Monday, March 28, 2016

Street Lines: Using Art Walks to Transform Passive Recreation Parks into Active Recreation Parks

"... the research team studied the 20 parks. The "main surprise was that the majority were highly underused," says Moore. One park never saw a single user...The team found that the parks with the most activity had new or recently renovated playgrounds that offered diverse choices for play"

The above quote is from a research study of Durham, North, Carolina parks, but it could just as well have been for some of the parks in my neighborhood.  Why are parks underutilized? I suspect it's because  except for small children many  of our NYC parks tend offer few if any activity  options except for sitting on a bench. .

What follows  is a low cost idea to both help activate our parks and at the same time  transform them from passive recreation parks sitting parks  into active recreation park-simply by adding artwork to them!

In a moment I'll discuss how but first, are you familiar with   Fringe Festivals?
-A Fringe Festival has  lot of "fringe" performances,   happening at the same time,   that alone would probably not get many people attending them. But by banding them together as part of a Fringe Festival their attendance increases dramatically. In a Fringe Festival "The Whole is more then the sum of its parts."

All of the pins in this map represent a park or other  public space.  What about coordinating the showing of artwork in as many of these parks as  agree to it. Then  advertise an Art Walk connecting these spaces together. This then becomes Like a Fringe Festival  but here "The Whole is more then the sum of its parks."

This should work in any neighborhood  willing to connect its parks together this way.

-Art exhibits can be moved from neighborhood to neighborhood, so that one exhibit can be shown in multiple neighborhoods

-Communities can also set up their own totally local Art Walks

I've talked to a number of artists who have studios in the Chelsea Art District, who are interested in making this happen in Chelsea.

This is from page 24 Community Board 4 statement of district Needs 2016:

The Board also encourages NYEDC and the Parks Department to do more to advocate for artists and art businesses in the district. NYEDC initiatives could mirror those taken in the internet, film and fashion industries, promoting artist incubators with physical loft and/or studio space where artists are vetted by a panel of community leaders and leading arts organizations. NYEDC could also encourage the reservation of booth space for artists at street fairs and in parks within the district to encourage exposure to the district’s cultural heritage at the highly trafficked and popular events, like the Ninth Avenue Street Fair and River to River Festival.

Initially  exhibiting could happen at

West Chelsea Arts Building Galleries and Studios 508 West 26th Street
Penn Station South Park 26th between 8th and 9th Ave

Worth Square Park 5 Avenue @ 25th Street  (located in community board 5)

 Simple  linear "Street Line" connection.
West Chelsea Arts Building open studio/gallery shows
Penn Station Park
Worth Square Park

Exhibits for 2 weeks or less are easier to create. Longer exhibits must go through a more complex vetting procedure.   See more on NYC Art in the Parks Rules here

By holding these exhibits at the same time as open studio weekends, they can be used to drive traffic to the open studio shows.

Community board 4 in NYC has shown interest in supporting art in its district...

The importance of Art Walks

Several years ago, the NYC Department of Health came up with a great idea "Make NYC Your Gym".

Walking is one of the best forms of exercise and Make NYC Your Gym touted walking in your neighborhood as  a really good way to get your exercise. Great idea. Trouble was it was a limited duration campaign, and it was citywide as opposed to local targeted. It also considered walking and exercise  to be its own reward.

Art Walks are meant to offer viewing  art works as the reward for walking. By changing exhibits, there will constantly be new reward offerings. By exhibiting the works of your community artists, it will localize what is occurring..

Rather then make NYC Your Gym, here we are talking about Make Chelsea Your Gym, Make Flatbush Your Gym,etc...

Local Chelsea groups that can exhibit in an Art Walk include...
Schools-FIT, SVA, Parsons, Pratt, High School of Fashion Industries,
Local area artists
Library  Art Programs

Longer Street Lines

I also have a proposal for a River to River 26th  Street Line.   Rather then a permanent "Street Line" this could occur as a special event  several times a year, and coordinate exhibits across the east west access of Manhattan If it would be possible to connect this with Chelsea's  High Line it would connect  an East West Art walk (the 26th Street Line) with a north south  Art walk (The High Line)

26th Street Line Map   link
26th Street Lime Locations  link

Actually if the 26th Street Line works, temporary east west  "Street Lines" could be set at different times throughout Manhattan, connecting parks on an east west into walking trails, through art exhibits. I am suggesting the 26th Street Line as a temporary Street Line,  some Street Limes might be permanent( though their exhibits should be temporary)

Communities can set up exhibits themselves or partner with companies like ArtBridge who gave set up banners in parks such as NYC's Prospect Park.

Exhibits may be mounded on banners corrugated plastic or other temporary exhibit medium

Friday, March 18, 2016

Examples of Libraries near Parks

There are thousands of parks with a 3 block walk of a library. By having these staffed libraries lend recreation equipment, they can act as parkhouse for these nearby unstaffed parks.

