July is National Parks and Recreation month, and this year’s theme is “Where Community Grows.” A fitting theme considering how parks and recreation facilities foster a sense of community by providing a common gathering place for events, cultural activities, and plain old-fashioned socializing. Parks and recreation facilities also contribute to the revitalization, economic development, tourism, education, safety, and promotion of arts and culture within our communities.
Our philosophy when designing a park or recreation space focuses on flexibility, community, and accessibility but most importantly, the user. Engaging with the users within a community is productive and rewarding and is an essential ingredient of making successful park and recreation spaces. Each community has its own unique “vibe” and culture, budget restraints, natural elements, and biodiversity. Designing for multiple generational use provides unique challenges, as well as designing for longevity. We intend to be inclusive to accommodate everyone of all skillsets and abilities in a space that is intended to serve an entire community.
Finding unique ways to engage with the community throughout the design process is beneficial AND fun. Sometimes we will work with children who will visit the playground, or community groups that will host events at the new facility. We must find a way to insert ourselves into each community to ensure that what we are designing will fit them. It must be personalized. For example, I am currently working on my own local community park in the City of Madeira – McDonald Park Commons. I am, quite literally, shaping the community in which I live which is a great source of pride. I am driven to design my community space because I know that what we’re creating is going to last. It will bring our community together and will continue to be one of the central hubs for current events and new events that we haven’t even imagined yet.
At MSA, we strive to think beyond the needs and wants of the community today to determine their needs and wants in the future. We are actively changing the landscape and pushing the boundaries of what makes a traditional park as we anticipate the needs of future generations. Our spaces provide environmental, aesthetic, and recreational benefits to communities while also offering positive economic advantages. We can revitalize a community by providing spaces for different uses or by providing visual appeal for residents. These spaces enhance property values, generate municipal revenue, attract homebuyers and workers, and appeal to retirees. They also can provide educational resources, providing access to programs, and workshops that promote personal growth, skill development, and lifelong learning. Overall, these spaces enhance the quality of life in a community by promoting health, socialization, personal development, and community cohesion.
Parks can support tourism by attracting visitors with their natural beauty, recreational opportunities, and cultural significance. Recently, my daughter and I went to Paris and were able to experience the beautiful playgrounds in their parks. This exploration provided so much inspiration. I am excited to take what we found delightful and inspiring and see if it might make sense for a community here at home. In our experience, the playgrounds in Paris were located within parks or public plazas, they were not their own separate area. They were part of the larger place and felt cohesive within the space. While they were not pristine structures, they allowed for creative play and were well integrated into the city, garden, or park where they were located.
At the end of the day, my goal for any parks and recreation project is to meet the diverse needs and interests of the community members I am serving. In my opinion, the most successful park or recreation facility will provide a wide range of unique amenities, activities, and programs that cater to various age groups, interests, and abilities. By offering a versatile and inclusive space that promotes physical activity, social interaction, cultural enrichment, and environmental sustainability, the park or recreation facility becomes a valuable resource that enhances the quality of life for the entire community.