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Elmwood, Kirk and Onondaga Parks Community Parks StudySyracuse, New York
Spring 2015

The Parks Study was initiated to determine how the city and its partners will advance environmental, public garden and other recreation activities and improvements based on community needs. Community members were invited to explore the history, current use, and conditions of Elmwood, Kirk, and Onondaga Parks. Involvement from the community allowed the Parks Department to collect information from a broader range of people with a more diverse representation of park users. The engagement process of community member's ideas and concerns helps shape the future public space of parks within in the neighborhood and promotes dialogue in parks advocacy.

Topic Areas: Community Engagement, Historic Urban Parks, Participatory Action Research
Project Scale: Urban Park System
Accomplished by: Maren King, Project Director; Project Working Group of neighborhood residents and partner organizations; Glen Lewis, Syracuse Department of Parks Recreation, and Youth Services; and Sarah Krisch, Project Research Assistant
Partners: Cornell Cooperative Extension, Baltimore Woods Nature Center, SUNY-ESF

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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study

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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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    Elmwood, Kirk, Onondaga Park Community Parks Study


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Questions Explored

  • How does the historical use and current conditions of the parks and the neighborhoods around them affect their use and future improvements?
  • What are the roles, values, and concerns of the parks in their current conditions?
  • How can the data collected from the study play a role in the future planning from the Parks Department?

Project Description

The Parks Study was accomplished through a Participatory Action Research project approach. It was accomplished by community members with guidance from the CCDR and the Parks Department. The working group of the project involved two teams, an institutional group, which included members from the Baltimore Woods, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and SUNY ESF and a community group consisting of neighbors. The working group members determined the methods that would be used to engage the diverse residents that live around and use the parks. Through surveys and focus groups, the data collected informed the teams of the park use, activities, concerns, assets, importance to the city, and how they could be improved.

  • The major roles and values of the parks voiced by the community includes the many ways that parks support healthy lifestyles, enrich, and educate children, provide places for recreation, strengthen our relationship with nature and the environment, help build community, spur economic development, and support personal and social interactions.
  • A few community concerns generally pertained to maintenance including restoring and repairing culturally significant historic park features, safety in terms of personal safety and public nuisance, program planning, and design.
  • Visions for future actions and improvements consisted of a connected greenway system, seeing that it would support relaxation, recreation, environmental health, infrastructure improvement, neighborhood quality of life, healthy lifestyles, economic development, opportunities for interaction, and community spirit.

­ The Park Study generated long-term policy and planning recommendations and short-term project and program ideas. The following are a few ideas for long and short-term recommendations that promote re-engaging the dialogue with and among community members.

  • Strategic Use of Resources: create a parks management and maintenance planning process that prioritizes department activities by integrating community and park use data and analysis; establish the importance of city and organization collaboration to create a resilient park system that fulfills multiple roles in the quality of the city.
  • Strengthen Community Relationships: work on projects together; understand and address contested space.
  • Strengthen Connections: make connections strategically; strengthen connections between parks and neighborhoods.
  • Extend the Onondaga Creekwalk: create the Creekwalk as an ecologically rich and culturally diverse greenway; focus development of Creekwalk related destination in Lower Onondaga and western Kirk Park; provide physical and visual access to Onondaga Creek.
  • Integrate the Concepts of the Onondaga Botanical Garden Master Plan: reframe the master plan to integrate other desired or valued activities and characteristics; plan with sustainability and resiliency in mind.

The Elmwood, Kirk, and Onondaga Parks Study received a Merit Award for excellence in Planning and Analysis from the New York Upstate Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The CCDR and others in the Dept of Landscape Architecture continue to collaborate with residents and organizations in the Southside neighborhood through hands-on projects and the Visioning Voices Speaker Series