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10 Tips for Local Public Space Planning 2023: Local Government Strategy

By Marisa Pangaro

Every community has spaces that are dedicated to public use and accessible to all community members. However, not all public spaces are created equal; some communities have vibrant and impressive public spaces while others are severely lacking in the quality of their community spaces. 

Public spaces are critical in shaping the atmosphere and livability that shapes a city or town. From parks and beaches, to streets and walkways, public spaces should be maintained with care so they can serve as safe, welcoming, spaces for all members of the community. The way these spaces are maintained plays a critical role in the quality of life and economic development of your locality. If your community hasn’t invested in public parks and spaces, you’re losing out on revenue and negatively impacting your community members. 

Follow along for tips about making informed decisions in your parks and recreation department to improve upon and better utilize all of your community’s public spaces (and improved economic development). 

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Why Are Local Public Spaces Critical to the Community? 

The public spaces in your community are so much more valuable than simple gathering places. Jan Gehl, an architect and global leader in people-centered urban design wrote, “Much of the culture of mankind has happened in the public space. Public space is a very important aspect of a good and well functioning city.” 

Public gathering spaces should be accessible to all community members, and can transform a community when they are welcoming and safe for all community members. Citizens make memories, share cultures, form connections, and exercise in public spaces, which makes these locations far more important to the community than ordinary physical landmarks. It is vital that all citizens have a say in the design and use of these public spaces so that everyone feels like a valued part of their community. 

Listed below are some of the ways that high-quality local public spaces can positively impact a community: 

1. Local Quality of Life

Local governments need to ensure citizens are provided with ample ways to spend their time and create bonds to maintain a thriving community. Public spaces give both children and adults areas to enjoy and occupy their time while exercising and combatting obesity. More parks, sports fields, and recreational spaces create more options for everyone to find things to do in your city. Providing different and safe public spaces within the community encourages citizens to get out more, perform physical activity, and become a part of a group or attend an event that fits their interests. 

Quality of life for citizens will see major improvements when your municipality ensures that your public spaces are designed to be equitable for all community-members. 

2. Public Health

Counties and municipalities should feel obligated to prioritize public health, and encourage citizens to get out and exercise. Providing safe and clean outdoor spaces is the best way to get citizens out of their homes and push them to build healthy fitness habits.

Spaces such as parks and sports facilities like pickleball courts, where people can move their bodies and exercise promote fitness the most. These kinds of public spaces can be used by both athletes and casual community-members to prioritize exercise in an enjoyable way. 

Consider the ways that air pollution effects the public health of citizens in your area and how to mitigate them with a Government Air Pollution Management Strategy. 

3. Revenue Generation

When common spaces are well maintained, they become sought-after locations for private events to be held; sports teams and individuals will rent public spaces and pay the government to do so. Sports field rentals, and event space permits generate revenue for the parks and recreation department that can be invested right back into building up the community.

Allowing public spaces to be rented brings new community members out of their homes to attend events, where they are more likely to support local businesses in the surrounding area. Revenue is not only generated for the local government, but is often spread to local businesses, as well. 

Learn more about how utilizing public spaces can help Local Governments Encourage Local Economic Development.

4. Increased Property Values and Population Growth 

When people are looking to move, they always want to pick an area with good amenities. Having a great public park system, and nicely-kept public spaces will encourage people to choose and buy property in your community. Population growth and increased value of properties in your neighborhood are often results of providing quality spaces for public enjoyment. 

How Can Local Governments Encourage and Manage Population Growth? Here’s what to know. 

How Can Local Government Maximize Local Public Spaces? 

There are dozens of reasons your local government might not have prioritized public space infrastructure in recent memory. Limited budgets, other priorities, etc. may have held you back in previous years.

Luckily, there are more options than ever to prioritize investment in your local infrastructure. Here are your options for funding public space management and prioritizing infrastructure that your community-members want: 

1. Utilize Infrastructure Grants

The federal government and many states recognize a serious need for improvements to local infrastructure nationally, and have approved trillions in dollars in grants to be allocated in upcoming years. Grants are a great way to receive funding to improve public spaces in your community to make spaces more safe, accessible, and modern. Consider state and federal dollars to build spaces like sports fields, parks, pedestrian zones and bike lanes, amphitheaters and public venues.

