What makes a public park successful?


I see that the article mentioned Lyndale Park in passing… It seemed to be successful in the mid/late 90’s – as a cruising location. A boy couldn’t take a proper late night constitutional without getting propositioned a few times.

The leading marker for failure seems to be attracting significant numbers of homeless. Maybe the city could just put running water under some bridges and then every park would be successful.

You’re sullying my childhood memories of the rose garden and Lake Harriet in general, young man. :frowning:

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Kind of a coincidence that those park failures occurred in the middle of the Great Depression. Wonder where all those indigent men came from.

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Wrong. Only one of the four parks discussed in the article was failure associated with Great Depression unemployment.

In the case of Gateway,

"'By 1923, the park board was spending more than 5% of its annual citywide operating budget on the park, mostly on park police patrols, …The park quickly became a favorite hangout for…the unemployed, indigent or inebriated. "

While Shingle Creek “…has contributed little to the overall park experience in the city…still resembles what you’d expect of County Ditch Thirteen”

The bigger point is that building a greenspace that’s just intended to be pretty and doesn’t have any plans for how people would actually use it doesn’t end up being used as a park … it ends up being used for other things.


Perhaps it was a one night proto-flash-mob-thing… I rerouted my evening sojourns after my first encounters.

Rules for creating a successful public park:

  1. Study the designs and writings of Frederiick Law Olmstead.
  2. Pay particular attention to how his various public parks have evolved over the years.
  3. See #1.

The man was a goddamn genius.


I thought it was:

  1. Cut down all the trees and plant new, small saplings
  2. Create paved walkways that are too narrow for both bikes and people, with no clear reason to use them
  3. Install metal “exercise equipment” out in the blazing sun

Separately, I spent 10 years in the twin cities and my extended family lives there, and there’s a lot of success stories there. Almost all of the lakes have a walking path ringing them. There’s also the fact, joked about by most locals, that the Minnesota Zoo has nicer grounds (meaning you never see the animals) and costs money, while the Como Zoo is free and thus is always a popular spot. I think most people see the Como Zoo as one of the most successful “public parks” around.

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I’ve always thought of Como as a very sad place for a critter to get stuck living. Then again, the ‘real’ zoo was biking distance from where we lived, so I could go there much more frequently.

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