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10 Types of Parks (Urban, National, Pocket…)

Parks come in all shapes, and appearances, and with different intentions. While an amusement park is substantially different from a pocket park, they both share a common goal to provide us with recreation and enjoyment.

My park visits with my family might not be equivalent to parkour, but they always include something interesting! So, here are ten types of parks to enjoy! 

  1. Urban Parks
  2. National Parks  
  3. Town Square Parks
  4. State Parks
  5. Active Parks
  6. Passive Parks
  7. Amusement Parks  
  8. Pocket Parks  
  9. Water Parks  
  10. Linear Parks

Each has a unique purpose within its communities but commonly aims to provide recreation. 

Parks are unique locations because they usually come with a history. We’ll explore the different park types and how their concept came into existence.

Furthermore, we’ll look at what makes each park type unique and the type of recreation they provide for individuals and the community. Lastly, examine the evolution of historical parks to modern parks. 

1. Urban Parks 

An area with many trees, grassy ground, a playground with many people doing different activities.

An urban park is a type of park in cities and other incorporated places that offer recreation and green space to locals and visitors to the city or town. The design, operation, and maintenance are usually done by government agencies, typically on the local level. 

However, sometimes the government will contract the responsibility to a park conservancy, friends of a group, or a private sector company.

Standard features of municipal parks include playgrounds, gardens, hiking, fitness trails, and other natural features. 

Park advocates show their support by insisting that having parks near urban residents – preferably within a 10-minute walk, provides multiple benefits.

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The government typically keeps the grass short to discourage insect pests and to allow for the enjoyment of picnics and sporting activities. Unique trees and flowers are popular to beautify the park and provide adequate shade, with an increasing focus on reducing the urban heat island effect.

Interestingly, did you know Around the country, the predecessors to urban parks in the United States were generally rural cemeteries? The presence of cemeteries had the purpose of serving as civic institutions. 

Before the impressive development of public parks, rural cemeteries provided a place for the general public to enjoy outdoor recreation amidst art and sculpture previously available only for the wealthy.

2. National Parks  

Yellowstone National Park

A national park is a natural park developed and preserved by the federal government for conservation purposes. A sovereign state frequently proclaims or possesses a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed territory.

In 1872, the United States government introduced Yellowstone National Park as the first public park or pleasure ground for the profit and enjoyment of the people.

The park’s goal was to safeguard natural wonders while providing a leisure experience focused on the notion of the natural world, relaxing and spiritual refreshment away from the city.

Yellowstone National Park, for example, is a popular destination for travelers and locals who want to immerse themselves in the area’s natural beauty. Depending on the season, you may expect a variety of activities.

When you explore in the winter, vehicles and camper vans yield the opportunity for snowmobiles and snow coaches. The freezing temperatures freeze lakes and waterfalls, often creating a temptation that will surely nudge you to go skiing or snowshoeing.

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If you prefer the feeling of the warm summer sun on your skin, national parks allow you to marvel at hydrothermal wonders such as mud pots, geysers, and hot springs. In fact, the park contains around 10,000 distinct hydrothermal features.

Family-friendly activities include horseback riding, biking in the park, hiking, animal viewing, and photography.

Look for a park ranger if you need assistance at a national park. Park rangers are individuals who are specially qualified to take on the position of custodian of a national park, managing the well-being of flora and animals and preserving the natural environment.

A park ranger’s responsibilities also extend to supervising, managing, and performing chores to aid in the protection and use of park resources. Their duties include supervising preparations for the park’s natural, historical, and cultural resource management. Finally, they oversee leisure programs for the benefit of the general population.

Furthermore, park rangers are responsible for stopping fires and conducting search and rescue operations. They must also be able to tell visitors about the heritage of the land,  disseminating historical, general, or scientific details. 

3. Town Square Parks 

A town square park with people walking in the area

A town square park is a public park typically situated in the center of a town. However, it does not have to be a geometric square. It is a place for community gatherings and sometimes contains memorials or sculptures of people who dedicated their lives to a cause.

