Linear Parks

There is a lot of overlap between trails and linear parks, but they are not synonymous. Trails that are not designed for recreation wouldn’t necessarily be considered linear parks, and linear parks that do not serve a transportation purpose wouldn’t necessarily be considered trails. However, in many cases they will be the same thing, because a trail that is fun to use is going to get more use, and a linear park that can get you from point A to point B will get more traffic, so incorporating elements of both is a recipe for success.

My favorite linear park is the Bridge of Flowers in Shelbourne Falls, Massachusetts. I had the opportunity to visit last year, and not only was it stunning, it was an innovative use of a decommissioned trolley line. Building from the shape of the trolley line, it is inherently linear, and the gorgeous landscaping with places to sit at either end make it clear it is a space you are meant to leisure in.

From my visit

The Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston is another excellent Massachusetts linear park. Winding through downtown Boston, covering the formerly elevated highway, it is a pedestrian-friendly route through the city, but it also had ample recreation programming and spaces to spend time.

The High Line in New York is perhaps the most famous linear park in the United States. A popular tourist destination, it draws crowds for the sole purpose of leisure in the space, but like the Bridge of Flowers, it’s place atop an old rail line makes it inherently linear.

Planning Process Outline

Preliminary Planning:

    1.  Meet with the city to establish goals and expectations.
    2. Meet with stake holder groups (representatives from the school, hospital, residents, and developers) to gather initial wants, needs, and concerns.
    3. Conduct existing conditions analysis.
    4. Conduct focus groups with stakeholders to establish formal plan vision, goals, and objectives.
    5. Identify potential funding sources and draft preliminary budget.

Planning Process:

    1. Draft design concepts.
    2. Meet with stakeholders to solicit input on design concepts. Rinse and repeat.
    3. Compose working drawings.
    4. Establish refined budget estimate.
    5. Compose implementation plan and timeline.


    1. Establish bids & select contractors.
    2. Begin Phase 1 construction.
    3. Continue updating and receiving feedback from stakeholders.
    4. Open park when construction has reached a phase where it is safe and useable.
    5. Implement subsequent phases according to timeline.


Parks & Community Health

Parks and Recreation are integral to community health for a number of reasons. Some of these include environmental benefits, physical activity, and mental health.

Environmental conditions in urban locations can be less than ideal, having negative effects on public health. Sufficient park space can help combat this. Plants can help filter some pollutants in the air, and minimize the urban heat island effect.

Parks also provide a venue for physical activity, which can be a challenge in an urban environment. Park trails make great places to bike and run, and many parks include various kinds of sports facilities and equipment, which can be essential to get kids moving. Having these kinds of resources publicly available is especially important amongst low-income communities, for whom cost barriers may prevent access to private recreation facilities or expensive sports leagues.

Finally, exposure to nature has been proven to have a positive impact on mental health. Natural vistas are in short supply in the city, but park space can help scratch that itch. The benefit can be registered even when people are able to observe nature, but as we learned from the COVID-19 pandemic, having the opportunity to get outside and be around nature makes a huge difference in managing stress, anxiety, and feelings of isolation.

Pocket Park Crowdfunding

Exciting news!

There’s a new pocket park coming to Randolph. Fans of the Scott’s Addition Polinator Park know how pocket parks can transform underutilized space. This one is sure to beautify the neighborhood and bring community members together.

Before we can get to work though, we need some help from you. We need funding to make this park happen. If you help us reach our fundraising goal, you’ll be helping to execute our vision for a more vibrant Randolph community.

Visit our Kickstarter for more information, or to join our mission to beautify Randolph!


There are three types of sustainability: environmental, social, and economic. Park Planning is relevant to all three of these efforts, but the role it plays in the environmental sustainability of a community is particularly significant. Developing a system-wide sustainability plan can help ensure that we as park planners are fulfilling that role.

As the graphic below depicts, environmental sustainability can look like several different things. As the dedicated green space in a locality, parks are the primary venue for several of these efforts, including water conservation, ecosystem management, and various types of resilience. Park design can play a major role in climate resilience in particular. As public sites, parks can also serve as venues for educational programing for the public on what sustainability means and what strategies can achieve it.

It’s not enough to perform these efforts in a single locale. Environmental harm is not hyper localized, so the effort to combat it cannot be, either. A sustainable community will mind its ecosystems, protect its natural resources, and offset the effects of climate change across its jurisdiction, not in concentrated spaces or haphazardly. This means all parks in a network need to work together to maintain the greater ecosystem. This level of coordination will also help park planners to connect their efforts to comprehensive planning efforts, both locally and with neighboring jurisdictions.


Image retrieved from

Focus Group

Objective: Exploring how adults play and engage with spaces of play


    • Introductions & Ice Breaker Activity
    • Activity 1: Individual drawings – draw yourself playing (10 minutes)
    • Debrief Activity 1
      • Share drawings
      • What were your motivations?
      • Where did this take place?
      • Discuss how they differ from one another
      • If they all drew pictures of themselves as kids: Do you play now?
    • What is Play?
    • Where do you play?
    • What resources do you need in order to play?
    • Activity 2: Group List – list ways to play on the board
    • Debrief Activity 2
      • Common themes?
      • What do you do in your free time now?
      • How does this differ from when you were a kid?
    • Do you experience impediments to play?
    • Activity 3: Formulate group definition of play
Image via Adobe

Comprehensive Parks Master Plan

For Immediate Release:

The Department of Recreation and Parks is initiating the process of developing a new Recreation and Parks Comprehensive Master Plan. A Comprehensive Master Plan is a document that provides a framework for the maintenance and development of a particular system – like local parks – moving forward. It can be used as a tool to guide development, depict a consist vision, outline best practices, and compile information that can be used to solicit funding.

The Master Plan will include a review of existing conditions, an assessment of needs and preferences, an action plan, and an implementation. The planning process begins and ends with the community it is meant to serve, and as such, the Parks and Recreation Department will be providing opportunities for the public to engage and advise throughout the plan’s development. Please stay tuned for more information about how to get and stay involved.

Social Equity

Parks are integral to the equity of the urban landscape. The effects of environmental racism are well documented; Black Americans are more likely to live in neighborhoods that host environmental hazards, whereas White Americans are more likely to have access to green space. People of Color, especially those who have been made vulnerable by a lack of generational wealth, are the first to suffer the effects of climate change due to a lack of mobility. Ensuring all communities have access to parks will not undue the damage done, nor will it solve those problems, but it will help mitigate the effects. All communities should have the opportunity to benefit from the positive mental and physical health benefits associated with exposure to nature, as well as the environmental benefits that parks provide to combat the effects of climate change.

Placemaking at VCU

This patio outside of Schaefer contributes to university placemaking by providing a “third place”. This spot is great for rainy days especially, because the overhang allows you to be outside and stay dry.

What is a Park?

A park is any dedicated green space that is available to use by the community. It doesn’t need to be 100% green, but the presence of green space is what distinguishes it from a plaza. An example of this combination is Scuffletown Park. In this sense, a graveyard that is open to the public can be considered a park, whereas a private lawn¬† would not be, as it is not available for community use. Similarly, a vacant grassy lot would not be a park, because it is not dedicated.

Sketch of Petronius Park


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