Monday, January 19, 2015

Edges on Orchard Heights and Bush Parks Likely Impact Vandalism

You probably saw the great story about a raptor attack in lower Bush Park.

Not sure it was a Great Horned Owl, though!
Farther inside the paper was a different story about vandalism at Orchard Heights Park.

Burning Rubber at the Park
In the story about tire tracks at Orchard Heights Park, Parks Superintendent Keith Keever called on citizens to be "eyes and ears" on the park.

Left undiscussed in the article is the way that the design of Orchard Heights Park likely makes eyes and ears more difficult. There are structural reasons that vandalism might go unnoticed until morning.

Houses on Westhaven back onto the park
with yards and fences as buffers for eyes and ears
Orchard Heights Park is actually pretty isolated. There are no houses whose front doors look into the park. Instead, the borders of the park are all back yards and fences. None of the houses on Westhaven look into the park. Orchard Heights Road itself is fairly busy road, and there is also no sidewalk on the park side of the road. Houses across the street from the park on Orchard Heights Road also face the other direction, with fences and back yards lining the road. There are no nearby stores or businesses to generate additional walking trips in and near the park. The park's driveway looks like could even be gated, though it's not. It's recessed and a little too private.

So in many ways the park is configured to reduce visibility and adjacent activity.

By contrast, houses along High Street and Leffelle look into Bush Park, and I bet there's have been over the years many fewer instances of tire tracks in Bush Park. At least on the edges of the park, there are many more eyes and ears, and this makes vandalism by car less likely.

If we looked at the numbers citywide, it wouldn't be surprising at all to find there is a meaningful correlation between tire track vandalism and low numbers of front doors that look out over the parks.

This is also a reason we should embrace the idea of small-scale commercial activity immediately adjacent to parks. Our residential zoning compounds the problems. A neighborhood store or cafe at a park adds additional eyes and ears, and is a natural complement to park activities. Who wouldn't like a frosty beverage or ice cream in summer or warm soup in winter?

(For more on this, see "Fences and Streets: How we Configure Park Edges.")

Update - Apparently there have been more attacks!

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