New neighborhoods are springing up all over southeast Texas, and those that offer dedicated parks have an automatic advantage in attracting young, active families. If you’re still in the planning phase for your subdivision, think about including an outdoor space that gives neighbors a place to meet, to be active, and to enjoy the outdoors, with something for every member of the family. And if your neighborhood is already established, consider that adding a park will give you a competitive edge in enticing house-hunters.

In Part I of our series on planning community spaces, we’ll talk about the basics that every neighborhood  park needs.

Park Design Basics

According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, neighborhood parks typically fit the following criteria:

  • Between ¼ and ½ mile from neighborhood houses
  • Not separated from neighborhood houses by major roads
  • Free from physical barriers that would prevent walking access
  • Designed for all ages and all groups to enjoy

How should you allocate the space in your new park? In its resource Park, Recreation, Open Space and Greenway Guidelines, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recommends that about 50 percent of your park’s space be dedicated to active recreation spaces, including your playground. The remaining half can be used “for passive activities, reserve, ornamentation, and conservation as appropriate.”

Choosing Amenities

Your playground is just one of the many amenities that can make your park more attractive to residents of all ages, all year long. When choosing amenities, keep in mind the space you have available, the size of your neighborhood, the demographics of your residents, and of course, your budget.

The list of amenities to choose from is vast and varied; here are a few of the most popular options:

 

Of course, if your budget permits, more elaborate amenities such as swimming pools and tennis courts are also attractive possibilities. Make sure you have an idea of the funds available before you come up with your amenities list and begin reviewing your options.

In Part II of our series, we’ll talk about how to work with the residents of your neighborhood and invite their input into the park planning process. Stay tuned!

Now that school’s out, the kids in your community will be looking for ways to spend the long days between family vacations and summer camp. All too often, they turn to sedentary activities like playing video games and watching TV (not to mention that most popular of all kids’ summer activities, sleeping late!) instead of more active pursuits. And without recess and school sports to keep them moving, this lack of physical activity can take a toll on their health.

Now is the perfect time to get the families in your community to say “yes” to a more active summer, for both kids and adults. And could there a better hub for these activities than your playground area?

Here are a few ideas to share with your community for ensuring a healthier, more active summer for all:

  • For adults and teens, organize a morning “boot camp” at your playground that mixes calisthenics (jumping jacks, pushups, etc.) with more lighthearted activities such as wheelbarrow races.
  • For families with babies and toddlers, start a moms’ walking group and designate a stroller-friendly path around your grounds. Each walk can end with a series of “mommy and me” fitness activities, like the ones on this list from Parenting magazine.
  • For families with school-age kids, give out “scorecards” that let them enter a star every time they log at least 30 minutes of active play at your playground, and offer rewards at the end of the summer for kids who accumulate the most stars.
  • Organize special events like kite-flying meetups, field days, and fun runs to bring families together in the spirit of healthy activity.

When planning scheduled activities, remember that we’ll be dealing with that famous Texas heat, so morning or early evening times are best to avoid the risk of overheating.

With a little creativity and some help in spreading the word, you can encourage the families in your neighborhood to enjoy the healthiest, most active summer ever … and have some fun at the same time.

 

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