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Existing System Overview


Parks Plan

May 2004

City of Raleigh’s Parks Plan, published in 2004

existing system overview


The city’s original planners envisioned an “ideal” that,

thoughmodified through the years, has served as a guiding

vision. The Raleigh of today may not bear an immediate

resemblance to the city of 1792, but the City of Raleigh’s

core mission and commitment to its citizens’ well-being

and quality of life remain the same.

Unique to the history of Raleigh, the function of parks

in the City of Oaks may be organized into five periods:

The Formative Period


Consolidation and


(1942-1970); the

Expansion Era


1981); the

Open Space Era

(1982 – 2004); and the new

Collaborative Era

(2004 to present).

During the Formative Period the philosophy and direction

of the young parks program emerged, influenced by local

visionaries and national trends. In the second period,

the city became fully committed to a centrally organized

municipal park system with definite goals. The Expansion

Era was a period of refinement and adjustment to

population pressure, city expansion, Federal mandates,

and a subsequent increase both in parkland and park

programs. The mission of the Parks Department also

became more clear and its commitment to open space

preservation was broadened and strengthened by the

development of the Capital Area Greenway Network. The

Open Space Era was marked with relative growth in the

parks and recreation system but high population growth,

in terms of absolute number of new residents, through

annexation and greenfield development. The Open Space

Era ended with the publication of the City’s last Parks and

Recreation System Plan Update in 2004, which established

new goals for the Park and Recreation Department.

The Collaborative Era finds Raleigh faced with limited

funding for its burgeoning and successful programs

and facilities. Competition for limited fiscal resources

tempers a renewed awareness of the urgent need for

parks and open space, and new approaches in providing

these services. A heightened awareness of environmental

conservation, water quality protection and the effects of

intensive urbanization influence park development and

uses. Most important to residents is a seamless park and

recreation system that offers multiple benefits from public

facilities. Quality and stewardship of natural resources

within parks are seen by residents as barometers of the

commitment of the city to the quality of life of its citizens.

In addition, the awareness of the benefits of meaningful

public participation has greatly expanded and become an

integral part of park planning and design.

The following text provides a sketch of the influential

trends and decisions that have brought Raleigh to its

current philosophy and direction of parks and open space.

Raleigh has never been without parks. The original 400

acre city plan, laid out through 1,000 acres of woodland

in 1792, included five public squares centered in a grid

of streets. The General Assembly selected fellow Senator

William Christmas, a surveyor, to lay out the lots and

city streets of the Capital-to-be. William Christmas’

visionary gift to the city was a modification of the plan

of Philadelphia: A central site (Union Square) for the

2.1.1 The Beginning

2.1.2 The Formative Era