"We are lucky that we have a park right outside our windows. Staff have been known to tell a bunch of rowdy kids to take a ball, go out to the park and work off their excess energy before they come back inside and sometimes the youth staff will start or join in the game for a little while - its all part of building good relationships".

“Our Library checks out basketballs to be used on the courts near the library.  We also have frisbees, jump ropes and hacky sacks available to borrow. The balls have been replaced many times through the years and have resulted in much good will with the kids after school. When they (the kids!) start bouncing off the walls, we suggest they bounce a basketball instead. .”  Maine Library 

Brooklyn, NY


Hong Kong



Long Beach, California

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Knight Library Challange Model Z249 Self-Organizing Schmooze Facilitators

 It will take a few minutes to properly explain what this very low cost but very  highly coveted award is.

Dr Jean Houston co-founded The Foundation for Mind Research.( John Lennon wrote the song Mind Games    about Houston and husband Robert Masters. )

Jean tells the following story about an experience she had when she was 8 years old. 

In my eighth year, I had two experiences within a month of each other that had the most profound effect on my life and work. They served to call me beyond the show biz "Me too!" imprinting from my parents that was the stuff of my daily life. Quite simply, they lured me into my Essence.

My father had taken me with him to deliver a script to the ventriloquist Edgar Bergen, whose weekly radio show my dad was writing at the time. Bergen's chief dummy, Charlie McCarthy, a wise-cracking little fellow in a tuxedo, was one of the best-loved characters in radio comedy and was featured in many movies as well.

When dad and I entered the open door of Bergen's hotel room, we found him sitting on a bed with his back to us, talking very intently to Charlie and then listening with evident wonder and astonishment to Charlie's answers. Unlike their usual repartee on the radio programs, there was no flippancy here, no "in-on-the-joke" sarcasm. In fact, one got the impression that Bergen was the student, while Charlie was quite clearly the teacher.

"What are they doing?" I silently mouthed to my father. "Just rehearsing," he mouthed back. But as we listened to what Bergen and Charlie were saying, we soon realized that this was no rehearsal for any radio program we knew about, for Bergen was asking his dummy ultimate questions: "Charlie, what is the meaning of life? What is the nature of love? Is there any truth to be found?" Charlie was answering with the wisdom of millennia. It was as if the great thinkers of all times and places were compressed inside his little wooden head and poured out their distilled knowing through his clacking painted jaws.

Bergen would get so excited by the remarkable answers that he would ask still more ultimate questions: "But, Charlie, can the mind be separate from the brain? Who created the universe, and how? Can we ever really know anything?" Charlie would continue to answer in his luminous way, pouring out pungent, beautifully crafted statements of deep wisdom. This rascally faced little dummy was expounding the kind of knowing that could only have come from a lifetime of intensive study, observation, and interaction with high beings. After several minutes of listening spellbound to this wooden Socrates, my father remembered his theological position as an agnostic Baptist and coughed. Bergen looked up, his Nordic face turning red, and stammered a greeting. "Hello, Jack. Hi, Jean. I see you caught us."

"Yeah, Ed," my father said. "What in the world were you rehearsing? I sure didn't write that stuff."
"No rehearsal, Jack. I was talking to Charlie. He's the wisest person I know."
"But, Ed," my father expostulated, "That's your voice coming out of that cockamamie block of wood."
"Yes, Jack, I suppose it is," Bergen answered quietly. But then he added with great poignancy, "And yet, when he answers me, I have no idea where it's coming from or what he's going to say next. It is so much more than I know."

At that moment my skin turned to goose flesh, an electric hand seemed to touch mine, and a fractal wave of my future activities crashed on the shore of my eight-year-old self. For I suddenly knew that we all contain "so much more" than we think we do. The image came to me of a house with many floors, and I saw that our ordinary awareness had us living on a shelf in the attic of our selves, leaving the other floors relatively uninhabited and the basement locked.  link

 Inhabiting the Mask
 In many cultures  people put on masks and are able to "Inhabit the Mask" and access parts of themselves that they normally cannot access. It's funny but putting on a mask allows people to" take off their masks". Charlie Mc Carthy, was such a "mask" for Edgar Bergen.
I give people finger puppets, when they put these on magical things happen and people act in ways that they would not, without having these puppets on.

If we win, each of the other "winners" (aka all entrants) will get a set of 10 VIP finger puppets aka Model Z249 Self-Organizing Schmooze Facilitators

These will not only allow entrants to Inhabit a Mask, they will also have other benefits...

The Brain and Rewards

It''s important for people to feel acknowledged and to receive awards and honors. Chemicals such as dopamine and endorphin  are released in the brain when this occurs.  As it turns out, for many people, there is not that great a difference emotionally if the awards/honors are given by Barack Obama, President of the United States or me handing out  Model Z249 Self-Organizing Schmooze Facilitators. 