The term derives from the phrase town square, which refers to a customary open area in the city center that hosts markets and other prominent community activities. Town Square Park is a 0.25-acre park in Silverton, Oregon, United States.

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The park includes a footbridge that spans Silverton Creek and Freedom Memorial Plaza, dedicated on Veterans Day in November 2015 with a Fallen Heroes War Memorial. As of August 2017, the memorial included five black granite panels displaying the names of 68 residents who died in action from the Spanish-American War to the Iraq War.

The park also houses the city’s yearly holiday tree. The Silverton Chamber of Commerce has begun holiday decoration initiatives in the park, and the local Kiwanis Club has established a Letters to Santa mailbox.

While town square parks vary in design, most are hardscapes appropriate for open markets, concerts, political rallies, and other activities requiring firm footing. Their central location inside a town or city makes them excellent gathering locations for local businesses such as bakeries, cheese shops, meat markets, and apparel stores.

Town square parks may contain wells, monuments, statues, or other objects. Fountain Square is the name for squares that have fountains. 

4. State Parks

A state park
Indian Springs State Park, State of Georgia

State parks house protected areas governed at the sub-national level within nations that employ the state as a political unit. State parks are under the administrative governance of each US state, including the Mexican states and Brazil.

The goal of a state park is to protect a site due to its natural beauty, historical significance, or recreational possibilities. State parks are slightly comparable to national parks, with the difference being the state manages them instead of the federal government.

Similarly, local government agencies, such as regional or county parks, may manage parks below the state level. With a few exceptions, such as Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California and Wood-Tikchik State Park in Alaska, the most significant state park in the United States, state parks are often smaller than national parks.

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Many state park systems feature classifications other than a state park. Some might designate recreation areas, state beaches, and state nature reserves, while other state park systems include long-distance pathways and historic sites.

Several states provide basic lodges, hotels, inns, or motels with restaurants in certain parks to stimulate tourism in remote regions. They may introduce a hiking lodge,  a large cabin for hikers, instead of a major complex with private rooms and a restaurant. Other possible accommodations include yurts and tipis.

Not all parks owned by a state, such as Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, are necessarily part of its state park system. In contrast, not all state-designated parks are wholly under state ownership, such as Adirondack Park, which follows an arrangement similar to England and Wales’ national parks.

State parks, like national parks, sometimes lease their amenities to concessionaires. Some Texas state parks are federal government property leases, whereas Mackinac National Park was a gift that became one of Michigan’s first state parks.

Virginia state parks maintain Breaks Interstate Park under an interstate agreement, but it is also one of Kentucky state parks, bordering both sides of the state boundary. Other multi-state parks are technically two independent parks with the same name and less formal collaboration.

The most ancient state park in the United States is Niagara Falls State Park in New York, founded in 1885. However, a few state parks predate it; Indian Springs State Park has been run as a public park by the state of Georgia since 1825, though it did not get state park status until 1931.

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5. Active Parks

A Skate Park

An active park provides leisure activities resembling urban characteristics and requires extensive construction. They often cater to cooperative activities and include facilities like playgrounds, ball fields, swimming pools, gymnasiums, and skateparks. 

Active recreation, such as team sports, often demands intense administration, upkeep, and high expenditures due to the necessity to offer a size-appropriate area for congregating.

Larger areas also mean they are more expensive to develop and maintain, and with more traffic than passive parks, they have higher repair costs most of the time, too.

As a result, many organizations like ski resorts mix active and passive recreation features, such as ski lifts, terrain parks, and downhill slopes.

6. Passive Parks

Passive recreation, often known as low-intensity recreation, highlights a park’s open space and provides for the preservation of the natural environment. It is typically associated with low-level development, such as rustic picnic places, seats, and footpaths.

