributes is that it fosters involvement of the entire community.

Parks give people a place to meet others who share similar interests, are involved at the same schools, cheer for the same sports teams and frequent the same grocery stores or restaurants. Destination parks take this function a step further by attracting more people of more different ages than a typical park and then help them connect through activities that cater to their individual ages and interests. The result is a tight-knit community that prides itself on the common relationships, businesses and public facilities it shares.

The support and enthusiasm from the local community was one of the most important components to the construction of the Lewisburg park. Not only has the park given residents an innovative facility in which they can socialize, but a place where they can continue to build strong community ties while encouraging play and healthy living.

As we move toward a new generation of public parks, expect to see more large landscapes in line with the concept of the multigenerational destination park. These parks can completely revitalize the physical, relational and economic well-being of an entire community, making them a major trend in future park developments.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Matt Miller is president of Playworld Systems Inc., a leading manufacturer of commercial playground equipment. During his 12 years in the industry, Miller has traveled the country to review and study playgrounds, and explore how children learn and develop through play. He has been a trainer at several regional and national conferences on topics such as risk management, playground safety and playground design. For more information, see www.playworldsystems.com.