On March 5, 2014. Members of City Year, Americorps (above) were honored to meet President Obama(top row center) in Boston

On Sept 8 2014 Members of City Year, Americorps (below) were honored when I handed out  several VIP's (Very Important Puppets)  to work with these members of City Year.

Our brains are very well set up to enjoy receiving honors and awards..and our brains are not very well set up to distinguish the source/monetary value  of these awards.In plain English that means a low cost award is appreciated just about as much as a high cost one.

Loose Pars and Looser Libraries

Fixed Parks

 This  Park  offers only a bench to sit on for most age groups

 I was talking to a fellow in my neighborhood who was  in a wheelchair. We talked  about the activities offered  in the fixed equipment outdoor  parks in our neighborhood, we agreed  they essentially offered none  for him as a person who uses a wheelchair, and none for me as a senior citizen.

Loose Parks

                                                                 Muhlenberg  Library

I then pointed to  the library that was right across the street from where we were talking.  It functions as an "indoor park" with seating and "loose parts"  (aka books, DVDs, laptops etc).   It was far smaller then any of the outdoor parks in our neighborhood, yet offered us and the rest of the  community a choice of thousands of "loose parts" to choose from .

Loose Parts (DVD's left, books right) at the Muhlenberg Library

 I said to him rather then outdoor parks being based solely  on installing  a small number of fixed equipment features,  what if they  additionally  offered  a  library style facility  stocked with all sorts of  "loose parts" so as to offer something for everyone? He agreed with me this would be a good idea.

Here are   several  ways to offer a great deal of Loose Parts in our parks using the public library as a  model.

1- Place a Staffed "Play Library" in a Park

   Rockefeller Park
    -Park goes borrow loose parts (aka equipment or content)  from the play library(l) to use in the park (r)
  -Scores of different items are available
-New content (equipment) can easily be added  to meet the play needs of all ages and abilities  

 When I was a child my neighborhood playground had a staffed play library. Due to budget issues   many parks departments  often  can no longer afford  dedicated staff to lend equipment in neighborhood parks. 

 What follows are affordable  ways to offer Play Libraries 

2-Partner Parks and Public  Libraries
As it turns out thousands of public libraries already have  staff and have a park  nearby:

                               This Tuscaloosa library is in the park

                                 This Honk Kong Library is adjacent to a park
                                    This NYC library has 2 parks a few blocks away

-Libraries are already really, really good distribution channel for  lending objects  to use in  nearby  parks- but those objects are currently usually  limited to books and other information oriented materials.  
Borrow books from library...

...Read in nearby park

-What if the libraries in your city near  a park would also lend sports equipment?


"We are lucky that we have a park right outside our windows. Staff have been known to tell a bunch of rowdy kids to take a ball, go out to the park and work off their excess energy before they come back inside and sometimes the youth staff will start or join in the game for a little while - its all part of building good relationships".

“Our Library checks out basketballs to be used on the courts near the library.  We also have frisbees, jump ropes and hacky sacks available to borrow. The balls have been replaced many times through the years and have resulted in much good will with the kids after school. When they (the kids!) start bouncing off the walls, we suggest they bounce a basketball instead. .”  Maine Library 

-Though only a small number of libraries in the United States  lend sporting equipment, the concept is far more common  elsewhere... 
 "Sports collections do exist in  a large proportion of the[130] public libraries"[in Western Australia] . "  -Ann Pascoe West Torrence Library, Australia

see   Public Libraries that offer Play Libraries
see NYC Libraries Near Parks

3-Transform  Library Outdoor Spaces into  Loose  Parks

                                                          Indoor Play space  at a Library

Libraries often have indoor children's play areas that offer  toys and games. These actually are  small indoor loose   parks. .Why not add  outdoor Loose Parks? Here's how. Libraries often  have lawns, and  these lawns look wonderful, but are otherwise not used .

This is the lawn at the Salem Library in Salem, VA. The library  building acts as an adjacent   Play Library  for this  Loose Park.

Libraries can either develop their lawns into parks on their own, or work with parks departments to do so. The San Antonio Parks System received a Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant,  It  partnered with the San Antonio Library to place  fitness equipment on the lawns of 5 libraries. Doing so added 5 new "fixed equipment parks" to San Antonio  without the city having to build 5 new parks. Adding recreation equipment lending to these libraries would create San Antonio's first Loose Parks.

                                            San Antonio Public Library Fitness Station

see Libraries that use their outdoor spaces for recreation
see NYC Schoolyards to Playgrounds/Libraries to Loose Parks
Shared use 

4-No room in libraries for recreation equipment? 
No nearby Library?