Learn more about Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and American Rescue Plan Act Grants for Local Governments and how to maximize grant dollars in your community. 

2. Gauge Public Interest 

In-person and digital public meetings serve as an easy way to connect with citizens and understand their perspective on the best use cases for available land area. Providing spaces that people want to see in their neighborhood will inevitably create higher turnout once the space is ready for public use. 

Government leadership should ask questions around how they would improve on existing parks, what they would like to see in future development projects, and what types of sports fields and facilities would get utilized in your community. 

Consider how to Improve Local Government Meetings and gauge public interest in this helpful guide. 

3. Use Digital RFPs 

Whenever your community has an upcoming parks and recreation development project, digital requests-for-proposals (RFPs) make it easier to receive and organize incoming bids. A list of relevant private-sector partners are stored in the government cloud that are automatically notified when your government submits an RFP. Upon receiving bids that highlight budgets and timelines, your local government can digitally approve or deny proposals.

4. Streamline Parks & Rec Permitting Processes 

Parks and recreation software allows for space rentals and related permits and licenses like beach pass applications, field usage permits, event space rentals, etc. to be made available and approved / denied directly from your government website.  Online permitting can streamline construction and zoning related permit processes as well. 

Moving your permitting and licensing process online with government software can maximize public spaces by:

  • Streamlining application submission with easy-to-use digital forms.
  • Reduce time frames of public space infrastructure projects with quicker permit approval processes.
  • Collect revenue with digital government fee collection that can be reinvested in public spaces.
  • Collecting insightful data about the types of permits that citizens are applying for to make informed decisions using government analytics about which public spaces matter most to your community members. 

How Does Digital Permitting Work? Here’s what to know. 

5. Schedule Recurring Maintenance and Inspections 

Ensuring public areas remain high-quality and safe is a major component of public space management and maintenance. Citizens will not utilize a space, let alone rent them out, if they appear unclean or unsafe. Public space inspections need to occur regularly. 

With GovInspect, notifications regarding upcoming inspections of parks, event spaces, sport fields, etc. can be submitted to inspectors so that they’re held accountable to schedule inspections. When maintenance is required, asset management projects can be assigned via public works software as well. 

Learn more about how Government Technology Encourages Public Worker Accountability and consider GovPilot's guide for Local Government Pool & Aquatic Facility Construction & Inspection Strategy as an example of strategic planning and inspections scheduling. 

6. Promote Public Spaces and Events 

To drive tourism and local usage of public spaces, it is important to get the word out about amenities and upcoming events at these locations. Promote your community’s common spaces and community events through ads, announcements on your government website, and via posts from your government social media profiles to inform and excite citizens about the happenings of their community and encourage higher turnout. 

Now Is The Time To Improve Public Spaces In Your Community 

Don’t overlook the importance and benefits of having well-maintained public spaces in your community. These spaces encourage citizens to interact with other community members, prioritize their health, support surrounding local businesses and develop a greater appreciation for their community. Public spaces hold huge importance in bonding a community together by providing much needed gathering spaces for citizens to share their cultures and enjoy where they live. 

Public spaces should reflect what community-members want to see in their city. The needs of the public should be addressed by providing public spaces that will improve the overall well-being of the community, and give all citizens a sense of belonging. 

Take steps to improve public spaces in your locality and related maintenance or scheduling processes with GovPilot software

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Local Public Spaces FAQs

What are local public spaces and why are they needed? 

Local public spaces are gathering areas that are open to all community members. These public spaces create vast opportunities for citizens to get out of their homes and engage with the community, exercise, visit local businesses, and form important community bonds. 

How can local governments expedite public space development? 

Government technology expedites the tasks necessary to improve public space related processes such as event registration, sports field rentals, construction permitting, public space inspections, asset management, etc. by moving applications, scheduling, and inspections to a digital format. 

How do parks and public facilities increase local economic development? 

Parks and public facilities increase citizens' engagement with their communities and with the local businesses surrounding these public spaces. Sports field rentals, beach passes, boating permits, and event space rentals are common methods for improving local economic development. 

How can local governments prioritize public health via public spaces? 

Local governments can prioritize public health by ensuring citizens have safe and nicely kept places such as parks and sidewalks to work out, go for walks, and get active outside. 

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Tags: Government Efficiency, Constituent Experience, Digital Transformation, Blog, Public Health