Paths and Plantings

View item information

Stone-lined paths and trees in a newly created park in Lewiston, Utah, 1930s. Courtesy of the Lewiston City (UT) Public Library via Mountain West Digital Library.


After the acquisition of land for a park, one of the first tasks was to plan the layout of paths and plantings. Some sites needed significant grading to achieve the early "naturalistic" ideal of meandering paths with rises and curves so gentle that park visitors would not be distracted from their admiration of the landscape around them.

Depending on the era, path and road planning needed to accommodate pedestrian walks, drives for carriages or cars, and paths for equestrians or bicycles. Care was taken to keep commercial traffic out of parks.

Plantings and gardens were essential to the role of parks as green spaces and fresh air "lungs" for their cities. Depending on their size and purpose, parks might contain flowerbeds, formal or stylized gardens, carefully created pastoral landscapes, arboretums, or even enclosed conservatories.

Many park designers created a boundary of trees and shrubs along the edges of the park to evoke a sense of separation from the city or neighborhood surrounding it.

To get a sense of just how significant the planting effort could be, In the first nine years of the creation of the Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, California, 155,000 trees were planted over 1,000 acresand that doesn't take into account the shrubs and flowers that would also have been included.