Park Planning, Design, and Open Space
This page includes a range of information on parks, recreation, and open space planning and design. Information on the benefits of parks and recreation can be used as background information in developing a comprehensive park plan. This page includes general guidelines for preparing park plans and information regarding local standards for parks and recreation facilities. It also contains selected examples of city and county comprehensive parks, recreation, and open space plans and plan elements. Links to broader county and regional open space and trails programs are also provided.
Benefits of Parks and Recreation
Parks and recreation provide many benefits to a community and its citizens, including economic, health, environmental, social, and overall quality of life. This section emphasizes the economic and health benefits of parks and recreation.
- The Benefits of Parks: Why America Needs More City Parks and Open Space , by Paul M. Sherer, Trust for Public Lands, 2006
- Economic and Health Benefits, Trust for Public Land - Summary of benefits and links to related reports
- The Economic Benefits of Seattle's Park and Recreation System, Center for City Park Excellence, Trust for Public Land, 03/2011
- Measuring the Economic Impact of Parks and Recreation Services , by John L Crompton, Research Series, National Recreation and Parks Association, 2010 - Hands-on guide for preparing economic impact studies that measure the economic return residents receive on park and recreation department investments
- Measuring the Economic Value of a City Park System, Trust for Public Land, 2009 - Describes seven attributes of city park systems that provide economic value and are measurable: property value, tourism, direct use, health, community cohesion, clean water, and clean air, and provides rationale for calculating each value factor. Shows how these value factors can be applied in case studies of five cities
- City Parks Forum Briefing Papers, American Planning Association - Papers Discuss health and other benefits of public parks
- Synopsis of 2010 Research Papers: The Key Benefits , National Recreation and Parks Association - This paper outlines six main areas of the benefits provided by parks: physical health, mental health, social functioning, youth
development, environment, and economic impact
- Measuring the Impact of Parks on Property Values , by Sarah Nicholls, Parks and Recreation, March 2004, National Recreation and Parks Association - Research shows that green spaces increase the value of nearby housing
Park Planning Guidelines
This section includes general guidelines for developing comprehensive park and recreation plans, including parks and recreation elements of GMA comprehensive plans (RCW 36.70A.070(8))
- Manual 2: Planning Policies and Guidelines, Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board, 02/1/2014 - The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board’s how-to manual for developing a park plan. Local jurisdictions seeking funding from this agency are required to have a plan that is consistent with these guidelines. In particular, see Level of Service Tool and Guide, Appendix C, Level of Service for Local Agencies
- Planning for Parks and Open Space in Your Community, by Susan C. Enger for CTED (now Washington State Department of Commerce) and Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation, 02/2005 - Comprehensive growth management guidebook for preparation of parks and open space plans and preservation of open space. Emphasizes the creation of an integrated open space system
Comprehensive Park and Open Space Plans and Elements
This section includes examples of stand-alone comprehensive park plans as well as sample parks and recreation elements from GMA comprehensive plans. The requirements for GMA comprehensive plans include a parks and recreation element (see RCW 36.70A.070(8)). Although this element is not mandatory until adequate funding is available, many jurisdictions have adopted a parks and recreation element as part of their comprehensive plan. For guidance on the preparation of the parks and recreation element (see WAC 365-196-440).
City Park Plan Examples
County Park Plan Examples
Metropolitan Park District Plans
Park Design and Standards
This includes information on general park and recreation level-of-service standards, resource information and local design standards for different types of park development.
Washington Local Government Design Standards
Design of Facilities
- Accessibility (ADA) Standards
- Outdoor Developed Areas, U.S. Access Board - Guidelines that are being developed for Federal parks and areas
- Recreation Facilities, U. S. Access Board - Requirements for recreation facilities in the ADA and ABA Standards
- Design for the Ages , by Craig Bouck, Parks and Recreation, June 2008, National Recreation and Park Association - Encourages recreation and community centers that appeal to multi-generational population
- Designing In The Green: An Approach To Sustainable Park Design, by Tara Byler, California Parks and Recreation, California Park and Recreation Society, Spring 2008
- Developing Sustainable Park Systems in Oregon - A Component of the 2013-2017 Oregon Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan, Tim Gallagher, Gallagher Consulting, 06/2012 – Sustainability recommendations for Oregon state and local parks
- Exploring the Natural Playground Trend: It's Only Natural, by Boris Weintraub, Parks and Recreation, April 2010, National Recreation and Park Association
- High Performance Landscape Guidelines: 21st Century Parks for NYC, 2011 - A comprehensive, municipal design primer for sustainable parks and open space
Miscellaneous Design Resources
- Public Playground Safety Handbook, Publication #325, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, November 2010 - Guide to safe playground and playground equipment design
- NatureGrounds - A comprehensive program that provides best practice guidelines for creating and retrofitting play environments for parks and school grounds that integrate manufactured play equipment and the living landscape.
- American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) - National organization for builders, designers, and suppliers of materials for tennis courts and other athletic facilities. Publications available for purchase and download
County and Regional Open Space Programs
This section includes selected open space preservation programs, including conservation futures. Conservation futures are a funding source authorized by state statute that may be implemented by counties to preserve lands of public interest (see RCW 84.34.200 - 84.34.240).
- Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Conservation Futures Program - Acquisition program for farm, forest, open space, and recreation lands
- King County Greenprint Project - An open space and resource lands conservation and acquisition strategy informed by a GIS model
- Mountains to Sound Greenway - Supports conservation and enhancement of the landscape from Seattle across the Cascades to Central Washington
- Pierce County Conservation Futures Program - Includes a process for nominating property for purchase of land or the rights to develop land
- Regional Open Space Strategy for Central Puget Sound (ROSS), Green Futures Research and Design Lab, University of Washington - Collaborative effort of the Bullitt Foundation, the Green Futures Lab, and the UW Northwest Center for Livable Communities
- San Juan County Land Bank - Open space acquisition program funded by real estate excise tax, conservation futures, private donations, and grants