Why Great Parks Put a City at the Top of my List
By Hannah Monroe, SA2020 Trinity Mellon Fellow in Neighborhoods and Growth Management
I’m going to confess something that you hopefully agree with: I think parks are wonderful!
Yep. That’s it. Guess that’s not much of a secret.
Although you might think it’s obvious, I think it’s something that we need to remember.
As I traveled throughout my college years to a variety of cities (Roseau, Dominica, Barcelona, Spain, London, England, and New York City), I noticed that there were certain qualities that made some cities much better than others. With that realization and a growing interest in urban life, I began compiling a list of ideal city characteristics (you can probably tell I was an Urban Studies major). Guess what’s at the very top?
Now that I’ve graduated from college and am searching for a job (hint hint), I’m looking for a place to live that has wonderful outdoor spots: located in relatively urban areas, easily accessible, compelling, and interesting. That’s why I’m so excited that SA2020 is working to “develop growth of green spaces” to help make San Antonio “known for its cohesive neighborhoods with compelling and unique personalities” by the year 2020. That’s exactly what I’m looking for.
And lucky for me, as the Neighborhoods and Growth Management Mellon Fellow (a mouthful, I know), I’ve learned a lot about green space and parks in the last eight weeks. How do we measure them? Is it about park acreage or size? Access? Quality? And with the Park Score results released, we get into issues about preserving park area, how to make them compelling, what programming draws people to parks, among a multitude of other questions.
This is where parks start to point back to the big-picture vision for San Antonio.
The Hemisfair public meeting on June 11th for visioning the Civic Park began the conversation about some of these questions. What would make that park compelling? What park activities interest people? What type of vibe should the park have? Park development affects everyone who lives in San Antonio, and attendees’ responses reflected the diversity of interests in our city: maintaining arts and culture in the area, keeping the park sustainable, oriented around fitness, strengthening downtown, and developing neighborhoods.
This public meeting about the civic park also encouraged civic engagement by getting citizens involved in the planning process, and touched on transportation issues regarding the park’s connectivity to other parts of the city.
“What?” you may be thinking… “Those connections sound awfully familiar…”
Why yes! They are the majority of the SA2020 Cause areas – and parks connect to each one! Kuh-ray-zee.
During the meeting we were asked what elements of a park we want in this space. Specifically, we were given about 60 photos of park elements taken from real parks around the country (maybe the world) and chose our top ten photos and our top three from that. As a table we figured out themes in our park preferences and talked about how those things could fit together in this park. Until coming to college, I didn’t realize that normal people like me could give opinions about giant city projects like Hemisfair.
Although there were a variety of communicated desires for the Civic Park, the basic consensus was that people have big dreams for this place. Just like, it seems, they do for all of this city.
I’m so pumped to see Hemisfair turn into a great park. I’m glad that I attended this public meeting, and I’m thankful that I’m not alone in my desire for San Antonio to have fantastic parks and open spaces for us to enjoy!
So now I know that you’re asking the question “Hannah, I like parks too, but how do I get involved like you?” Let me tell you. There are so many ways you can impact the parks around you:
- Clean up after yourself to keep the parks looking pretty
- Volunteer with Hemisfair’s Park Clean Up & Beautification Project
- Go to events like the one at Hemisfair and share your opinions in the planning process
- Go to a park and enjoy it! It’s that easy!
So go outside (if it isn’t raining… Who guessed I would have to say that in San Antonio?), enjoy a day at the park, and share those experiences with others. Together we can to make San Antonio the world-class city (with world-class parks) that we all know it can be!