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What is an Urban Park?

Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

An urban park is also known as green space because it provides some trees, grass or plants in an area that is otherwise made up of concrete and pavement. Urban parks are accessible to the public. The amenities these open green spaces offer vary depending on each park.

Larger urban parks may have many recreation options, such as soccer or baseball fields, boating ramps and tennis courts. Even the smallest urban park usually has a few walking trails as well as benches or picnic tables. The main idea behind having public parks in cities is to provide a relaxing outdoor space as well as spaces for walking or other physical fitness activities. Smaller urban parks may be located in the center of residential condominiums or near office buildings. A neighborhood urban park may have a play area for children that features climbing equipment and swing sets.

Many urban parks have fields for playing soccer and other sports.
Many urban parks have fields for playing soccer and other sports.

Some urban parks are quite large and encompass forests and other natural environments. These large public parks are often called municipal parks. They are typically a short drive from an urban area. Municipal parks are found worldwide. For example, Jardine Park in Richibucto, New Brunswick, Canada, features waterside camping with amenities such as showers, restrooms, coin laundry, firewood and fireplaces as well as a swimming pool.

The green space inside an urban park can be an ideal place for a family picnic.
The green space inside an urban park can be an ideal place for a family picnic.

Monday Waterfall and Municipal Park, about 15 minutes from Ciudad del Este (City of the East) in Paraguay, South America, contains natural waterfalls and a preserved forest. Paths, footbridges and viewing balconies for the waterfalls are some of the features of Monday Park. Picnic and camping facilities are also available here along with water fountains, restrooms, a cafe and a gift shop.

Urban parks typically provide walking trails and other recreational opportunities.
Urban parks typically provide walking trails and other recreational opportunities.

Central Park in New York City is one of the most popular urban parks in the world. An estimated 25 million people visit the American urban park each year. Central Park features human-made ponds and lakes as well as natural forest areas. The property also includes a zoo, ice rinks, a swimming pool and an outdoor theater.

Neighborhood parks first became popular in the United States in the 1900s not for green space, but rather as a way of creating an American experience to include immigrants. These early urban parks featured baseball, swimming and gym activities. With the increasing growth of cities and buildings, government-funded neighborhood parks were then added more for environmental reasons. Neighborhoods with well-maintained family parks made real estate more attractive to home buyers, just as having schools and shopping close by did.

Frequently Asked Questions

What defines an urban park?

Some urban parks feature amenities such as restrooms.
Some urban parks feature amenities such as restrooms.

An urban park, also known as a metropolitan park, is a green space within a city that's designed for public recreation and enjoyment. These parks vary in size and can include features like playgrounds, sports facilities, walking paths, and gardens. They serve as a community hub, promoting social interaction and offering a respite from the urban environment.

Why are urban parks important for cities?

Even the smallest urban park usually has a few benches for people to sit and relax.
Even the smallest urban park usually has a few benches for people to sit and relax.

Urban parks are vital for cities as they provide environmental benefits, like improving air quality and reducing heat islands. They also offer health advantages by encouraging physical activity and mental well-being. According to the Trust for Public Land, parks can increase property values and attract tourism, contributing to the local economy.

How do urban parks contribute to biodiversity?

An urban park often has picnic tables.
An urban park often has picnic tables.

Urban parks can be hotspots for biodiversity, offering habitats for various plant and animal species within a cityscape. They act as green corridors that enable wildlife movement and support pollinators. Research has shown that urban green spaces can support a surprising level of biodiversity, sometimes even rare or endangered species.

What are some challenges faced by urban parks?

Urban parks often face challenges such as limited funding, overuse, and maintenance issues. Balancing the needs of a growing urban population with conservation efforts is also a concern. Additionally, urban parks must navigate the effects of climate change, which can exacerbate problems like drought or flooding, impacting both the parks and their users.

How do urban parks improve community health?

Urban parks improve community health by providing spaces for exercise, relaxation, and socializing, which can reduce stress and promote mental health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlights that access to parks can lead to higher levels of physical activity, reducing the risk of obesity and other chronic diseases.

Can urban parks help with city planning and development?

Yes, urban parks are integral to city planning and development. They can be strategically used to shape urban growth, manage stormwater through green infrastructure, and enhance the livability of cities. Smart planning of urban parks can lead to sustainable urban development, balancing the needs of residents with environmental considerations.

Discussion Comments


There are many fine urban parks in cities throughout the United States, but having visited Europe a couple of times, European cities have some really awesome parks.

Some of them are huge and very nicely designed. They are great places for long walks. They are nicely maintained and relatively safe. Almost all have water features and lots of iron fences and flower gardens. I just love them.


The man who initiated the need for a large park in New York City was very farsighted. When the city was growing so rapidly, this man convinced the city that acres of land should be set aside for an urban park. He was successful and designed a beautiful park that has been used by millions throughout the years.

If Central Park hadn't been built right in the middle of the city, New York City would have truly been a concrete jungle.


I think urban parks are an awesome way for kids who grow up in the city to learn a little more about nature. Let’s face it; living in a larger city certainly has its advantages. However, it also has its disadvantages.

I live in a small town, and many of the poorer kids I know have actually never left our county. I find that utterly amazing and heartbreaking.

They need to know more about the world than what they can gather from the one county they were born in!

