November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 15

with the city in running two-thirds
of the city's parks, but the parks are
used by a constituency that, largely
speaking, is not wealthy. In Atlanta,
the Piedmont Park Conservancy receives major private donations and
uses the money to support a great,
central public park open to everyone
who lives there.
In fact, there are at least 60 conservancies in cities across the country playing some role in the lives of
local parks; in virtually all of the
cases, they are providing enhanced
parks for users who represent a broad
economic and racial cross-section of
their communities.
The article also incorrectly states
some comparisons. For example, in
comparing the budgets of the New
York City and Chicago park systems,
the article fails to include in the New
York statistics the enormous costs of
pensions, benefits, legal settlements
and debt service (which are all part of
the Chicago Park District's budget). In
fact, New York City spends about $1.4
billion annually on its parks, compared to about $480 million by Chicago (both figures also include capital expenditures). Also untrue is the
assertion that Brooklyn Bridge Park
in New York City is privately run. In
fact, it is run by a nonprofit entity of
New York City government, and its
board includes only members named
by the mayor, governor and four local
elected officials - its finances, operations and governance are completely
open to the public.
Minneapolis, Austin and Chicago
are cited as cities that run completely public systems. Yes, all three cities
have wonderful parks, but all are places that have embraced public-private
partnerships. For example, in Chicago, Millennium Park, a near-miraculous transformation of a pit of rail-

road tracks into a booming attraction
for residents and neighbors, had half
its $500 million cost paid by private
donors. It is now supported through
earned revenue, endowments and
sponsorships. In Minnesota, the
Minneapolis Parks Foundation is
leading efforts to redesign and program its downtown waterfront, and
in Austin, the Waller Creek Conservancy organized an international design competition to create a plan for
a public-private restoration and enhancement of a 1.5-mile stream that
connects three parks.

For more than a century,
charitable contributions
and voluntary support
have been the bedrock
of much that we take for
granted in this nation.
Finally, in Seattle, perhaps its bestknown waterfront park, Olympic
Sculpture Park, was created through
a partnership between the Seattle
Art Museum and The Trust for Public Land, with nearly $17 million in
private contributions raised to create
this spectacular public park and outdoor museum, which is open to all,
free of charge.
I also take strong issue with the
suggestion by one person quoted in
the article who suggested that poor
people might not be able to appreciate the safe, clean and beautiful
surroundings that private donations
might enable, saying that landscapes
run by conservancies get " gentrified
in an aesthetic way that poor people
come to understand is not for them. "

But people who hold such views
should stop by a community garden in New York's Harlem or the
South Bronx neighborhoods, where
residents use their private efforts to
create " flower fixes " of staggering
beauty. Or they could visit the many
public parks restored to their historic
splendor through private donations,
as residents of all financial backgrounds come out to enjoy palace
ground-quality landscapes designed
for regular people.
We should also turn to the words
of Calvert Vaux, the designer, with
Frederick Law Olmsted, of our nation's greatest public parks built in
the 19th century. Vaux and Olmsted
saw their parks as democratic spaces,
for poor and rich alike, where park
visitors, drawn into the spectacular
landscape of meadows, woodlands
and lakes, could experience their
" capacity to see and fully appreciate
the beautiful. "
The parks in many cities across
the country are in the midst of a period of expansion and improvement
not seen since the early parts of the
last century. Public-private partnerships have spurred that renaissance,
and while the lion's share of park
improvements and operations will
continue to come from the public
purse, the urban parks across the
country are better - and will likely
stay better - because citizens have
joined with government in making
sure that parks continue to remain a
public priority.
Adrian Benepe is the Senior Vice President
and Director of City Park Development for
the Trust for Public Land. He served for 27
years in the NYC Department of Parks and
Recreation, between 1979 and 2012,
including 11 years as Parks Commissioner
(2002-2012). He can be reached at adrian.
benepe@tpl.org.

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November 2013 - Parks & Recreation

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November 2013 - Parks & Recreation - 1
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