City Parks and Politics: An Introduction

We are aware of missing faculty photos in the directory and catalog and will be updating them shortly. Thank you for your patience.

Spring 2018 quarter

Taught by

academic and creative nonfiction writing, community studies, analog game design



Urban parks and recreation departments deliver a number of public benefits, ranging from fostering human health and sense of community to the promotion of biodiversity and partial mitigation of city heat. We’ll discuss contributions green spaces make today to social resilience (the capacity of human communities to respond to change), and the roles urban parks and programs play in city dwellers’ shared lives.

Our inquiries will begin with the idea of parks as democratic public spaces, and with an overview of the cultural histories of the U.S. park, playground, and community center movements. Social equity then and now will be a particular focus of our explorations as we examine conflicts over who should use parks and for what purposes, and analyze the funding and use of parks and recreation programs in relation to populations often underserved by municipal resources.

Parks and recreation programs in Olympia, Seattle, and possibly Portland will serve as informal case studies for our explorations. Readings under consideration include William H. Whyte’s classic The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces ; Rethinking Urban Parks: Public Space and Cultural Diversity (Low, Taplin and Scheld); The Politics of Park Design (Cranz); and The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jacobs). Articles, speakers, and visits to area parks also will inform our work. Program participants will have multiple occasions to develop the habits of mind of analytic, creative, and resilient thinkers. Clear and thoughtful writing and opportunities to cultivate commitment to the public good will be essential components of our work together.

Program Details

Fields of Study

community studies government writing

Preparatory For

community work, local or state government, city planning, politics, parks and recreation, sociology


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered

Evening and Weekend

Advertised Schedule

Wednesdays, 5:45-9:45pm and every other Saturday, 9 am- 5 pm: April 7, 21, May 5, 19, and June 2.

Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


2018-01-23Schedule Change: Class is now Wed/Sat, was Thu/Sat