-I talked to a branch manager of a rather small Carnegie Library about lending recreation equipment. She said to me something to the effect  "look at this place, we have no room".  Last week I came back to her and said, "What if you didn't have to lend the items, just keys to lockers holding the items". Her reply was "This we have room for"
Outdoor & vandal proof lockers
Lend Keys to Lockers

Her's an idea- Each locker can hold  items that  relate to each other, such as toys for the visually handicapped, table games, puppets, , or art supplies  Borrowing keys from libraries would utilize a well established citywide materials lending system.   Keys to each locker  may be borrowed by one person at a time, or multiple people (hey see whatever works!)

The Portage District Library system has Library Express lockers (below)  at 9 locations that they use for book lending.

 I spoke to library staff  and asked if they would be any difference from checking out  a book or a jump rope from the lockers . Their answer was no.

At Hudson Beach  in NYC's Riverside Park a community group stores its Play Library equipment in a locker at the park, that they purchased and filled with equipment...

                                                             Play Library Locker

On weekends, during good weather the community group  opens the locker and creates a  Loose Park available to all at this location. Here are some of the items from this small locker in use...


                                                                   Hula Hoops


see Lockers , Trust, Theft  at  Loose Parks

5-Piggybacking on Existing Parks Staff  or  Hire Part Times 

As I said before, most  parks departments  are not  able to afford full time dedicated staff for Play Libraries .  There are other ways to staff a Play Library  in a park.

Bike lending at the Warren E Fox Nature Center

-In addition to their regular functions, staff at the Warren E Fox Nature Center  in  Estell Manor Park lend  bikes and helmets, softball equipment, volleyballs, frisbees, jump ropes, horseshoes and soccer balls.  link

 -About 50 parks in North Carolina lend fishing tackle(and at some sites adaptive fishing gear)  under the states Tackler Loan Program. The  N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission pays 75% of the cost of the gear. Someone at the commission got 50 parks in North Carolina  to lend fishing gear.  Great!. If you can loan fishing gear why can't you loan volleyballs or hula hoops?  I gave a call to one of the parks  who got the gear and asked if you can lend fishing gear any reason you can't lend other sports equipment. Answer was "I don't think so".

-Could maintenance staff at a park put out  movable loose equipment in  a park, and take it in at night? I talked to a parks maintenance supervisor who said yes. Ping Pong, pool, nok hockey and , foosball tables, exercise bikes, chairs, and  pianos,   are several movable objects that can be made available this way. (By locking this equipment to the ground   it can  help make sure the equipment dose not walk if unattended).

-Part Timers
 In NYC our parks department budget cannot pay for full time animate Loose Parts(aka recreation staff)  in our neighborhood parks. But where budgets permit I would think parks can hire part time employees to  man Play Libraries and lead  events  in parks  for the most popular day or days   of the week(Saturday and Sunday) .

 see -..Parks that lend recreation equipment  

Exclusion and Inclusion

Philadelphia has the largest in-city park system in the world, which can serve as a tremendous resource for social interaction, relaxation and recreation. Yet 72% of older Philadelphians report they had not gone to a public recreation facility in the past year.   link


 Philadelphia's findings are  not an aberration. A Rand Corporation study found that seniors seldom use Los Angeles

Why are seniors not using parks? One possibility comes from the authors of the book People Places they said   "The natural environment of a park is not enough to attract some elderly users, but a park with many activities can simulate social exchange and provide a sense of belonging"   link

 Seniors are not the only groups with issues that cause them not to use parks...
 Overall this is a great facility I just wish the community would use it for more activities other than the one concert in the park they have every summer because that's pretty much the only reason why I've ever gone herelink

 I was visiting Manhattan's Union Square Park , I talked to a young skateboard enthusiast there who told me, there's benches for seniors  and a playground for the little kids but nothing for us.” 

 Contemporary American playgrounds don’t hold or inspire older kids...More and more, preteens avoid the playground altogether, choosing instead to spend time indoors, most likely sitting in front of some kind of screen...What teen will go to the playground to play a game when he has better graphics at home on his computer or anywhere on his cell phone? The Science of Play


 What I think is happening is that many  of our parks  subtly    include and exclude use by many groups   through the features they offer and do not offer.  link

Defining Inclusion
I was talking to a senior who uses a wheelchair, she asked me if I could let her know if there were any inclusive playgrounds  in NYC. I asked her to define inclusive playground . She said a park that would have activities for her to participate in. Turns out there are not many parks in NYC  that are inclusive for her. 

 On Further thinking I came up with  a lot of "playgrounds" that might  have activities to meet her needs
-the libraries in her neighborhood
-the senior centers in her neighborhood
-the college sin her neighborhood that offer senior scholar programs.

So there are a good number of locations  offering senior playspaces. only they  are  not   NYC parks

If a "park" offers enough activities to attract you  to use it, then it  is an inclusive park for you, if not it isn't. Doesn't matter if 1 or  10,000 other people find activities  at that park that attract them to it, if it doesn't attract you, it fails your  inclusion test.

