Public Spaces: 3 Park Site Design Tips

park benchJust this week, California-headquartered think tank RAND Corporation released a report on public park spaces based on data from 174 parks in 25 United States cities. The results revealed a few insights about our population, what types of park facilities exist, and who is most likely to use them.

Unfortunately, the report found that there are some fairly major disparities between age groups who use the parks and recreational areas: Only 9% of senior citizens use walking loops in public parks and 2.3% use public fitness areas. “It’s really sad that so few seniors are using our public parks,” said Deborah Cohen, lead author of the study, in a statement. “We need to make changes to attract older people to parks to exercise and stay active, especially with the increasing rates of chronic disease among older people and as our nation’s population grows older.”

For both seniors and other age groups, Cohen determined that investment in park spaces and facilities is vital to increasing their potential as spaces for recreation, exercise, and community building. “Our nation’s public parks have much unmet potential to be a center of physical activity for adults, older Americans and females,” said Cohen. “It appears possible to increase physical activity among adults, seniors and females by making modest investments in facilities and programming.”

So, if you’re a private citizen interested in investing in your park or a public committee interested in improving public spaces, where do you begin? What kind of space needs to exist? Will the park be used for leisure and recreation or for active opportunities like softball or soccer? How can you create a space that’s both functional and aesthetically pleasing?

While we’re not experts in public space planning, we are experts in helping to populate public spaces with furniture that’s both durable and efficient. No matter what kind of park you’re creating, it’s worth the investment in facilities to create a space that can become a center for physical activity for all ages.

Invest in durability: As Grounds Maintenance Magazine explains, “In most areas, people use parks year-round. This nearly constant use requires construction materials to be efficient and durable. Your facilities must be able to withstand constant use while still maintaining a high-quality appearance. Therefore, in the early planning phases of your project, you must consider maintenance costs—both materials and labor—as well.”

At Distefano, we use the most durable materials possible to create furniture that can withstand almost anything, from Mother Nature to crowds of people. Our equipment is made from steel, the most recycled material on the planet, which will make your park furniture both sustainable and sturdy. It’s worth the effort to initially invest in facilities that will require little upkeep later on.

Provide more receptacles than you think you need: Have you ever walked into a public space that’s littered with trash? There are few things less appealing than a children’s playground with beer bottles on the ground. Make sure to purchase more trash receptacles of all types than you think you need. There should be receptacles that accommodate smokers to avoid cigarette butts on the ground, and we can even customize receptacles to convey unique logos or themes.

Create a space, not a design: The Project for Public Spaces says that seating and new landscaping can go a long way toward creating a place that has both a strong sense of community and a comfortable image. The setting and activities should add up to something more than just its simple parts. Maybe this means designing seating areas that will allow patrons to linger longer, or decorative details in unexpected places, like tree grates or door railings. If each of the parts of the space has a sense of purpose and meaning, you’ll be able to create a place or a park that can be what Cohen predicted: A welcoming, active area to inspire healthy habits.

Do you have questions about how to design your new public park, space, or seating area? Check out our Park & Site line or give us a call to work with a professional that can guide you in the right direction.

photo credit: Bench by French Broad Ashville NC 2016 via photopin (license)

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