Rockford’s city parks matter more than ever

Rockford’s award-winning Rogue River nature trail boardwalk is

Rockford’s award-winning Rogue River nature trail boardwalk is beautiful on a fall afternoon. Photo by CLIFF HILL

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL

With almost two months of the “white stuff” on the ground and no end in sight, we’ve decided to “think green”—parks, that is.

Through its Center for City Park Excellence (CCPE), the Trust for Public Land (TPL) reported, “American park users, consisting mostly of families with children, have increased their visits to local parks and playgrounds during this recent period of economic difficulty,” according to CCPE Director Peter Harnik.

According to a nationwide poll conducted by Harris Interactive (on behalf of the TPL), more than 70 percent of surveyed park visitors say they are using parks as much, if not more so, than they did when the economy was strong.

“The poll results indicate both a strong and consistent use of parks and playgrounds along with a renewed recognition of their value in tight economic times,” said Harnik.

Rockford is blessed with many fine parks providing close-to-home outdoor recreational experiences. People turn to local parks in a time when fewer people have money to travel. Rockford’s parklands are well distributed around town, often only a short walk or a bike ride away.

The CCPE conducts an annual survey of the 77 largest U.S. cities, comparing acreage of parklands per 1,000 residents. In the latest survey, if we compare Rockford (population 4,625) with the 77 cities (all who have populations in excess of 242,000), we find that Rockford would rank 15th.

 

Rockford City Manager

Rockford City Manager Michael Young proudly displays the award received from the American Public Works Association for 2009 Project of the Year. The City was honored last September for the recently completed phase two of the Rogue River nature trail boardwalk. Photo by CLIFF HILL

However, Anchorage, Alaska—placing first in the survey—includes the gargantuan 495,204-acre Chugach State Park within its city limits. When we factor out the huge size of the third largest state park in the U.S., Anchorage drops out of the top 15 and Rockford moves up to 14th nationwide.

 

This is lofty company. By example, we can compare Rockford with 25.9 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents to our largest metropolitan neighbor, Chicago, with a minute 4.2 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.

“The decision to move and reside in Rockford is based on numerous quality-of-life issues, not the least of which is our fair City’s developed recreational parklands and green space,” said Rockford City Manager Michael Young.

To quote Rockford Living Magazine, “Over the past 15 years, the City of Rockford has developed, improved, or created several parks, paths, trails, and boardwalks, giving us intimate access to the natural treasures that make Rockford a truly special place to live.”

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