Green Infrastructure and Park System Planning

Great Urban Parks Campaign Briefing Paper 3

By David Rouse, FAICP



Park system planning dates back to Frederick Law Olmsted’s concept of boulevards and trails connecting significant parklands, which he referred to as "pearls on a string." Early examples include Boston's "Emerald Necklace" and Minneapolis' "Chain of Lakes".

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries cities such as Cleveland, Kansas City, Louisville, and Oklahoma City had the foresight to establish park, boulevard, and trail systems that today are among their most important civic assets. Park system planning is increasingly important in the 21st century, as cities seek to meet residents’ needs and secure their place in a competitive economy in which the benefits provided by parks and green spaces are an important factor in location decisions made by companies and individuals. In addition, as many urban communities undergo rapid growth, park system planning is critical to ensure an equitable distribution of lands, facilities, and park resources to all, especially traditionally underserved communities.


Page Count
Date Published
Nov. 1, 2017
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Author

David Rouse, FAICP
David Rouse, FAICP, ASLA is a planner and landscape architect with nearly 40 years of experience, focused on creating healthy, resilient, and sustainable communities. An urban and regional planning consultant, David is committed to connecting professional practice and research to develop practical solutions for 21st century planning and design issues. He is the former Research Director for APA in Washington, DC, where he led the Planning Advisory Service, sponsored research programs, and special initiatives such as the Sustaining Places Comprehensive Plan Standards and Planning for Autonomous Vehicles. Prior to joining APA in 2013, David was a principal at the firm Wallace Roberts & Todd (WRT) in Philadelphia.