The new standard requiring neighborhood parks to be a quarter mile from new Lawrence homes is not unique, but it is rather strict.
Only two of the six other Midwest university cities reviewed by the Journal-World have implemented a similar distance regulation.
A 1994 ordinance in Norman, Okla., requires developers to dedicate land for parks depending on the intended population of the new development.
Also, the city charges a $150 impact fee on all residential building permits to help pay for park equipment and other amenities. The ordinance requires a park within every square mile of new developments.
"It's just part of the human experience to have open space along with your own private space," said James Briggs, a park planner for Norman.
Briggs said area developers were involved in drafting the city's plan, and although some new developers may complain, for the most part, they are familiar with the regulations.
He said preserving green space and including walking trails and routes to parks is a quality-of-life issue.
The same was said by park professionals in other cities comparable with Lawrence.
Of the cities and park systems reviewed, all follow general guidelines recommended by the National Recreation and Parks Assn. for locations of parks and green space.
Lawrence (population: 81,816) 52 parks; new regulation requiring a park every quarter mile from new homes. Ames, Iowa (population: 52,263) 33 parks; 5 to 10 acres of parkland per 1,000 people, or park within one-fourth to a half-mile from residential areas. Iowa City, Iowa (population: 62,887) 42 parks; no requirement or guideline on parks per capita; mandatory parkland donation from new subdivisions. Norman, Okla. (population: 101,719) 62 parks; park in every square mile of new land developments; city charges $150 fee on all residential building permits to help pay for park amenities. Stillwater, Okla. (population: 40,906) 20 parks and four lakes. Columbia, Mo. (population: 91,814) 66 parks; master plan requires parks within a half mile of homes. Manhattan (population: 48,668) About 30 parks; no distance regulations.
Ames, Iowa, population 52,000, has 33 community and neighborhood parks. Like Lawrence, the city features riverfront green space. Planners have worked to place 5 to 10 acres of park land within every quarter- or half-mile of a residential area.
"We think an 8- to 10-year-old should be able to get on their bike or walk to that park without their parent being with them. That to me is neighborhood," said Nancy Carroll, director of parks and recreation in Ames.
The city still opts to buy its new park land instead of requiring a specific amount of donated land in new neighborhoods, Carroll said.
Iowa City, Iowa, operates 42 parks. There, new subdivisions are required to donate land for parks. The city has no distance requirement but tries to place them according to the population of the neighborhood.
"It's my sense that many major companies understand that in order to attract employees and retain employees to a community, they must have an appealing community," said Terry Robinson, Iowa City superintendent of parks and forestry. "A community without parks is not an appealing community."
Norman, Okla., has 62 parks compared with Lawrence's 52. Lawrence city commissioners in June voted 3-2 to adopt new park planning standards. The change is not yet official, but Fred DeVictor, Lawrence's parks and recreation director, said his department is planning to fulfill the request in all newly developed neighborhoods.
DeVictor said that could require adding 140 parks in the next 20 to 30 years, compared with about 50 parks under the old guidelines. That also could add $1 million in maintenance costs compared with the current $8 million annual parks operating budget, DeVictor said.
Of the other cities reviewed, Manhattan has no guidelines on park placement, but it could become an issue as the city grows, said parks superintendent Eddie Eastes. Manhattan now operates about 30 parks.
Stillwater, Okla., the smallest city reviewed with a population of about 40,000, operates about 20 park areas and four lakes.
Columbia, Mo., has 66 parks, and the city completed a master plan in 2002 that generally requires a park a half mile from every home. City planners also try to look for new locations of parks and trails in developing neighborhoods.
In Norman, Okla., Briggs said the park development regulations help keep residents healthy.
"As a secondary role, they provide physical activity, especially for kids, so they are not just big, fat tubs of goo sitting around playing video games," he said.