Think, what features would a park need to offer for so that you would want to use it on a regular basis?

Loose Parks and Special Needs

The ADA guarantees accessibility to a park. It does not guarantee that you will have anything to do in the park.

Not So Special Special Needs Equipment
As it turns out much   "special needs” recreation  equipment  need not be special, they just need to be available . Loose Park Play Libraries are meant to make recreation equipment more available for everyone including special needs folks..

            Lego is used by people  with Autism,  Downs Syndrome , and other special needs

Special, special needs equipment 
Play Libraries   can allows patrons to special order  from  a wide  variety of   adaptive special needs equipment  to be used in  Loose parks. 

                                                           Audible ball(above)  for the visually impaired

see Loose Parks and Special Needs Recreation

Loose Parks and  Family Play
 Studies have shown that parents’ participation in physical activity is positively related to activity among children and adolescents  link

In standard playgrounds I mostly see parents "participating" by watching their kids play  or if not doing this they are often  looking at their phones or otherwise keeping busy.


At Rockefeller Park, there are  Loose Parts offered  that allowed parents and children to participate together

Board Games

Nok Hockey



Family Ping Pong

-Distance to a Loose Park

 Disneyland is considered an incredible park, but given the distance to it, most people rarely go to visit it. Distance to a park is a really  important factor to how often it is being used. As this diagram shows if a park is more then a 3 block  walk away, usage decreases drastically. link


So what we need are not only Loose Parks, we need Loose Parks as close to us as possible

Loose Parks and Space
Almost 70 percent of the activity took place in the really nice, renovated playground area, even though it accounted for just 2 percent of the total park size,    link

In a fixed park, often most of the area is empty space with no equipment.

In a Loose Park you can take equipment and use it anywhere within the space and play with it.

Designing a Loose Park vs a Fixed Park

 It is impossible to know which toys a child will connect with, which they will enjoy, which they want to continue to play with for hours on end.  link

Fixed Park
Fixed parks offer a limited number of activities that are designed by professionals , once designed and built they tend not to change.

The  park down the block from me, Penn Station South Playground,  has benches, basketball, volleyball, jungle gym,  and 4   sidewalk games. Total of  8 items. The sidewalk games were repainted in 2014, no new equipment has been added since 1998, almost 20 years ago. 

Loose Park
 " A single movie or show on Netflix and Amazon needn’t appeal to everyone; the key for both platforms is making sure they offer enough of everything to attract anyone."  link

A Loose Park can offer score of Loose Parts. But what's really powerful is that the people who run a Loose Park can ask the community, "What items could we add to the park so that it offered enough to attract you to use it.?"

The nearest indoor Loose Park to me (aka Muhlenberg Library) has approximately 20,000 volume, millions more can be requested through interbranch loan.

 Here's how  the Sacramento Library designed  their  Library  of Things   as a recent  addition to their Arcadia Branch......

 The question of what exactly will be available for lending and borrowing will depend on what the community suggests. Community members have been able submit their ideas through the library’s website and will be able to continue to do so through next week. Once ideas have been submitted, they will appear as comments on the page. The most popular objects will be purchased. (Within reason, of course; the library has allotted a budget of $3,900.) So far, the two most popular ideas, tied at 150 votes each, have been a sewing machine and video games—clearly, a variety of demographics are being served here. In response, the library has already bought six sewing machines and expects to begin circulating them by mid-February" - Sacramento Public  Library  of Things

The Amazon Echo has become a hit because day by day, week by week, it’s kept getting better link

Unlike  Fixed Parks, Loose Parks can be  designed to  be  continually "designed" by their  users.

see Designing and Stocking a Loose Park

-Paying for  a  Play Library

Starting  a play library need not be expensive...

 “Our Library checks out basketballs to be used on the courts near the library.  We also have frisbees, jump ropes and hacky sacks available to borrow.

If you got $50 you can start with the items offered at the  above  library .  A few thousand dollars will get  an extensive Play Library that should  cover the recreation needs of all ages and abilities.

No funds for a Play Library?

-Ask your local government officials
My council member  said he could fund a Play Library for  a Library adjacent to a Park through his expense budget. 

-Ask the community to donate funds or recreation  equipment.

 The Los Angeles Department of Public Social Services Toy Loan Program  has partnered with volunteer groups to offer   Toy Loan Centers in  10 Los Angeles  parks.  These Toy Loan Centers get their equipment through a combination of DPSS budget and .  community equipment donations.

-Allow people to donate equipment that they want to use in the Loose Park. By doing so:
-They get the convenience of no longer having to schlep equipment to the park
-Everyone  gets to use the equipment.

The park down the block from where I live currently offers no features that would get me to use it. I have offered to donate equipment to the parks department that would transform this into an Inclusive Park for me. 


