Introduction

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An aerial view of Central City Park (now known as Woodruff Park) in downtown Atlanta, Georgia, 1970s.  Courtesy of the Georgia State University Library via Digital Library of Georgia.

It is possible to distinguish some broad categories of parks in the United States: town squares, large city parks, pleasure grounds or cultural parks, neighborhood parks, and pocket parks.

Each form or type of park was shaped by the social needs and perspectives of the historical period in which it was created. This led to a progression of types that can be described chronologically, but it is important to note that new types of parks emerged alongside existing ones, so that multiple types exist concurrently. Also, an established park may evolve to meet the changing needs of its users, taking on characteristics more common in another category of park, as in the case of a playground being added to a cultural park.

Parks require oversight and maintenance. Larger communities with multiple parks are likely to administer parks as a system, thinking about each park in relation to the others and in relation to the needs of the community as a whole, combining types and approaches to most fully address those needs.