University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


"People do not use city open space just because it is there and because city planners or designers wish they would." Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities Urban parks were, and sometimes still are, thought of as sanctuaries from the surrounding city. Large green areas were historically set aside in cities or on the outside of cities to be used as parks, but, until recently, no great effort was made to provide more intimate spaces in individual neighborhoods. In the urban environment today, parks may also be perceived as places of potential crime and danger. A park, depending on its location and users, may be a place that is avoided and thought of by nearby residents and passersby as an eyesore rather than an asset. Lewis Mumford said of park design, "It is not by a mere quantitative increase in the present park facilities, but by a comprehensive change in the whole pattern of life that we shall realize the full social function of open spaces." The location of this study was Detroit, Michigan, a city notoriously plagued by the effects of poverty, high crime rates, overcrowding, and neglect. On July 23, 1967 one of the most devastating civil disturbances occurred in Detroit. At the end of the rioting a few days later, 43 people were dead, thousands were injured and arrested, and $100 million in property had been destroyed by fire and looting. After the 1967 Detroit riot, former president Lyndon B. Johnson appointed a committee to investigate the causes of the riots. The committee recommended four areas as the focus of action to improve the daily life struggles endured by people who participated in these riots. The four areas were: employment, education, the welfare system, and housing. Although this report was quite extensive, it was not exhaustive. It did not include one major component of a city, which has unfortunately been overlooked in the design of many of America's cities, and that is the incorporation of open space.