- Canadian Sports for Life Kingston , Ontario received a 2 year grant to promote physical literacy through the creation of 68  Play Libraries. that could be checked out at community organizations.

An example of some of the materials provided through the Physical Literacy program being offered to Kingston East residents . link

-According to Anne Pascoe at the West Torrence Library,the   Australian Sports Collections libraries  were initially established through government funding via a 'Be Active' grant .

More grant money to help Australian community libraries purchase sporting equipment has  become available at the national level, courtesy of the Green Party.


Other City and State Agencies Funding

As mentioned before the North Carolina Carolina Wildlife Commission is a state agency that created the Fishing Tackler Loan Program placing fishing tackle and adapted fishing tackle in 50 parks.The Wildlife Commission pays 75% of the cost of the gear.

The  Ontario Tackle Share program, provides fishing gear to 140 sites, including Ontario Parks, and public librarieslink

  Sponsors of Ontario Tackle Lending Program

-The Parks department in  NYC work  with the Queens Public Library System to hold Shape Up NYC exercise  classes that are held in public libraries. If they can do this, I would think that there is no reason a parks department(or for that matter City Health Department)  could not work with Public Libraries to fund their play libraries.

see   Cost to create a Play Library

Advertising Loose Parks

And there was kind of an insider mentality too — you had to know what programs were offered because nothing was ever publicized. No effort was made to draw people in. One woman called her local park to find out if a program was still being offered only to be told that the information was “confidential.”Forrest Claypool, CEO, Chicago Parks district

Commissioner Claypools statement seems rather amusing , but I learned  similar situations are not uncommon in Parks systems...

 -A local park has a $5,000 concrete ping pong table.  Park Rangers  do lend paddles if you happen to see a Ranger in the park and ask.  but no signs in the park indicate this fact.


The park above needs a banner like this to hang near the table...

 To participate in  an activity that is occurring, it helps to know about the activity...

 Sacramento's Belle Cooledge Library lends Ping Pong paddles for use in adjacent Belle Cooledge Park.
                                 Map of Belle Cooledge Library and Park, Ping Pong Table in Park

  The paddles were donated by one of their city council members. A sign in the library lets patrons know about the paddles. They currently circulate around 52 times a year.
                                  Library Poster letting patrons know Paddles are available

There is no signage in the park, letting people know about this service. It would be helpful to park goers if the parks department put up a sign, letting people know that paddies were available at the library.

                                                               Banner Example

Remember the  Maine library that lends several  pieces of sports equipment...

“Our Library checks out basketballs to be used on the courts near the library.  We also have frisbees, jump ropes and hacky sacks available to borrow. .”  Maine Library 

Adding a sign like the one below  to the park and library , would help let community residents  know that this equipment is available from the library.  
                      Borrow From Library, Bring to Park banner  with images of some available items

One really nice thing about this banner is that it both  lets park goers know that sports equipment is available at the library to play with  in the park, and  it  also advertise that books are available from the library for reading  in the park.

In North Carolina, lakes and tackle lending locations are not always adjacent. The Tackler Loaner Program provides signage to connect the two

 see Co Marketing Parks and Libraries

 Theft,  User Friendliness, Trust, Liability

Theft/User Friendliness

 Branch  libraries are Loose Parks that accept  loss as part of their business model. Closed stacks would be safer then open stacks, but they would also have books  used less. Offering materials for  in library use only would be even safer, but once again would decrease usage. The closer libraries move to a zero tolerance for loss, the less user friendly  libraries become.

What would a library look like with a zero tolerance for loss? It would look a lot  like the park down the block from me.  The few items it  offers are  "bolted" to the ground. This model may achieve a zero loss rate, but it also

-limits the number of possible items offered
-implicitly excludes use of the park by many groups
-greatly diminishes the ""user  friendliness" of the  facility

    Surveying a few  libraries that lend recreation equipment I found loss is no greater then for other circulating collections. For details on how to keep theft to a minimum see here

Not all items in a Loose Park have to be "checked out" .  At Rockefeller Park, many Loose Parts  are left on their lawn for use by park goers.

