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"Swimmers at Ely Lake Park, Eveleth, Minnesota." Courtesy of the Iron Range Research Center via Minnesota Digital Library.

The desires and preferences of park users did not always align with the intent and preferences of early park planners and administrators. Not content with strolling through picturesque pastoral landscapes, users began to clamor for more active options.

Swimming beaches and ice skating rinks (in appropriately cold climates) were some of the first activities added to early urban parks, as they made use of existing water features and did not require significant additional infrastructure.

In the early 1900s, progressive reformers and working-class users began clamoring for additional facilities for active recreation in parks. Many of the large city and cultural parks added areas for active recreation, but took care to separate them so as to reduce the noise and number of people in areas of the park devoted to more serene activities.

As smaller, widely distributed neighborhood parks became more common, they were identified as ideal places for playgrounds, tennis courts, and ball fields. Park administrators soon realized that active recreation facilities should be the primary focus for neighborhood parks instead of landscaping, and park users responded by participating in park activities in ever growing numbers.