23 May 2012

Compare and Contrast

The Atlantic Cities website features a new ranking of park systems in the United States (The Best City Parks Systems in America).  Its an interesting article (San Francisco comes out on top in this particular assessment) and well worth reading.  In particular, I found this passage compelling:

[director of the Trust for Public Land's Center for City Park Excellence, Peter] Harnik notes that a wide variety of factors determine how well a city's parks serve its people. The number of playgrounds may be the most important.
"We feel a playground is really a basic bottom-line measure of what a city park system is doing for its residents. Obviously playgrounds are great for children, but they go way beyond children. They're community gathering areas, they are so important to the social network of a neighborhood and a city," Harnik says. "It's somewhat of a predictor of the other kinds of facilities that a city parks department provides its citizens."
Compare the above statement with the Columbia Associations stated policy of removing 20% of the tot lots from Columbia's neighborhoods.  What does that say about us? hocoblogs@@@


Al Romack said...

I don't like the idea of removing tot lots, but I don't have another solution to the cost issue. We meet lots of folks at our tot lot and even use it for our block parties when we can. Maybe if the current trend of less kids in Columbia continues, the playground aspect of the tot lot could be re-purposed to more adult focused activities like horseshoe pits, or the like.

B. Santos said...

Al, I too am concerned about cost. But I am also concerned about the cost of not having neighborhood playgrounds. The costs of overweight kids. The cost of neighborhood kids that are not socialized. The cost of kids that have not learned to explore and take risks on their own terms.

I also wonder about tot lots like yours. It was built in about 1977. From 1977 to now, it did not become a cost outlier. Sure there was maintenance and cleaning, but CA, the OBVB and the community found value in spending that money for decades. I am certain that the cost to maintain tot lots has increased over the years, but I do not believe it has been at any greater pace than any other costs. It certainly has not increased at the same rate as property values (and therefore the lien assessment on those properties) over the last three decades.

I like your idea for horseshoe pits (or similar). I know your local tot lot very well (I played on it long ago), I am certain that there is space adjacent to the play equipment for horseshoes. The space could be used for both, it is not an either/or situation.

Lisa said...

Can you refresh my memory about the 20% policy? Is it just to remove 20% of current tot lots by a certain date?

BJS said...

I love the idea of horseshoes and the like, but you know what happens: bad apples will steal the horseshoes. Why? I have no idea why such awful people do such things, but probably for the same reasons they vandalize and litter. Is there a "grown folks" activity that could be installed at such locations, but that doesn't involve unanchored objects?

Anonymous said...

You're a data-driven kind of guy, Mr. CC. Any sense of where Columbia sits in the spectrum of playgrounds per capita, or per child? You've got the US Census for Columbia info out the wazoo. You're a researcher. You know CA provides about 170 tot lots now. I guess you'd need to throw the school playgrounds into the mix for compiling your data.

So, I'd be more curious to know where Columbia sits on the spectrum of amenities? And then inside of that conversation, what does the tot lot reduction look like?

Also, as one who understands generational diversity and the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss, I know you know that "Artists" (today's Homelanders, yesteryear's Silent Gen) are *always* a much smaller generation than the one preceding or following it, so if the oldest Artists are but about seven in 2012, then we're talking about the likelihood of a nationwide reduction and downward slide of children being born over the next dozen years.

I also know that you are quite aware that CA's costs over its first 45 years -- costs to build new amenities and maintain existing ones -- are becoming quite a different conversation as things now need to be replaced, as demographics are changing, as the other and sometimes-competitive services and offerings now so richly available to Columbians and Howard Countians has changed the marketplace in which CA operates... that all of these things require a re-evaluation and not just a steady-as-she-goes approach to choices CA makes for the good of the entire community and the integrity of the organization.

Just sayin'.

And, yes, I work at CA.

jessie said...

Unknown, above, is Jessie Newburn. Not sure why the comment published as being by "unknown."