How do I design an active recreation parklet?
Parklets are commonly places of passive activity.
However, as small parks, they also provide a unique and
thus far unexplored opportunity to create spaces for
physical exercise. Given the cost of creating large-scale
parks in urban environments, as well as the public and
private costs associated with overweight and obesity, active
recreation parklets could provide a solution to help address
The proposed parklet on Spring Street in Los Angeles
will likely be the first active recreation parklet in the
nation. The parklet is designed using the same outdoor
fitness equipment found in Los Angeles’ fitness zones (see
description in Chapter 1). Various types of outdoor fitness
equipment are available and can be installed at the
parklet. Equipment used in a parklet should be relatively
compact and intuitive for people to operate. An observed
study of users of fitness zones in Los Angeles found that the
least utilized equipment were the horizontal bars and leg
The installation of fitness equipment in parklets affects
the type of material that can be used for the parklet
platform as well as the minimum equipment clearances.
The proposed Spring Street parklet uses stationary bicycles.
According to the design plans, the platform will be
constructed of pre-cast concrete pavers; thus, the exercise
machines will be bolted into the roadbed rather than on top
of the platform. The landscaping will extend from the seating
area into the exercise area in order to link these two areas
together. The bench in the middle will be situated slightly
away from the machine to allow for proper clearances.
Designers should check with equipment companies to
select the type of fitness machines and incorporate the
appropriate clearances into the site design.
UPDATE Feb 2013... The nation first active recreation parklet is now open...
This toolkit discusses not only parklets as places for
passive enjoyment (intended for people to sit, relax and
socialize), but also parklets as public spaces for active
recreation. A leader in the movement for public spaces
for active recreation in the Los Angeles region, the Trust
for Public Land began their “Fitness Zones” program in
2005 with funding from the Kaiser Permanente Foundation.
These fitness zones are outdoor gyms that contain exercise
equipment machines and are located within public parks.
The goal of the Fitness Zones program is to:
“Create a fun, accessible, and social environment
where people can enjoy getting fit. We know that
just getting outdoors makes people healthier and
happier. Fitness Zones take that one step further by
giving people free access to top-quality exercise
equipment suitable for all levels of fitness.”13
The process, from planning to installation of a fitness
zone, provides lessons relevant to installing parklets in
Los Angeles. For each project, the Trust for Public Land
works with a community partner to select a park location.
Selection is based on local need, demonstrated by limited
park space and a sizable local population representing
a variety of park users and potential users. After the park
is selected, the Trust for Public Land works closely with the
Los Angeles County Recreation and Parks Department to
select a particular place within the park. Selection criteria
include site visibility and shade. The Trust for Public Land then
hires a contractor to install the exercise machines at the
selected site, and gifts the machines to the Recreation and
Parks Department that is responsible for their maintenance.
The Recreation and Parks Department also holds liability
insurance for the fitness zones.
Each fitness zone costs approximately $45,000.
Costs include six to eight pieces of exercise equipment,
installation, and staff time for permitting and agency
coordination. As of June 2012, fitness zones were located
in 29 different parks in Los Angeles County. By the end of
August 2012, it is expected that 42 LA County parks will
contain fitness zones.
Researchers evaluated the fitness zones in 12 parks
and found that park use had increased in half of the parks
since the installation of a fitness zone.14 They also found a
correlation between the presence of a fitness zone and
elevated levels of exercise in a park, not only among
users of the fitness zone but also in other parts of the park.
Researchers speculate that seeing people on exercise
equipment encourages others to be more physically active.