Excerpted from Planning, Designing and Maintaining Safer Parks, produced by Toronto Parks & Recreation. 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. See the Introduction for more information.
People seek out parks because they provide contact with the natural environment and a social environment which offers opportunities for meeting with friends, watching others and being seen - all of which help to establish a feeling of comfort and security.
The presence of programmed activities or activity generators attract and increase positive use in a park. Depending on the location, size and features in a park environment, programming can include: recreational offerings; tours; exhibits; community gardens; cultural festivals; or special events such as music, dance or theatre. The presence of food concessions or a cafe is another key way to engage users. Wherever possible, programming and activity generators should be incorporated into a park environment because they reinforce the interconnection between use and safety.
Community gardens are one way to establish a consistent presence in a park during the summer months. Joggers or dog walkers can be valuable in extending the period of use in a park and in creating an atmosphere of safety throughout the year. Groups such as these can also be encouraged to observe and report situations that compromise safety in the park.
Location of Programming
Establishing a Community Presence in the Day & Evening
Programming for Diversity in Use and Users
Developing a network of volunteers who will offer a variety of tours (bird-watching, garden or naturalist) or events such a storytelling or puppet shows will encourage more widespread use of parks and increase positive use.
It was found that women were the primary participants in tours of the North Woods in Central Park and for many, it was the first time they had ventured into trail areas. The volunteer maintenance program in the North Woods is also proving to be effective in providing ongoing experiences for women in the woodland areas.
User Group Conflicts
Special consideration is required for teenagers as they seek out places where they can take socialize and assume ownership. If appropriate spaces are not planned to address their needs, teenagers frequently take over areas designed for others and their very presence may intimidate younger children and adults.
Design for Diversity in Use and Users