Passive recreation usually involves minimal administration and may be supplied at a low cost. In some situations, open space managers provide little more than pathways for walking, running, mountain biking, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, or snowshoeing.

Sedentary hobbies such as bird watching, photography, environmental observation, painting, or picnics are also available.

By limiting the usable space for passive recreational activities, passive parks drastically reduce the need to manage, maintain, and develop infrastructure for new facilities.  

7. Amusement Parks  

An amusement park is a park with diverse attractions, such as rides and games, as well as other entertainment events.

Amusement parks, as opposed to transitory and mobile funfairs and carnivals, are permanent structures designed for long-term operation. They are more sophisticated than municipal parks and playgrounds, including attractions for people of all ages.

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Amusement parks frequently have themed zones, whereas theme parks focus on more precisely crafted themes that center around a particular subject or collection of topics.

World fairs and other international expositions also had an impact on the development of the amusement park sector. Amusement parks emerged from European fairs, pleasure gardens, and substantial picnic places built for the public’s enjoyment. Lake Compounce began in 1846 and is considered North America’s oldest continually functioning amusement park.

Traveling fairs, pleasure gardens, and exhibits such as world fairs were all precursors to the amusement park. The earliest impact was the Middle Ages’ annual fairs, notably the Bartholomew Fair in England, which began in 1133.

By the 18th and 19th centuries, amusement parks had grown into public places where people could see freak exhibitions, conjuring, juggling, acrobatics, and visit exciting menageries.

In 1895, the first permanent enclosed amusement facility governed by a single business appeared on Coney Island, Brooklyn, called the Sea Lion Park. The park was among the first to charge admission and sell tickets for rides inside.

Steeplechase Park was the first of three major amusement parks in the Coney Island region, joining Sea Lion Park in 1897.

Immersive theme parks such as Warner Bros, World Abu Dhabi, Walt Disney World Resort, and Universal Orlando Resort are among the offers of the current amusement park sector. Six Flags and Cedar Fair also provide amazing roller coaster parks for thrill seekers.

In truth, several tiny amusement park ventures exist in the United States and worldwide. Legoland, in particular, is a more straightforward theme park that focuses on providing entertainment for younger children. Amusement parks at shopping malls include West Edmonton Mall, Pier 39, and the Mall of America.

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Family fun parks are another exciting invention introducing miniature golf courses, batting cages, bumper cars, water slides, go-karts, and bumper boats. Some parks have expanded to incorporate roller coasters, and classic amusement parks include competition zones alongside their attractions.

8. Pocket Parks  

A pocket park, usually called a mini-park, is a tiny park open to the public. While pocket parks vary significantly in terms of location, components, and applications, the typical distinguishing feature of a pocket park is its modest size. A pocket park typically takes up one to three municipal lots and is less than one acre in size.

Pocket parks can be urban, suburban, or rural. They are often built on tiny, irregular public or private property, such as brownfields, used lots, near railways, parking lots, or beneath utility lines. However, most common in densely built metropolitan areas where the property is expensive and room for more extensive urban parks is not an option.

Pocket parks can help to establish new public places without requiring large-scale reconstruction. Pocket parks are frequently used as part of urban regeneration initiatives in inner-city regions, converting unused or neglected areas into thriving community assets. They may also find a position as a component of enormous construction projects’ public space requirements.

Pocket parks may operate as hubs of activity and attraction in urban environments. Benches, tables, playgrounds, fountains, monuments, art installations, historical markers, BBQ pits, flower beds, community gardens, and basketball courts are all standard features of pocket parks.

Pocket parks offer communities greenery, a place to stop and relax, and an ecological footing for urban animals, even though they are typically too tiny for many space-intensive physical activities.

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Pocket parks are common on tiny, oddly shaped, and damaged lands. Because these parcels may not be suitable for commercial development, the land is frequently inexpensive to buy, and converting the neglected property into public or green space may be the only viable option for rehabilitation.

