Successful Urban Parks
March 18, 2007 9:35 AM   Subscribe

What are some good examples of successful, interesting urban parks? Particularly ones in higher crime areas.
posted by destro to Home & Garden (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Stanley Park in my native Vancouver is a much-loved feature of our city. I'm not sure if it fits the "higher crime" criteria, but it's definitely successful. I mean, we even have a Mefite who named him/herself after a popular feature of the park.
posted by good in a vacuum at 9:46 AM on March 18, 2007


Forest Park in St. Louis is the world's largest urban park.

Houston has Hermann Park and Memorial Park, both of which are extremely popular.

None of these are really in the hood, but I'd argue that's because having nice urban parks around drives up property values, attracts residents, etc.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:57 AM on March 18, 2007


On second look, it seems that Forest park may or may not be the world's largest, depending on how you define 'urban'. Either way, it's in the city, and it's big.
posted by chrisamiller at 9:58 AM on March 18, 2007


Belle Isle (an island park in the middle of the Detroit River) has a high crime rate and is extremely successful - when there's good weather out it's usually packed.
posted by ofthestrait at 10:12 AM on March 18, 2007


Dufferin Grove in Toronto is apparently filled with community activities and such, and is one of the less economically prosperous neighbourhoods.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:13 AM on March 18, 2007


Fairmount Park in Philadelphia. Technically "Fairmount Park" refers to the entire park system, but I mean the main park that runs on both sides of the Schuylkill river for four miles.
posted by The Michael The at 10:31 AM on March 18, 2007


How are you defining successful?
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:54 AM on March 18, 2007


Swope Park, in Kansas City, MO is not in the nicest part of town. Some might say its successful, since there are some nice attractions like a theater and the zoo. There have been some murders there, though, earning it a reputation as a dangerous place. Also, I was just in San Francisco. There are a lot of really nice parks there. Golden Gate Park and the Presidio are two of the larger ones. I went to Golden Gate. It is very nice. It seemed to be in a pretty nice area though.
posted by gauchodaspampas at 11:11 AM on March 18, 2007


In Chicago, the two large parks in the higher-crime part of town are Washington Park and Jackson Park. Washington Park, in particular, is quite busy in the summer; it abuts the semi-affluent Hyde Park neighbourhood (home of the University of Chicago) to the east, and the poor, high-crime Washington Park neighbourhood to the west. Also, should Chicago be chosen to host the 2016 Olympics, the Olympic Stadium will be built there.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:12 AM on March 18, 2007


London does a good job with this - Hampstead Heath in particular is a nice bit of Nature in the midst of urban action (they even have swimming hole style swim areas, as well as a "roman pool" or whatever they call the artificial one.)
posted by mdn at 11:19 AM on March 18, 2007


There are plenty in Paris. The Promenade Plantee is one of the more interesting.
posted by fire&wings at 11:55 AM on March 18, 2007


Well, I was looking for more on the smaller end of parks - something only a few blocks long - and not the larger Central Park-style, although I'm also curious to how those parks work as well.

As far as successful goes, just that it's not a crime den filled with garbage and maybe something interesting about it.
posted by destro at 12:06 PM on March 18, 2007


Boston's Arnold Arboretum is in Roxbury, which along with Jamaica Plain is where most of the gang-related murders happen. I always felt a bit nervous walking between the Green line station and the Arboretum, but the park itself is lovely and very popular, and not at all vandalized.

I was under the impression that Forest Park in Portland was the largest city park. Portland's Forest Park is 5155 acres. St. Louis's Forest Park is a paltry 1293 acres. (Manhattan's Central Park is a mere 893 acres.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 12:08 PM on March 18, 2007


Ok, there's Forsyth Park in Savannah, GA. It has tennis and basteball courths, a playground for kids, paths for walking and jogging, benches for sitting and giant trees for shade. Most importantly it has lots of grass fields, which allow it multiple uses, from simple sunbathing for people, hanging out, tossing a frisbee around, to football, soccer, rugby matches, festivals, concerts and even private events such as weddings and banquets. Basically it can be put to a lot uses, usually at the same time (depending on the size of events) and is mecca for the locals and tourists.

As for the crime thing, police officers patrol it and it's not uncommon to see a cop car or two sitting at either end.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 12:26 PM on March 18, 2007


I'll throw in San Francisco's Precita Park (1x4 blocks long) which was transformed from drug-dealer central into a heavily used, clean small park which you can walk through at midnight. The children's playground area is now widely considered to be one of the best in the city.

The Trust for Public Land gave Precita Park a Lackmann-Soulages Park and Open Space Stewardship Award, and in the presentation of a Beautification Award, San Francisco Beautiful wrote "Precita Park was transformed from a scary place to a great spot to play picnic and people watch."
posted by vacapinta at 12:32 PM on March 18, 2007


Apparently Forest Park in Portland is only the 4th largest, per this table.

