Baby Boomers Park Preferences

New parks are emphasising adult needs over those of children. New parks are primarily for aging baby boomers who want trails more than playgrounds. As demand for parks grows, fewer and fewer children are playing in parks - largely because frightened parents won't let them outside unsupervised, experts say.

In her classic 1982 study of America's parks, "The Politics of Parks," she identified four types of park design, introduced at different stages:

  • "The Pleasure Ground." The earliest American parks were like Central Park in New York City, which was created in 1858 as a large-scale antidote to city life. These were beautiful, peaceful and huge, like nature itself.
  • "Reformed park." From 1900s to 1930s, these parks were part of a progressive movement calling for small urban parks for children's playgrounds.
  • "Recreation facility." Cranz says the heyday of the large-scale sports facilities - typically fields for football and baseball - was from 1930 to 1965.
  • "Open space systems," in which large tracts of undeveloped land were added to the mix of parks.

    Even if kids had more neighborhood playgrounds, it isn't clear they would use them.

    Today, only 6 percent of children play outdoors unsupervised even once a week, according to the Child & Nature Network. Instead, children ages 8 to 18 now spend about 44.5 hours a week in front of a computer or TV screen, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

    They live in what has been called "virtual protective house arrest" - put there by their parents.

    The national rate of child abductions by strangers has declined in the past 20 years - to about 100 a year, making them about as rare as getting killed by lightning. But experts say paranoia is rampant - and blame news coverage of abductions that can terrify parents. "Fear has escalated, and it's almost irrational," Flor a kindergarten teacher said.

    More on new parks give boomers room to roam.