Chapter 16 | Planning for Parks, Open Space and Green Infrastructure


Open space helps to shape a community and helps a community to breathe. Traditional parks provide opportunities for recreation and relaxation. Linkages planned through green infrastructure programs provide critical links in habitat and natural ecosystems. It is also important to remember that a major industry requires lots of open land – and that is agriculture. This chapter deals with the broad range of issues involved in planning for current and future open space in and around a community.

Weblinks from Chapter


  1. Make an inventory of the important open space in your community; if it is a large community, pick one part of it and make an inventory for that part. How is that open space used? Who owns it? Is some of it simply unused private land that may develop in the future?
  2. Does your community have a greenway system? Should it have? Can you suggest some routes that such a system might follow? Would those routes include any floodplains or wetlands? Would they provide good human connections within the community?
  3. Do new subdivisions in your community include open space? Is that open space accessible to people who do not live there?
  4. Are you aware of serious unmet park, recreation, or open-space needs in your community? What are they?
  5. Are there private land trusts or other groups involved in open-space acquisition and preservation in your community? If you do not know, have someone in the class contact the local parks department or planning office and ask them.

Discussion Questions

  1. Does your community value open space? How can you tell? Does the local government regularly invest in expanding the open-space system?
  2. If there is a land trust or private open-space group active in or near your community, ask a representative of that group to come to your class and describe its activities. While that person is visiting, ask her or him to comment on some of the questions raised in the exercises for this chapter.


Supplemental Resources

  • The American Society of Landscape Architecture, the organization representing professionals who have long dealt with similar issues, provides a Green Infrastructure Resource Guide called The Dirt.
  • Planning for Public Spaces is a non-profit organization that provides public education, publications and resources on public spaces, including public plazas and other developed spaces, as well as natural and other green spaces.
  • The Center for Neighborhood Technology has a website that provides explanatory material and additional resources on green infrastructure.
  • The Conservation Fund has created the Green Infrastructure Network, providing additional resources and links on the subject.
  • The University of Connecticut hosts the Nonpoint Education for Public Officials (NEMO), which provides information on managing nonpoint sources of water pollution; in urban areas, that means stormwater.
  • Through a cooperative effort of  the New York Departments of State, Environmental Conservation, Agriculture and Markets; the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation; and Hudson River Valley Greenway, with support from the New York Planning Federation, The Nature Conservancy, Land Trust Alliance of New York, and the Westchester Land Trust, the state has published an excellent and user friendly Local Open Space Planning Guide, which can be downloaded for free.
  • The Municipal Research Services Center in Washington (state) provides extensive on-line resources about planning for “Park Planning, Design and Open Space,” as well as links to a number of examples in Washington.
  • The national program of converting unused railroad lines to recreational trails provides important linkages in open space systems; the Rails to Trails Conservancy provides information on those programs

Common Search Terms

Use these terms in search engines to find additional examples and other resources:

parks plan, open space plan, green infrastructure, green network, greenways, trails plan