What is a Park System?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
The USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor is operated by the National Park Servcie.
The USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor is operated by the National Park Servcie.

The term “park system” is used in several different senses. All of these meanings involve the dedication of natural spaces to recreational use. Parks have been established by numerous human societies throughout history for recreation, entertainment, and religious uses. They vary from small, formal gardens maintained in cities for the benefit of members of the public to vast tracts of wild public land in the American West.

The U.S. National Park System comprises nearly 60 properties.
The U.S. National Park System comprises nearly 60 properties.

Park system can refer to a network of interconnected green spaces in an urban area. These park systems involve individual parks of varying sizes that are linked with paths, bridges, and other modes of access. Theoretically, people should be able to walk through the entire park system without needing to drive or take public transit from one point to another, thanks to the pathways that connect the parks. These types of park systems evolved in many cities, as some cities grew around parks, and in other cities, they were deliberately laid out by city planners who liked the idea of creating green spaces for the public to enjoy.

Greenways allow for recreation space in urban areas.
Greenways allow for recreation space in urban areas.

A park system can also be a greenway or greenbelt. These parks are continuous tracts of land that people can use for recreation on foot, bicycles, and horses. In the case of a greenway, rather than connecting individual parks, a city dedicates a long and narrow open space that also provides trails people can use to commute between various points in the city. Greenways can be integrated into city planning, or they can be developed after the fact by taking over unused land.

Many parks include biking pathways.
Many parks include biking pathways.

Another type of park system is a system of public parks maintained by a government agency. These parks are not physically connected, but they are all overseen by the government agency in question. An example is the National Park System in the United States, a network that includes 58 National Parks. Each park has its own local staff, but is funded by the government and is protected under law.

The type of park system is usually clear from the context. Many regions have made the creation and preservation of parks an important aspect of planning and development to ensure that people will have access to green spaces in their communities. Research by a number of universities has suggested that being able to go to a park regularly has mental health benefits, and parks also benefit the ecology in the regions where they are located. Cities with extensive park systems tend to have more stable overall temperatures, cleaner air, and experience less flooding and other environmental problems because their parks provide a heat sink, drainage, and air scrubbing.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a AllThingsNature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • The USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor is operated by the National Park Servcie.
      By: John Sfondilias
      The USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor is operated by the National Park Servcie.
    • The U.S. National Park System comprises nearly 60 properties.
      By: frenk58
      The U.S. National Park System comprises nearly 60 properties.
    • Greenways allow for recreation space in urban areas.
      By: markskalny
      Greenways allow for recreation space in urban areas.
    • Many parks include biking pathways.
      By: david hughes
      Many parks include biking pathways.