Planning, Designing and Maintaining Safer Parks was produced by Toronto Parks & Recreation as a tool to provide a better understanding of personal safety issues in parks and open spaces. It is hoped that with an increased understanding of personal safety issues, both parks staff and local citizens can work together to implement appropriate safety strategies.

In Toronto, public concern has been instrumental in making the planning of safer, more accessible urban environments a higher priority. By establishing the Safe City Committee in 1989, the City of Toronto became the first city government to set up a committee whose sole mandate was to endeavour to create safer environments for its citizens.

As a resource participant of this Committee, Toronto Parks & Recreation has supported a number of activities aimed at preventing violence. These include offering “Wen Do” self-defence courses free of charge and conducting safety audits of recreation centres and parks. As a further measure, the Department launched a project to develop a set of guidelines that could inform the process of evaluating safety in parks. Planning, Designing and Maintaining Safer Parks is the result of this initiative.

This guide is based on the understanding that addressing safety in parks and open space is a complex task. It cannot be solved by design alone nor by any one single action. What is required to create and maintain safer park spaces is an integrative strategy involving design, programming, maintenance and citizen involvement. Such an approach is essential if parks are to be designed and programmed to maximize interest and provide opportunities for use, thereby minimizing the opportunities for inappropriate activities to occur.

The ideas presented here represent a synthesis of the best thinking that has emerged on park safety and on the ways to render park environments more open, accessible and inviting to all citizens. The material also builds on the key finding in park safety research on the connection between use and safety: where people use parks in a positive way and in substantial numbers, all people feel more secure.

Using This Guide

This guide was written to examine how physical and social factors impact on perceptions of and actual safety in parks and how the tools of design, maintenance, programming and citizen involvement can be used in an integrated way to enhance park safety.

This guide is not intended to be a definitive statement on creating safer parks and open spaces, nor is it intended to serve as a template for the design, operation and use of parks. It is intended to serve as a tool to provide a better understanding of personal safety issues in parks and open spaces. It is hoped that with an increased understanding of personal safety issues park staff and local citizens can, with their knowledge of a given park context, user group and available resources, implement an appropriate safety strategy.

Project Writers

Leslie Coates, Toronto Parks & Recreation
Connie Guberman, Metro Action Committee on Public Violence Against Women and Children
David Orsini, Sunarts Design

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