However, many less privileged children in the city hardly leave either. That can’t be any better than staying in the same county for life! We all need to get out and explore this big, old world that God has given us!

Urban parks can’t bring everything that Mother Nature can in an all-natural setting, but it is an excellent substitute!


@Sara007 – That is so funny! I actually live out in the country intentionally, so that I can live next to a ‘bunch of trees!’ Your remark made me laugh out loud, literally!

Isn’t it amazing how everyone has a different view on the ideal life! I will admit that living in a city has a lot of perks, including not having to drive a half hour for decent shopping! However, I just couldn’t imagine living someplace without all of the foliage and fauna that I now enjoy.

I love the coolness that the trees tend to bring in the heat of summer, and the way that they make you feel surrounded all of the time. To me, trees are a comfort and all natural art!

I know I’d be one of those city dwellers causing the rent to go up near urban parks! I wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a concrete jungle without some of the real stuff close by all of the time!


I have lived in the country all of my life and am used to having acres of land to explore and enjoy.

I have always loved living this way, but the first time I visited New York, I really wanted to go to Central Park.

I have to admit I was very impressed at how big it was and how clean it was kept. The number of activities that you could take part in was also amazing.

I didn't have enough time to see all of it, but my favorite part were the natural forest areas. This is probably because they reminded me the most of home.

Having urban parks like this for people who live in the city is a good idea. Even the chance to go to the zoo is something that would be a big draw.

I know some city kids have never even seen a cow grazing in the pasture, and can't imagine what that would be like. An urban park gives them some kind of idea of what life is like outside of the city.


Growing up in the country and now living in a big city, I really appreciate the urban parks that are in my neighborhood.

It is nice to have a place where I can go and see some green grass, trees, and beautiful landscaping. At some of these parks you really feel like you are secluded and that the big city is far away.

My son enjoys using the urban parks that have ramps for skateboarding and hoops for shooting baskets.

Even though they aren't the same as the wide open spaces I was used to when growing up, they do offer a quiet place to relax, and I don't even have to mow the grass or pull any weeds.


There is an urban skate park in my area that the city recently built to keep the students from the nearby school occupied. Apparently people in the area were getting mad at kids from the local high school skateboarding all over their properties.

I have to say that adding an urban skate park to the area has done wonders. A lot of the kids hang out there now and are happy to have their own space. I think outlawing boarding outright would have been a huge mistake but the city really managed to improve our neighborhood by rethinking urban parks and getting facilities put in for different age groups.


My hometown has tons of urban park apartments that are really bringing up the rental rates in our neighborhood. A lot of people want to be near a green space, so there is quite a bit of competition to get into the apartments with the best view.

The only thing I do love about the urban park in our neighborhood is that there is a large public swimming pool in it with plenty of fountains for the kids to play in during the summer. I believe that if our urban park didn't have nice playgrounds and a pool, that no one would really care about living next to a bunch of trees. I know I am living nearby for the pool and picnic areas.


I am from Kansas City and we have a massive urban park called Swope Park. It is nice but not the nicest park in the world. large sections of it are overgrown woods that have nothing much interesting in them. But there are fields and ponds and barbeques and a zoo and golf course so I don't mean to imply that there is nothing there.

The land for the park was donated by a Col. Swope after the Civil War. You might expect that he was an upstanding citizen with a love for his city but the reverse is true. In fact he hated Kansas City and thought that all the upkeep on the land would eventually bankrupt the city. His donation was an act of aggression.

He was bitter at city officials over a land deal that had gone south. I guess he remained bitter until the end of his life. Luckily his plan didn't work. The city was able to manage the costs of the land and now it is one of the more interesting parts of the city.


I live in St Louis and we have a number of impressive urban parks. Form the tree lined and gazebo filed Tower Grove Park to the rolling hill and water features of Carondolet park. But the real jewel of the city is Forest Park.

This is a sprawling park built on the western edge of the city. It is huge and contains just about every kind of green space imaginable. There are ball fields, woods, hills, water, man made structures, a golf course and a whole host of wildlife. It is beautiful and on any given nice day it seems like a quarter of the city is doing something inside the park.

But this park is also the cultural center of the city. It houses an art museum, history museum, outdoor theater and a zoo. All of these are world class and 3 out of the four are free. I love the idea of containing so many fun, entertaining and free forms of entertainment into one condensed place. It should really be the first stop for anyone visiting St Louis.

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    • Many urban parks have fields for playing soccer and other sports.
      By: Buriy
      Many urban parks have fields for playing soccer and other sports.
    • The green space inside an urban park can be an ideal place for a family picnic.
      By: Viktoriya Nam
      The green space inside an urban park can be an ideal place for a family picnic.
    • Urban parks typically provide walking trails and other recreational opportunities.
      By: markskalny
      Urban parks typically provide walking trails and other recreational opportunities.
    • Some urban parks feature amenities such as restrooms.
      By: igor
      Some urban parks feature amenities such as restrooms.
    • Even the smallest urban park usually has a few benches for people to sit and relax.
      By: Inger Anne Hulbækdal
      Even the smallest urban park usually has a few benches for people to sit and relax.
    • An urban park often has picnic tables.
      By: Monkey Business
      An urban park often has picnic tables.