Supplement Feature - April 2010
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Seven Guidelines to Creative Park Design

By Daniel P. Smith


From rural communities to city streets, open spaces and parklands dot the American landscape. Trails remain the number-one way to connect these public assets together, so that open spaces can be accessed by means other than the automobile. The challenge is that many city planning efforts largely have failed to produce alternative means of transportation between open spaces, leaving the growing legion of walkers and bikers disenchanted.

In recent years, however, prompted as much by America's growing obesity epidemic as a growing social movement to detach from the automobile, city planners have worked to rectify the problem with a linked network of greenways, civic corridors and streets that connect public open spaces, neighborhoods and destinations.

Common solutions include: striping streets with lane lines exclusively for bike use; granting space on public rights-of-way, such as narrowing sidewalks to create a side trail; or developing trails by way of the utility easements that run through many communities. In all cases, trails should serve as safe traveling zones, and should include lighting, shelters or seating, and clear signage that identifies designated use.

The creation of such trails, according to Scott Crawford of RDG Planning and Design, offers alternative transportation methods, promotes active lifestyles, and encourages positive social and cultural human experiences.

"Trails are critical to the ultimate success of a parks and open space system by providing a safe and accessible link between humans and the natural environment and connection between areas of human destination," he added.