July 05 2012

How to Activate Neighborhood Parks in Downtown Tempe, Arizona

How important is measuring park use for urban planners? Should it be of concern to planners when a neighborhood park is empty or underutilized? I live next to Jaycee Park, a park that is exploding with noise daily. This recently renovated park proves the importance of parks as essential for community building.

Jaycee Park Tempe Arizona

When parks cater to the surrounding residents, use increases, as I can tell when I look out my window, over to Jaycee Park. Increased park use brings neighbors together and can catalyze sustainability because it’s easier to implement change in a community when the residents are united.

The rising popularity of technology has unsurprisingly drawn children away from parks, and in front of the TV, i-gadgets, or computers.  So how do we make all parks in Tempe as busy as the previously mentioned Jaycee Park?

The solution begins with Tempe planners and city officials analyzing neighborhoods around parks in order to redesign or improve the park according to the surrounding demographics. A study shows that significantly more Hispanic children are more likely to go to parks.  Further, the study describes how other demographic variables affect neighborhood park use.  This information can be used to pinpoint locations within Tempe where demographics suggest that a park may be needed or in need of improvement.

Other suggestions include:

  • Innovative unstandardized park and landscape design;
  • Grassroots planning to increase perceived sense of safety in communities;
  • Increasing structured programs available for children and others;
  • Branding parks so that community members have a sense of ownership;
  • Incorporating public art and inspirational landscape architecture to draw people and foster creativity and imagination.

Effective park use and design should be a main concern for planners and landscape architects as an opportunity to strengthen communities in Tempe.  Age, race, and gender are all variables that need to be looked at on a case-by-case basis by Urban Design or Landscape Architecture professionals implementing a new park or improving an existing one. All they need to do is find the parks that lack activity.

Credits: Image and data linked to sources.

Alex Banuelos

Alex Banuelos is a recent graduate of Arizona State University. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Planning from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. He is currently pursuing his Real Estate License and plans on attending Arizona State University in the near future to earn a Master’s Degree in Real Estate Development. Born in California and raised in Arizona and Mexico, Alex has always been interested in how the physical environment shapes our daily lives and customs. What began as a career in Architecture turned into the discovery of Urban Planning as a profession, and this in turn sparked a newfound passion for cities, how they work, and how city dwellers interact within their cities. He hopes to use his skills and education to help increase awareness of the potential the public has in shaping their own communities. In the future he hopes to practice advocacy planning using grassroots methods to bring people and communities together, and away from rapid suburbanization. Most importantly he wishes to teach people of the importance of preserving the natural environment.

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This entry was posted on Thursday, July 5th, 2012 at 11:42 pm and is filed under Branding, Community/Economic Development, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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2 Responses to “How to Activate Neighborhood Parks in Downtown Tempe, Arizona”

  1. Jeff Jilek Says:

    I am a graduate student in architecture and business at Arizona State University I agree that it is important that residents feel a sense of ownership of any community venture, including parks, for them to be successful. Grassroots planing is a great way to go about this. This is a political method. Another, rather spatial approach is cluster development. It has been corroborated through case studies that by a single family detached house giving up part of their private lawn into a central public eventspace, a vibrant, thick-threaded, united, and culture will form around a defensible space. How do you feel that parks in the Tempe area can be tied to a planning strategy of cluster development which Tempe could very much benefit from?

  2. Alex Banuelos Says:

    I think the kind of development you are describing could be a very powerful tool in a town like Tempe. Single family neighborhoods in Tempe may very well be in need of parks or public and semi-public spaces within their neighborhoods. With that said, I think that the best strategy would be to create a public participation program where people living in single family detached houses can become informed of the benefits that increased park use can bring to their community. Parks like Jaycee Park can be used to illustrate how communities benefit from a space where residents can come together. Because people may not be willing to give up a part of their private lawn in all cases, I think that the best way to encourage this type of development is to get people to see possibilities and benefits of this type of innovative development. Most importantly, we need to get people to want to interact with each other, and want to share spaces with their neighbors.

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