Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence (http://www.tpl.org/tier2_pa.cfm?folder_id=3208
) and author of Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities, [http://planphilly.com/peter-harnik-innovative-parks-resurgent-cities-and-their-applications-philadelphia
] began by pointing out how complex parks are — they involve math, plus horticulture plus hydrology plus sociology, plus communications, he said. He added that Jane Jacobs observed that "pitifully few" rise to that challenge, with the great bulk serving as nothing more than "vacuums."
The modern era of urban (as opposed to national) park building could be neatly summed up by three pinnacles — Disneyland in Anaheim, the formation of the Central Park Conservancy in New York City, and the creation of Millennium Park in Chicago — Harnik said. Respectively, and together, they represent what we've come to expect from a successful park: heavy programming, private stewardship, and the idea of an economically viable, urban asset.
Harnik soon moved on to the crux of his book: the innovative ways in which cities are finding new park space. First he emphasized that buying land is "always the best" option, the one with the least amount of downsides. He then offered more than a dozen adaptive re-use ideas that included everything from schoolyards to landfills, from rooftops to rail trails.
Several concerned the removal of or tinkering with of parking lots and roads. Expanding on that point later, he commented on the notion of driving to a park space. Not only should good transit options be provided, he said, but "driving and parking [should be made] more difficult and more expensive." One idea: offer only paid parking, and use the revenues to fund shuttles that can meet passengers at bus stops and train stations.
Parks and Recreation executive director Michael DiBerardinis next introduced three local speakers, Mark Focht, executive director, Fairmount Park; Jamie Wyper, president, Roxborough Conservancy; and Pete Hoskins, president, Laurel Hill Cemetery.