'People Make Parks' Gets Neighbors involved in Planning

Last week, I attended the launch of the People Make Parks website, a great resource for community members who want to get involved with the design of their local parks.

People Make Parks is a project that helps New Yorkers participate in the design of their parks, but offers a lot of valuable ideas for park planning and community participation nationwide.

"We're working to support community groups and enpower people to make parks an active resource," said Jason Schwartz, Director of New York City's Partnerships for Parks. He said the program helps people to think of parks as their own, which in turn gives them a vested interest in caring for their park.

"We want to help make parks inspired spaces where people come together," Schwartz said.

The People Make Parks website provides tools and resources for people interested in influencing how their local parks evolve with the community. A step-by-step list of things to do to start a parks project in your community is available on the website. Additionaly, a toolkit provides several different ways to help you learn what neighbors want in a new park. Our favorite example of one of these tools is the Story Map (see video below), which uses an enlarged version of a park map to gather stories, memories and reflections about people's relationships to the park. 

The folks at People Make Parks are already hard at work in New York City, where they've worked with community members across the five boroughs to get their imput and revamp their local parks. One of our favorite examples of a park that is being revitalized thanks to the People Make Parks program is Luther Gulick Park on Manhattan's Lower East Side. It all started when David Bolotsky decided that his local park had been neglected for way too long.

"It looked like an abandoned lot, and there was no reason why it should," he said.

At that moment, Bolotsky became the spark the park needed to begin its long journey to revitalization. Bolotsky started working with community orgnizations in hopes of organizing tree plantings, and before long, he was meeting with city officials about giving the park a second life. He founded the Friends of Gulick Park group and after working with neighbors and community leaders, expects that the community vision for Gulick Park will come to life within the next few years. Take a look at the Gulick Park story, as well as other sucess stories here.

If you'd like to get involved in revamping your neighborhood NYC Park, or for inspiration for getting community members invovled in parks in your city, head on over to PeopleMakeParks.org.

Here's a video about what can happen when a community comes together to record their park memories, opinions and ideas on a story map. It  features our friends at Gulick Park.

People Make Parks: The Story Map from Hester Street Collaborative on Vimeo.

People Make Parks is a joint project of New York City's Hester Street Collaborative and Partnerships for Parks built around the idea that when citizens engage with government and weigh in on park design, government builds better parks, and the public continues to enjoy and care for places they helped make. People Make Parks supports collaboration in park design between invested communities and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, encouraging a diversity of participants to lead in the creation of meaningful places.

Image: A volunteer plants flowers in Gulick Park before funding arrives. Source: Partnerships for Parks.