Green Infrastructure and Park System Planning

Great Urban Parks Campaign Briefing Paper 3

By David Rouse, FAICP



Park system planning dates back to Frederick Law Olmsted’s concept of boulevards and trails connecting significant parklands, which he referred to as "pearls on a string." Early examples include Boston's "Emerald Necklace" and Minneapolis' "Chain of Lakes".

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries cities such as Cleveland, Kansas City, Louisville, and Oklahoma City had the foresight to establish park, boulevard, and trail systems that today are among their most important civic assets. Park system planning is increasingly important in the 21st century, as cities seek to meet residents’ needs and secure their place in a competitive economy in which the benefits provided by parks and green spaces are an important factor in location decisions made by companies and individuals. In addition, as many urban communities undergo rapid growth, park system planning is critical to ensure an equitable distribution of lands, facilities, and park resources to all, especially traditionally underserved communities.


Page Count
Date Published
Nov. 1, 2017
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

David Rouse, FAICP
David Rouse, FAICP, ASLA is a consultant, educator, and author with over 40 years of experience in urban and regional planning and design. From 2013 to 2019, he served as Managing Director of Research and Advisory Services for APA, where he supervised programs and initiatives such as Green Communities, Planning and Community Health, the Sustaining Places Comprehensive Plan Standards, and Planning for Autonomous Vehicles. Prior to joining APA David was a principal at the planning and design firm Wallace Roberts & Todd in Philadelphia, where many of his projects received professional awards for excellence. David's areas of expertise include comprehensive planning, green infrastructure, and planning for emerging technologies. With Rocky Piro, he co-authored The Comprehensive Plan: Sustainable, Resilient, and Equitable Communities for the 21st Century, published in 2022 by Routledge Press.