How Cities Use Parks for Community Revitalization

City Parks Forum Briefing Papers 1

By Peter Harnik



Parks are complex elements of a city. They can serve scores of different uses, may be specialized in their function, or can simply provide visual appeal for residents. However they work, they act to define the shape and feel of a city and its neighborhoods. They also function as a conscious tool for revitalization.

Parks can stem the downturn of a commercial area, support the stabilization of faltering neighborhoods, and provide a landmark element and a point of pride for constituents. For all these things to happen, the city needs to be open and aware of parks' potential to spur revival, and support the elements that are needed to make that happen.


Page Count
Date Published
April 1, 2003
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

Peter Harnik
Peter Harnik, who directed the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence from 2001 until 2016, is nationally recognized for his studies into what makes for great urban park systems, looking at both design and politics. Harnik speaks and writes widely about the relationship between cities and parks. His most recent book, Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities, was named one of the five best books of the year by the American Society of Landscape Architects. Now retired from TPL, Harnik is presently writing a book on the history of the nationwide rails-to-trails movement. Raised in New York City, he lives in Arlington, Va.