Sunday, May 13, 2007

Urban Parks

Now that the weather has turned beautiful, I've had the opportunity to start exploring the region's excellent urban parks system. It's been a really neat way to get to know the city, and I've noticed that there's a distinct difference in the look-and-feel of the park systems of Minneapolis and Cleveland.

Cleveland's Metropark system is, for the most part, designed to take you away from the feeling of being in a metropolis. The great jewels of the system--Cuyahoga Valley (strictly speaking not a metropark, I believe), North Chagrin Reservation, Rocky River Reservation--make you quickly forget that you're in a county of a few million people. It's quite amazing to be driving along in strip-mall chain land, take a quick turn, park, and suddenly find yourself enclosed by tall trees and the sound of rushing water.

Minneapolis' system, on the other hand, is oriented towards urban engagement rather than urban escape. Much of the park system is designed around water: either the Mississippi, or the numerous small lakes that dot the region. The parks usually include paved paths that traverse the length of these waterways. As I've noted in an earlier post, Minneapolis has done a great job of allocating space on the pathways for pedestrians and bikers alike. Minneapolis' urban parks do not have the same extensive tree cover as those of Cleveland; consequently it is often possible to look up and see downtown buildings in the distance. It reinforces one's connection with the city center.

I'm not sure that either approach to urban parks is a superior one. I do know that there is a big difference in the firsthand experience of these parks.

Anyone care to weigh in on what they do / don't like about urban parks?

Monday: Transit Ideas
Tuesday: Scooters for Everyone!
Wednesday: Apartments Without Kitchens!
Thursday: Even More Ridiculous Transit Ideas
Friday: Urban Parks


Anonymous Bonnie Erickson said...

The "Chain of Lakes" in Minneapolis is a wonderful place to stroll, roller blade, canoe, or enjoy specific destinations (i.e., the rose gardens between Harriet and Calhoun, the beaches, the bandshell at Harriet, etc.). It is possible to canoe from Harriet north clear into Cedar Lake. There are also connecting bikeways or walking paths to do the same for those who are in better shape than I! ;-) I remember more tree coverage when I was younger and wonder if the scourge of Dutch elm disease may have cut the tree population when it hit the metro area. The walking/biking paths along the Mississippi in the downtown area have vastly improved recently. The walk there is refreshing but not "apart" from the city.

11:33 PM  
Blogger Ickster said...

For a similar experience (I imagine) to the Cleveland system you mentioned, try biking/walking down the Kenilworth trail between Cedar Lake and Lake of the Isles, or head west to Theodore Wirth park, especially the Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden or the Quaking Bog.


10:14 AM  
Blogger Wm said...

i second the nomination of the quaking bog...

6:47 PM  

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