Fairmount Park

Riverside, California

In the 100 years since the Olmsted Brothers wrote their 1911 plan for "worthless land" on the edge of a quarry, Riverside's flagship Fairmount Park has gone from premier community park to a center of crime and neglect to a recognized example of excellence in urban park planning and plan implementation.

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Garden of the Gods Park

Colorado Springs, Colorado

In 1859 surveyor Rufus Cable came upon the inspiring landscape that is now the crown jewel of Colorado Springs's park system and proclaimed it "a fit place for the gods to assemble." Twenty-seven years later legislation was introduced in Congress proposing that the area be made the nation's second national park. The bill would have been approved had the land not been privately owned at the time, making it ineligible.

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Monument Circle

Indianapolis, Indiana

Since 1821 when Alexander Ralston laid out the state's capital in Indianapolis and located "Circle Street" in the middle of the mile square plat, Monument Circle has served as the literal and figurative center of Indianapolis. The Soldiers and Sailors Monument, designed by Bruno Schmitz of Germany in an international competition, rests at the center of the Circle. Other features include bronze statuary of three former Indiana governors and a general, a grand staircase, and two water pools. There also are striking views of the state capitol building and the city from atop a 231-foot-tall observation tower.

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Gray's Lake Park

Des Moines, Iowa

The 1.9-mile walk around Gray's Lake is known as "doing the loop," and for some residents it's a daily ritual that even prairie grass burns, trail repairs, and flooding won't stop. Such dedicated use of the park is just one example of how important Gray's Lake Park is to everyday life in Des Moines. The city's best-known and most-visited recreation area, the park has qualities and features that attract visitors regardless of the time of day or season of the year. The iconic, 1,400-foot-long Kruidenier Trail pedestrian bridge over the lake is the park's most distinguishing feature.

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Rice Park

St. Paul, Minnesota

Rice Park is a counterpoint to its busy surroundings. Its period lamps, statuary, benches, center fountain, and adjacent national landmark buildings lend a European feeling to the space. Trapezoidal in shape with two diagonal walkways, the park serves as much as a pathway and shortcut as it does a lunch stop, festival grounds, and outdoor sanctuary. Rice Park has undergone far-reaching changes since its establishment in 1849, when Minnesota was still a territory.

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Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park

Nashville, Tennessee

Created to commemorate Tennessee's 200th anniversary, the 19-acre Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park was planned, designed, and built as a concise reflection of the state's geography, history, people, and musical legacy. Tuck-Hinton Architects in Nashville designed the park, modeling the former landfill site after the National Mall in Washington, D.C. They incorporated classic Greek principles as well as Baroque and Beaux-Arts influences into the park, creating a unique civic space that is able to grow, change, and evolve over time.

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Fair Park

Dallas, Texas

Fair Park combines City Beautiful Movement planning influences with the country's largest collection of 1930s Art Deco architecture. "A wonderful place to spend a Saturday afternoon exploring ... art and architecture," says Eddie Hueston, former Fair Park executive general manager. For more than a century the park, two miles east of downtown Dallas, has been delighting millions of visitors. Attractions on its 277 acres include eight museums, six performance facilities, and a major sports stadium.

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Richmond, Virginia

Minutes from downtown Richmond is a striking Gilded Age mansion surrounded by 100 acres of undulating lawn, thoughtfully designed and manicured gardens, and an arboretum with 200 species of trees from six continents. Estates on this scale often remain in private ownership and closed to the public, but Maymont continues as its original owners Major James and Sallie May Dooley intended: an extraordinary gift to Richmond for all to enjoy freely.

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Point Defiance Park

Tacoma, Washington

Described by one Tacoma resident as having "the beauty and adventure of a national park within minutes from home," Point Defiance juxtaposes urbanity with wilderness, and scenic views with volunteerism. Authors of the park's original 1911 master plan noted that the area's vistas were "as beautiful as views over land and water as can be seen in this or foreign lands" and found the mountainscape "toward the great Olympic range with its snow-capped peaks glistening in the sunshine ... to be equal to view[s] in Italy and the Mediterranean."

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Milwaukee RiverWalk

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Milwaukee RiverWalk was planned as a down-to-earth public space where residents could take peaceful walks, dine outdoors, and access the river for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing. It has been more successful than anyone involved with the unique public-private initiative ever imagined. Construction of the $35 million pedestrian-only walkway, which has one of the most innovative bridges found anywhere, increased the value of adjoining property by more than $500 million. Removal of a dam at the northern end of the walkway, a cleanup of river pollution, and wastewater treatment improvements have enhanced water quality and helped restore fisheries to the river.

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