South Mountain Park in Phoenix is apparently the largest. It seems to be stretching the definition of "urban" though, and not exactly what the OP was looking for.

Smaller, successful parks: Dolores Park in San Francisco, or Buena Vista.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:35 PM on March 18, 2007


Sorry, bad link. Try Buena Vista. My apologies.
posted by gingerbeer at 12:36 PM on March 18, 2007


Sausal Creek in Oakland is an urban watershed used as a park.
posted by oneirodynia at 12:48 PM on March 18, 2007


freeway park in seattle, has some junkies, waterfalls, is right downtown built over the freeway. Leaks small amounts of water onto the I-5 underpass, ivy grows over the edge and is shortened by passing semi's. It's a pretty interesting urban park, small and very designed.
posted by henryis at 12:59 PM on March 18, 2007 [1 favorite]


Shelby Farms - Memphis - 5x larger than Central Park - walking and biking trails, lakes, pavillions, boat rental, horseback riding, etc. Add to that the American Bison Range and you have a remarkable urban park that is poised on what was once directly across from the city dump.

In Midtown Memphis is Overton Park - home of an old growth forest, Memphis Zoo, Memphis College of Art, and Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. designed by the son of famed landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted.
posted by peace_love_hope at 1:00 PM on March 18, 2007


Franklin Park in Boston. Designed by Olmsted, it features a zoo and a golf course. Abuts Blue Hill Avenue, a really rough strip. Harvard has an interesting web page on the effect of crime or the public perception of crime on the park's image.
posted by otio at 1:58 PM on March 18, 2007


Anyone know anything about Trinity River Greenbelt Park in Dallas? I don't, but I've heard vaguely that it's pretty nice. (Though unless they water it, I doubt that it's green for very much of the year.)
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:59 PM on March 18, 2007


Well, yes, Franklin Park has a zoo, but it isn't much of one and it isn't well maintained. Boston hasn't had very much luck with its zoos; the Stone Zoo was closed once because of cruelty to the animals.

The best thing in Franklin Park is the tropical rain forest pavilion. But the zoo is distinctly second rate, and there's nothing really special about Franklin Park itself.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 2:06 PM on March 18, 2007


nothing really special about Franklin Park itself.

You mean besides the fact it was Olmsted's last big project, the crowning jewel of his Emerald Necklace, that it contains the only building Olmsted ever designed, that Emerson lived on the grounds before the park was created, that the legendary Elma Lewis turned a "rat-infested, garbage-strewn area" into her Playhouse-in-the-Park where Duke Ellington, Odetta, Billy Taylor, and other greats played, that both Francis Ouimet and Bobby Jones honed their games at the golf course (it's the second oldest public course in the country), etc. I don't like zoos in general so I won't bother to defend it but it was pretty funny when that gorilla escaped (twice!).

Oh, and the Arboretum is not in Roxbury, but Roslindale, and if you felt unsafe around there perhaps you shouldn't be living in a city.

Sorry for the derail.
posted by otio at 2:30 PM on March 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


Mount Vernon Place, Mount Vernon in Baltimore has lots of statues (and the original Washington Monument), and it looks like a little slice of Europe. Mount Vernon is not a high-crime neighborhood for Baltimore, but it has its problems.
posted by Airhen at 3:54 PM on March 18, 2007


Rock Creek Park in Washington, D.C.
posted by yclipse at 5:09 PM on March 18, 2007


The Music Garden in the heart of downtown Toronto is a very unusual and beautiful park whose design was inspired by the cello music of Bach as part of a project involving Yo-Yo Ma. It hosts weekly concerts throughout the summer.
posted by Kirjava at 5:28 PM on March 18, 2007


Rock Creek Park proper isn't really in a high-crime area; it runs mostly through the nicest parts of the city (between Georgetown and Dupont, for example, and next to the affluent Northwest suburbs).

For a DC park that went from basically open drug bazaar to a place where families take their kids, you can check out Meridian Hill Park. (It's also administered by the Park Service as a "part" of Rock Creek, although it's not contiguous with the main park.)
posted by kdar at 7:28 PM on March 18, 2007


Riverbank State Park in Harlem, the only NY state park in Manhattan, was built on top of a huge water-treatment plant in the late 80s-early 90s. Boasting excellent facilities (playgrounds, theater, sports complex, Olympic pool, skating rink, kids' carousel, restaurant), it's been a hit with the locals on all those days when the wind ain't misbehavin'.
posted by rob511 at 9:06 PM on March 18, 2007


Either of Madrid's two major parks, Retiro and Casa de Campo, boast family attractions such as performers, rowboats, zoos, rides, art exhibitions, cafes, and gardens. They are also well known for drug dealers and prostitutes.
posted by infinityjinx at 8:19 AM on March 19, 2007


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