Public parks are a great place for community members to relax, unwind, and be among nature. They can be enjoyed by all ages, they are free, and they can offer a much-needed respite from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. While some parks may contain similar features or styles, no two parks are the same. Which is great! But even though all parks are unique, some are more unique than others. This list covers a few of those special parks that offer a completely different experience than a typical park.
If you think of lush greenery and beautiful trees when someone says “park”, then you might be a little disappointed by Arizona Falls. This park/hydroelectric plant situated on the Arizona Canal is mostly metal, concrete, and water. In 1883, when the Arizona Canal was being constructed, workers found a natural 20-foot drop that they decided to keep in their design. Once completed, locals frequented the new falls for picnics and recreation until it was later used for a hydroelectric power plant in 1902. The power plant was built around the falls, blocking the view from the public. But after the plant had been shut down for decades, the city of Phoenix and the Salt River Project partnered up to build a new hydroelectric plant and public park at the falls. The park opened in 2003 and features art installations, educational signs, poetry sandblasted into the concrete, and several waterfalls. Locals are now back to visiting the falls for picnics and recreation and the hydroelectric plant generates enough electricity to power 150 homes.
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The Topiary Park in Columbus, Ohio is the only public park of its kind. Other topiary gardens exist, but this one is designed to be a living copy of the pointillist painting “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of LaGrande Jatte” by the French post-impressionist painter Georges Seurat. The artists who created the topiary and pitched the idea to the city were James T. Mason and his wife Elaine Mason. The idea for the project came to them after Elaine asked James to make her a topiary sculpture for their backyard and James went a little overboard for the size of the area. Work on the park started in 1989 with the creation of artificial hills and the digging of a pond to replicate the scene featured in the painting. After creating 54 topiary sculptures of people, eight boats, three dogs, a monkey, and a cat, the park was finished in 1992. There is also a bronze plaque on the grounds that visitors can stand at to view the park from the same point of view as the original painting.
Image courtesy of Zack Frank via Adobe Stock
Parks have always been a great place to hang out, but one park takes this literally. Swing Park is a park under the Holton Street Bridge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin that features several swings over a sand-covered ground. The park was originally created as a “pop-up park” by Keith Hayes of BeInTween. The city dismantled the park but quickly began working on reinstating the swings after public outcry and a “Save the Swings” initiative. Now the swings are back and better than ever with several belt swings, a few tire swings, a bench swing, a baby swing, and an ADA-approved swing. Now that the city owns the park, there are several community events held there including an Urban Flea Market and their Friday night movies sponsored by the Milwaukee Bike In Movie Series. With the updated swings and event schedule, this park now features something for everyone!
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What was once a landfill and illegal dumpsite has been transformed into an internationally renowned outdoor museum and New York City public park. The Socrates Sculpture Park is a waterfront park that acts as a gallery and art studio for artists creating large artworks. Most of the works built and featured at the park would be too large to complete in a typical art studio. The five-acre park has served as a studio and gallery for over 1,000 artists since opening in 1986. Aside from being an outdoor gallery, the park is also a beautiful green space featuring over 90 species of trees and plants. Visitors of the park can enjoy the art, landscaping, and waterfront views of the city for free every day from 9 a.m. to sundown. All the programs, exhibitions, and performances featured at the park are also free and programs include classes on yoga, tai chi, gardening, dancing, and more. Some of the performances they have featured in the past are Shakespeare in the Park, Jazz at Socrates, Queens Hip Hop Festival’s Park Jam, and The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series just to name a few. Socrates Sculpture Park is a great success story for urban reclamation projects that take advantage of unused or underutilized land to provide the community with a place for recreation and learning.
Image courtesy of Inhabitat via Flickr
Last and certainly least on this list is the world’s smallest park! Mill Ends Park was originally just a hole at the end of a median where a light pole was supposed to go. As the story goes, a journalist that worked at the Oregon Journal, Dick Fagan, spotted a leprechaun digging in the hole from his office. Fagan went down to the median and grabbed the leprechaun which allowed him one wish. After wishing for a park for himself, the leprechaun granted the wish. Only Fagan hadn’t specified what size the park should be and so what he got was the two-foot by two-foot hole that is now officially the world’s smallest park. Fagan ran a weekly column called the Mill Ends column which is where the park got its name. Mill Ends Park was dedicated on St. Patrick’s Day in 1948 and since then the park has gone through several transformations. From an empty hole full of weeds to a tiny swimming pool with a little diving board to a miniature Ferris wheel. The park has even been relocated twice due to road construction but is still open to this day. The second relocation also resulted in the park receiving a new sign and cloverleaf border. If you are interested in visiting the world’s smallest park and the only leprechaun colony outside of Ireland then head down to the Naito Parkway in Portland, Oregon. Or, if you are interested in visiting the largest park, then take a look at our article that covers America’s largest urban parks.
Image courtesy of Ian Sane via Flickr
All parks are unique, but something that every park shares is its ability to bring a smile to peoples’ faces. Take a break from your usual routine and check out the parks in your area to find out what makes them unique. And if you think your local park is unique enough to be featured on a similar list in the future, let us know! Community Playmaker is here to inspire the next great American community and communities are always in need of inspiration for their next park project.