Why Race Matters in Planning Public Parks

City Lab, The Atlantic
AP Photo. Pat Sullivan

In this article, Brentin Mock reports on a recent Rice University survey focusing on the park needs of low-income communities of color in Houston, a population largely unrepresented in the government-led community design process informing the long-awaited $220 million investment in the city’s Bayou Greenways parks network. Rice’s researchers identified the priority gap as an environmental justice issue and have called for more diverse perspectives when it comes to designing public parks. This article distinguishes between generic public-engagement processes and those that are deep and proactively inclusive, achieving a level of nuance that is often missing in journalistic accounts of community engagement. Read it for more detail on the flawed process led by Houston’s Parks and Recreation Department, and to hear from enlightened public-sector employees like Antoine Bryant, an urban planner and architect with Houston’s Planning Commission, who hopes to see robust and inclusive engagement in future park improvement plans.

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Organizations Referenced

Rice University, Houston Parks and Recreation Department, Emancipation Park

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