PART IV: Notes on Parks and Recreation Facilities|
Pittsburgh: Main Thoroughfares and The Down Town District
Frederick Law Olmsted report to The Pittsburgh Civic Commission, 1910
neighborhood for lectures, entertainments and dances. Clean, healthy recreation may thus be given full play amid decent surroundings instead of being driven to saloons, to vicious or questionable dance-halls and other baneful establishments for the commercial exploitation of the spirit of play.
Of perhaps first importance in the planning of local parks is the problem of distribution -- accessibility to the people served. Practically there are few women or small children who will take the trouble habitually to walk much more than a quarter of a mile to a playground or local park for exercise or rest, and for most a carfare is out of the question. This means that, ideally, there should be neighborhood recreation centers not more than a quarter or at most a half mile from every home in the city.
As for the total area desired for local parks, it is so seldom possible to get enough that there is little danger of overdoing the purchase; and the extremely limited experience of any of our cities renders any definite figures on the subject decidedly misleading. But there is a rather general consensus of opinion that about 5 per cent of the total city area is a reasonable minimum allowance to be devoted to local parks, playgrounds, and squares, and that more than 10 per cent may be uneconomic.
In Pittsburgh the questions of size and distribution of local parks must be considerably affected by the topographical conditions. The city and the contiguous boroughs are, to a certain extent, subdivided into hilltop and valley communities, close together it may be, but nevertheless isolated one from the other by almost precipitous hillsides from one hundred to four or five hundred feet in height. These communities are sometimes very small and are frequently very irregular in shape, as, for instance, when confined to the bottom of a narrow valley only two or three hundred feet in width and a mile or two in length. And even on those hillsides where a less severe topography does not actually stop development, it may still make intercommunication so difficult and laborious that the upper portion is practically separated from the lower.
Under such conditions it is certain that a comparatively small recreation center is the most suitable local park unit, especially in the rougher portions of the Pittsburgh District. In Chicago and other cities of normally flat topography, such advantages