                                                Rockefeller Park

Historically, the main attraction of Totland, for the tots, are the dozens of push toys and ride-ons that have been left by families who have outgrown them. There was no need to bring your own toys — the place was covered with them.. link


'As Bryant Park's Barth sees it, movable seating should not be viewed as a fixed asset like a statue or a park bench, but instead as a commodity such as garden mulch or toilet paper that must be regularly restocked. "These chairs increase the social life of the park," Barth says. "You can't quantify that financially." '  link

                    Bryant Park

see Objections to Recreation equipment Loan: Theft, Breakage and Liability

 Loose Parks-  Increase access to Physical Activities Opportunities

People may have the necessary knowledge,skills, attitudes, and motivation to be physically active, but if they do not have access to the necessary opportunities, they may be restricted or prohibited from being active. Having access to places and opportunities for physical activity and knowing these opportunities exist is critical. Efforts to increase access may not lead to increased use unless community members are involved and aware of the efforts
-The CDC Guide to Strategies to Increase Physical Activity in the Community  link

see The Soda Can and the Hula Hoop, why distance to recretion equipment is important

 Loose Parks-  Increase access to Literacy Opportunities/Books

Research consistently shows that children who live in low-income neighborhoods have little access to reading material in their public libraries, in their schools, and at home...
... the first step any literacy campaign needs to take is to make sure children have access to plenty of books. link

 Marcus Garvey Park

The installation of Little Free Libraries in the park [above)  provides children and young adults free access to books and a wide variety of reading materials to help encourage early reading.  -Michell Silver NYC Parks Commissioner

This  library in the park is one of about 47 in various neighborhoods of Bogota, Colombia. They were established by the Paradero Para Libros Para Parques (PPP), a program created to promote literacy across the country.

Loose Parks and Types of Recreation

In her book “The Right Stuff for Children Birth to 8” Martha B. Bronson talks about five different ways of playing.. link:

In my neighborhood parks , with very few exceptions all that kids are offered is active play equipment .  The problem this causes if you want to the  other type of play our neighborhood parks do not offer equipment for these. In the Science of Play, Susan Solomon said...

More and more, preteens avoid the playground altogether, choosing instead to spend time indoors, most likely sitting in front of some kind of screen

 I think in NYC our parks are acting like specialty retailers... for kids they specialize in "selling" active play, for adults what they 'sell" is passive recreation bench seating .For the most part the offerings in these  neighborhood park "speciality stores" are pretty slim.  If a specialty retailer doesn't sell the type of goods you're interested in you have no reason to go into his store, you will take your business elsewhere and  buy from a store that has the goods you do want. 

So how to  attract more people to your store. Well if instead of a store that offered few  items (passive seating for adults, active play for kids) , you had a store  selling a wide range  of merchandise I would think that would attract more people.

"... the research team studied the 20 parks. The "main surprise was that the majority were highly underused," says Moore. One park never saw a single user...The team found that the parks with the most activity had new or recently renovated playgrounds that offered diverse choices for play"

see Five Types of Play Starter Kit

-Loose Seats
 Movable chairs and tables are great loose parts. They afford  parkgoers  a far greater range of activities then parks with only benches.


  Here are two senior citizens who are playing a game of Scrabble at a community garden.

 Given a simple addition, a table and chairs this Community Garden  has transformed from an area where the seating arrangement would only allow reading and awkward  talking  to where the  seating arrangement will  facilitate social interactions.

Loose Art, Using art to create Active Recreation

 A fixed mural is being considered for a local park in my neighborhood.  The park is underutilized by teens, adults and seniors.

This park has a lot of benches, and attracts only a handful of teens, adults and seniors to use these benches

 The mural will brighten up the park, and   more people will come to the park because of it. A while back a Lego man was placed in the park, and far more people came into the park to take pictures with it.

 However there is a limit to the number of times people will come into the park to specifically view the same object, for most people it will probably be one time.

 I think there are art alternatives that will add so much more to the usage of this park for people in the neighborhood . Rather then a static painted mural in this park , how about the park gets art exhibits of limited duration .  Every time the exhibit changes it gives community residents a fresh reason to visit the park. And rather then just do exhibits in isolation at one neighborhood park, how about all neighborhood parks get coordinated exhibits.

What this hopefully does is gets people in the neighborhood to go to ALL the parks in the neighborhood to see  this "distributed" exhibit.

And here's the really interesting thing. Walking to these " loose parks" to see these exhibits is active recreation. So if these exhibits are mounted properly, adding art  exhibits (loose parts) to a park will increase active recreation, in the community. (see Loose Parks and Health Trails below)

Loose Programming
 Offering programmed events  in a park is  a way to  temporarily transform a Fixed Park into a Loose Park for the duration of the event. Yes events programming is a form of looseness , however unlike other forms of looseness, this not available on demand.

Loose Parks and Health Trails
 Activities like bicycling,  skiing , and  swimming are non ordinary realities and fun to do ways to excercise. Walking is great  exercise but not in and of itself a  fun thing to do.  By adding fun rewards to walking you get people to walk more and that means excercise more.

