Types of Parks

Contemporary parks and open-space planning focuses on creating systems that respond to local values, needs and circumstances. The region of the country, physical setting, landscape features, demographics and socioeconomic characteristics are all determining factors in the form that a community’s park and open-space system. In each system, parks and open spaces are defined under various classifications that function individually and collectively to create a cohesive and balanced system. Successful parks and open-space systems are often planned around distinguishing landscape features or local themes that exhibit the unique qualities of a community.

Common to all systems is the notion of creating a high-quality living environment through the provision of parks, open spaces and recreational amenities. With such a broad spectrum of potential applications, the classifications for parks and open space are necessarily flexible and adaptable to the unique circumstances to which they are applied. The extent to which one type of park versus another is found within a system is determined by local needs and circumstances. In a metropolitan system, emphasis on neighborhood parks, parkways and large urban parks is common in response to the urban form and distinctiveness of individual neighborhoods.

Table : 1 Classification of Parks

Sl. No.


General Description


Neighborhood Park

Neighborhood parks are the basic units of the park system and serve a recreational and social purpose. Focus is on informal recreation.


Community Park

Serves a broader purpose than neighborhood parks. Focus is on meeting community-based recreational needs, as well as preserving unique landscapes and open spaces.


Large Urban Park

Large urban parks are generally associated with larger urban centers with large populations. Focus is on meeting wide-ranging community needs and preserving unique and sometimes extensive landscapes and open spaces.


Youth Athletic Complex/Facility           

Consolidates programmed youth athletic fields and associated facilities to fewer strategically located sites throughout the community. Also can provide some neighborhood use functions.


Community Athletic Complex/Facility

Consolidates programmed adult and youth athletic fields and associated facilities to a limited number of sites. Tournament-level facilities are appropriate.



Lands set aside for preserving natural resources, remnant landscapes and open space and providing visual aesthetics/buffering. Also provides passive-use opportunities. Ecological resource stewardship and wildlife protection are high priorities. Suitable for ecologically sensitive trail corridors.



Linear park like transportation corridors between public parks, monuments, institutions and sometimes business centers. Can be maintained green space or natural in character.


Special Use

Covers a broad range of parks and recreation facilities oriented toward single-purpose uses, such as a nature center, historic sites, plazas, urban squares, aquatic centers, campgrounds and golf courses.



School sites that are used in concert with or in lieu of, other types of parks to meet community park and recreation needs. School sites often provide the majority of indoor recreational facilities within a community.


Private Park/Recreation Facility

Parks and recreation facilities that are privately owned, yet contribute to the public park and recreation system.


Regional Parks and Park Reserves

Larger-scale, regionally based parks and open spaces that focus on natural resource preservation and stewardship.

1) Neighborhood Park

Neighborhood parks are the basic unit of the park system and serve a recreational and social purpose. Development focuses on informal recreation. Programmed activities are typically limited to youth sports practices and occasionally games.

2) Community and Large Urban Parks

Community and large urban parks are considerably larger in scale and serve a broader purpose than neighborhood parks. The main difference between a community and large urban park is that the latter is often associated with urban settings with large populations. Large urban parks also tend to be larger than community parks in order to provide more park space in a denser populated urban setting. The focus of both types of parks is on meeting wide-ranging community recreation and social needs. The facilities found within these parks are entirely based on community needs. Development focuses on both active and passive recreation, with a wide array of programmed activities often being accommodated. Special-use facilities are routinely located within these parks. This type of park also encompasses unique and extensive landscape features indicative of the region.

3) Youth and Community Athletic Complexes

Youth and community athletic complexes consolidate athletic facilities to strategic locations within a community to take advantage of programming efficiencies and economies of scale. Consolidation of athletic facilities also allows for a closer association between players, parents and coaches at scheduled events. Larger and fewer sites also provide greater conveniences, such as parking, restrooms and concessions and the capacity to generate revenue to offset operational and maintenance costs. Community athletic complexes are most common and serve both youth and adult athletic programs.

Youth athletic complexes are more common in larger metropolitan areas. In most cases, athletic complexes are heavily programmed with facilities to maximize land uses and operational efficiency. The type of facilities found within these parks is entirely based on community athletic program needs. With ever-changing recreational trends, greater emphasis is being placed on designing athletic complexes to be as flexible as possible without unduly compromising specific uses.

4) Greenways

Greenways are lands set aside for preservation of natural resources, remnant landscapes, open space and visual aesthetics. Greenways also provide passive-use opportunities, most often in the form of trails and nature centers. The key focus is on protecting ecological resources and providing wildlife corridors. Greenways can take various forms. In the broadest application, greenways form a network of interconnected natural areas throughout a community. They function as part of a border less system that links together parks, natural open spaces and trail corridors into a latticework of public space.

In this context, the line between greenways, parks, trails and the built environment is purposefully fostering the “city as a park” concept. Establishing an extensive continuous greenway system requires a close collaborative relationship between the city and development community in order to set aside the land for this purpose. Greenways can also take the form of a stand-alone land parcel dedicated to open-space preservation. These are often referred to as nature preserves or nature parks and often serve the same basic function as other forms of greenways.

5) Parkways

Parkways are best characterized as linear parks that also serve as transportation corridors between public parks, historic features, monuments, institutions and business centers. They often follow a notable landscape feature such as a creek or river.

6) Special-Use Parks

The special-use classification covers a broad range of parks and recreation facilities oriented toward single purpose or specialized use.

  • Nature and cultural or performing arts centers
  • Historic sites: downtowns, plazas, cemeteries, historic landscapes, churches and monuments
  • Recreation facilities: aquatic centers, campgrounds, ice arenas, fitness centers, community centers, skateboard parks and stadiums
  • Public gathering areas: amphitheaters, community commons, town centers and urban squares

7) Park-School

The park-school classification pertains to school sites used in concert with or in lieu of, other classes of parks to meet community park and recreation needs. In most cases, these sites are best suited for youth athletic facilities for school, district and community- based recreational programs. Park-school sites also often provide the majority of indoor recreational facilities within a community. To a lesser degree, school sites can also be used to service neighborhood park needs. The limiting factor is that most of these sites are heavily programmed for active uses and school buildings. This often leaves little space to accommodate neighborhood-focused amenities and create an aesthetically appealing setting that would draw families into the site.

8) Private Park/Recreation Facility

The private park/recreation facility classification covers a broad range of nonpublic parks and recreation facilities. This includes facilities such as golf courses, fitness clubs, museums, private courtyards, amphitheaters, horse-riding stables, water parks and miniature golf courses. This classification is provided as a means to acknowledge the contribution that a given private facility has to the public parks and open-space system within a community.

9) Regional Parks

The definition of a regional park varies considerably across the country. The common distinguishing feature is that regional parks typically service multiple cities and cross political jurisdictions. In many cases, a separate regional park authority is established to manage a series of regional parks. In some areas of the country, developers of regional parks focus on setting aside larger tracts of land to preserve natural resources, remnant landscapes and open space. A key objective is protecting ecological resources and providing wildlife habitat. Passive uses, such as hiking, canoeing and nature viewing are most common forms of activities.

The primary distinction between this type of regional parks and greenways is scale and service area. Regional parks are typically at a much larger scale (in land area) than greenways. In other areas of the country, regional parks are an extension of the large urban park classification. In addition to preserving natural resources and open space, these parks also provide active recreational areas, gardens, picnic facilities and other forms of special use. In parts of the country, regional parks include major national monuments and historic landscapes.


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