Create A Hub In Parks

What do grassy hillsides, dog parks, playgrounds, picnic pavilions, and sports fields have in common?

Creating a hub in your park makes it easier to meet the needs of all visitors.

Certainly they provide places to play, but they also provide a reason for people to get together.

More than anything else, that may be the great modern goal of recreation facilities. The dogs, kids, and sports teams all enjoy running around and exercising. And the spectators–the dog guardians, the parents and grandparents, the team supporters–can connect with other people who share their interests.

An emerging (or re-emerging) concept in park planning is to link all these different areas together around a central gathering space or hub. This space allows park users either to participate in different activities–still maintaining their social connection to other people–or to comfortably observe the activity and simply share the outdoors.

In this fast-paced culture, parks increasingly are looked to as the “third place,” where friends and neighbors want to gather informally and create a sense of community.

With limited time to be together and concerns over child safety, entire families usually go to the park, often spending many hours there.

The social aspects of being at parks are just as important as the opportunities to exercise. In fact, the socialization may be even more important for health, relaxation, and play.

A Vantage Point With A View

After several decades of city zoning and park design that encouraged focused-use athletic complexes, we are moving back to an earlier concept of park design for multiple activities.

What’s new about park planning is the idea of linking all these areas to a central gathering space.

In this concept, playgrounds, sports fields, waterparks, nature areas, trails, and other activity areas are all next to each other and radiate from this social hub, something like a village commons. The hub can be placed so people can see most or all of the activity areas.

The family might have a picnic together on the central green or plaza, and then Dad and Spot may visit the dog park, while Mom rock climbs, Bro plays soccer, Sis plays on the playground, and Grandma walks on a nearby path.

The most successful of these new parks provides places to be active, but also comfortable and quiet places in which to observe, rest, and have conversations.

The Community Park in Louisville, Colo., is a good example of arranging multiple uses radiating from a hub.

Link all of the areas of your park.

The 11-acre downtown park features a central civic plaza, picnic pavilion, and playground area that link other elements such as a dog park, basketball courts, a performance amphitheater, and a multipurpose field.

Louisville residents wanted a community space for walking while keeping tabs on one child at the playground and another at the BMX dirt-bike hill. They wanted to play bocce or horseshoes, or merely watch these games from the covered pavilion.

Visitors find more activity areas clustered nearer the center and fewer activities at the edges of the park. This layout allows park visitors to choose either active or pastoral space, or somewhere in between.

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  1. Designing Dog Parks
  2. Connecting Pathways And Pocket Parks
  3. Parks & Playgrounds Q&A
  4. Grounded In Safety
  5. Parks & Hypergrowth, Part 1
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