Creating Health Trails where walkers find rewards at points on  the trail will get people to walk more. -Loose Art
-Loose and Fixed recreation  equipment in our parks
-Loose Programming

-Getting to Loose Parks
There are good reasons for  Parks departments, Public Libraries and local governments  to work together to  create loose parks   in their communities

Parks Departments

                                  Hula hoops on lawn

 -"A recent study of daycare-center playgrounds found that when kids had access to items like balls, hula hoops, and jump ropes, they were more active than when they had only stationary structures to play on.."  link 

  RMIT University researcher Brendon Hyndman found  the children were more inclusive when they played with everyday objects(above photo) , compared to times when they used conventional playgrounds. Picture: Jay Town  link

 “Sports Equipment libraries can provide resources for individuals and families to utilize equipment that they may not be able to afford or, they may wish to 'try before they buy'. It also enables individuals and families to actively participate in sport and recreation in areas where they encounter difficulties.  Victoria Australia Dept of Health ” -link

- Libraries
There's a place for you and a place for me,
it's the local public library.
They have books and things that they lend for free
It's the latest, it's the greatest, it's the library.

Educational, informational,
entertainment that's sensational.
It's a way of life, it's for you and me
It's the latest, it's the greatest, it's the library.

They have histories, they have mysteries
And for mothers, books of recipes
See a movie show, hear a symphony
It's the latest, it's the greatest, it's the library.

There’s a place for you and a place for me,
it’s the local public library.
They have books and things
that they lend for free.
It’s the latest, it’s the greatest, it’s the library. - See more at:
   -The Library Song (click for tune)

Libraries are great community Loose Parks, but they have challenges for the 21st century...

Eli Neiburger, deputy director  Ann Arbor District Library which offers a Unusual Stuff to Borrow Collection

To paraphrase Eli,Libraries are an incredible resource to allow  communities to borrow and share  scarce content. Print media used to be the scarce content   that was the reason for libraries to exist. As the abundance of information on  the Internet  transforms  print into  a legacy media  , our libraries need to find other scarce content  to  offer our communities.

This NYPL poster shows some of the scarce content  the New York Public Library is touting.

 Our branch libraries are already Loose Parks, adding  Physical literacy equipment will help make them into Looser Parks. 

 More and more libraries are looking at adding additional services as they continually strive to meet the needs of their communities (Bryant and Pengelly, 2008). McNicol (2003) found that joint use libraries can work extremely well and have the potential to be an integral part of the local community. In many areas, they enable a better standard of library service to be provided than would have been possible otherwise. Victoria Australia Dept of Health ” -link

...After all, a library is a place where people find out that the things that seem utterly impossible – really are possible after all-Jessica Candy New York Public Library

Local Government
“With research showing that obesity is rising and life expectancy is decreasing, a new dialogue around the provision of physical activity programming, education and opportunities is needed,”  Denita Arthurs, City of Kingston, Ontario  assistant supervisor for recreation

Our Parks and Libraries are communities major providers of  recreation content.  Adding information resources  to parks and recreation resources to  public libraries, are  low cost ways for local governments to add to the usefulness of their existing  public spaces without having to incur  major capital expenses.

for more partnerships see     Getting Libraries and Parks to Cooperate

 Loose Parks as Intelligent Systems
 This one is heavy so I have left it to the end...

The concept of involvement and participation
underlies this whole report. It seems central to the
comments of all our consultants. Rand has
summarized the point when he says, "Designed
environments which are thought out. formalized,
and complete are usually lifeless' and
unapproachable because (a) they do not invite
interaction and modification to suit immediate
human needs; (b) they are unable to grow, develop
and become extended through human use. Human
habitation merely fulfills (for better or far worse)
the designer's conception of their potential
meaning rather than leading to the discovery
of new functions and new forms of interaction.
 Oddly enough [he goes on to say] many environ-
sents which 'work' well for people meet few
if any, aesthetic criteria ordinarily employed
by designers."
." From New York, New York (1968)
 by Lawrence Halpern and Associates. 

When Artificial Intelligence research first started. computer scientists designed  fixed algorithms to  mimic intelligence. This approach did not work very well. and was pretty much considered a dead end  Later on computer scientists  started creating  systems called Neural Networks, rather then . fixed algorithms, this approach used systems that mimicked how neurons in the brain learned from their environment .  This approach worked far better, because the system would learn to become intelligent at a task rather then someone programming in how to do the task.

In creating a fixed park   parks designer(with the possibly assistance of members of the community)  have   to anticipate what peoples future recreation needs will be, Just like the fixed algorithm artificial intelligence systems  this doesn't work very well. If instead you create a Loose park system that can, over time,   learn from it users what their needs are, then this system will work like a neural network and actually show  intelligence and learn how to program itself to meet the communities recreation needs.

NYC's Libraries are actually Loose Parks  they learn to meet the community information needs, by allowing community members to choose the books they want.  The Internet is a better  Loose park, it allows it''s users to also be it's authors.

The design of Loose Parks is meant over time  to allow a parks users to actually create their own park that meets their recreation needs. Loose Parks are intelligent systems.

Some of the ideas shown here have been working for years, others need to be tested. If you implement something please pass back details so it can be shared with others

wtgichelsea (at)