It is the strategy we propose for the American River Parkway and this article from Philanthropy Magazine notes its effectiveness.
“Ecstatic children shriek with delight, piercing the summer humidity. Around a bend in a curving arbor, a playground comes into view. Several dozen kids scurry about, ignoring the summer heat. The first play area features a 15-foot slide, a tower, and a hand-operated fountain. From there, a footpath winds toward a huge bowl of slides and rope ladders, and then loops away to another play circle, where kids swing from maypoles. Curve again, and you see Swiss Family Robinson–style treehouses connected by a suspended rope mesh.
“The playground is one of the newest features at Shelby Farms Park, one of America’s largest urban parks. Near the playground, but just inside the shade, chatty parents keep one eye on their kids. Past a stand of mature trees is Pine Lake, where a family unloads a cooler and starts to suspend a piñata. A pair of cyclists appears at a crest of a ridge opposite the lake. Did they arrive via the 6.5-mile Greenline trail that runs east from midtown Memphis—or north across a brand-new bike-pedestrian bridge?
“From the bikers’ vantage point, Shelby Farms opens up—a pastoral landscape of grassy hills, dotted by stands of poplars and magnolias. Windsurfers are out on Patriot Lake, and to the south, through the afternoon haze, mountain bikers crush the Wolf River trails. At the bottom of the hill, a herd of bison grazes contentedly.
“The new playground, trails, and bridge are just the beginning of a transformation at Shelby Farms. It is possible because of a philanthropic innovation: putting public parks under nonprofit, private management—and largely operating them with a mixture of public and private funds. It’s a public-private partnership, but all the energy is on the private side of the equation, and all across the country, the results are some of the most amazing urban parks America has ever seen.
“These public-private partnerships take shape in three situations. In some cities, parks are decent but suffer from benign neglect; private donors and managers bring a burst of energy to improve the park and match its promise. In other cities, once-great parks have declined—or been destroyed—to the point that they are beyond rescue unless private initiative takes over. And many fast-growing American cities don’t have enough parkland—so private donors furnish the imagination to create new parks from scratch.”