As a result, the location and establishment of pocket parks are more likely to be an opportunistic result of environmental circumstances than purposeful master planning.

Pocket parks often serve a hyperlocal population due to their tiny size, and the restricted options for park shape and function are strongly related to local community requirements. For example, a pocket park in a business sector would prioritize tables and chairs for employees to take a lunch break. 

In contrast, a pocket park in a residential neighborhood might favor a structure for children’s entertainment.

As a result, pocket parks typically involve substantial public engagement and collaboration among community members, municipal authorities, landscape architects, and local organizations such as companies or schools.

The creation of pocket parks through this community group fosters grassroots planning and builds partnerships between citizens and municipal officials. Pocket parks, unlike bigger parks, do not stay open all day.

9. Water Parks  

A water park shares characteristics with amusement parks and includes water play areas such as water slides, swimming pools, water playgrounds, splash pads, lazy rivers, and places for floating, bathing, swimming, and other barefoot games. A wave pool or FlowRider may also be present in modern water parks to replicate an artificial surfing or bodyboarding experience. 

Water parks that emerge from spas tend to resemble mountain resorts as they become year-round destinations. For example, Splash Universe Water Park Resort has a motif that complements the local neighborhood, improving the destination’s attractiveness.

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The amusement and leisure-time industry will likely prefer a more intentional approach, utilizing winter and summer themes for water recreation.

The ability to extend the tourist season and convert water park resorts into holiday destinations has resulted in phenomenal business growth. It’s common for resort hotels to have enormous indoor water parks reserved exclusively for their overnight visitors.

Companies like Great Wolf Resorts, Great Wolf Lodge, and Kalahari Resorts have expanded beyond their Wisconsin Dells roots to build additional locations around the country. Another large water park in the Dells is Mt. Olympus Theme and Water Park.

Among the most well-known water parks in the United States are:

  • Fort Rapids, Columbus, Ohio
  • Disney’s River Country, Lake Buena Vista, Florida
  • Pleasure Island, Muskegon, Michigan
  • Water Wonderland, Midland, Texas
  • Waterland USA, Houma, Louisiana
  • Lake Dolores Waterpark, Newberry Springs, California

10. Linear Parks

A linear park is a park that is much longer than it is wide. They resemble strips of public property that run beside canals, rivers, streams, defense walls, power lines, motorways, or shorelines. Examples of linear parks range from animal corridors to riverways to paths, encapsulating the term in its fullest definition.

Rail trails are another example of an abandoned train route repurposed for recreational use by eliminating existing infrastructure. These linear parks are frequently the outcome of the public and private sectors responding to the dense urban need for open green space.

Linear parks run across cities to compensate for the lack of space and a desire for urban greenery. They also successfully connect different communities in crowded metropolitan settings and provide areas appropriate for activities like running or walking. Linear parks also fall into the category of greenways.

During the design process of a linear park, designers often consider the perspective of the surrounding community. As a result, linear parks often have interesting and unique designs that make them eye-catching and different from other park types. 

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The Emerald Necklace, a colossal 110-acre (4.5 km2) chain of parks linked by parkways, is possibly the first example of a linear park. Parkways are broad, landscaped roadways and canals widespread in Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts, in the United States. The term derives from how the proposed chain looks to hang from the neck of the Boston peninsula.

Many linear parks extend across residential neighborhoods in various cities. In these cases, the front of homes would face the streets, while the back would face a small linear park with a road, trees, and grass linking different regions.

In certain Canadian cities, such as Saskatoon, there are multiple examples. Houses linked by linear parks are more prevalent in suburban and rural locations where land is less scarce.

Conclusion 

Parks are fascinating locations that often significantly impact their surrounding communities.

Pocket parks require the efforts of an entire community to establish a single park, while others, like water parks, become world-famous destinations.

Amusement parks have a rich history that dates back to 1133 – the Middle Ages – with the Bartholomew Fair in England.