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Park Planning, Design, and Open Space

This page includes information on parks, recreation, and open space planning and design for local governments in Washington State, including general guidelines, standards, and local examples.

Park Planning Guidelines

This section includes general guidelines for developing comprehensive park and recreation plans, including parks and recreation elements of GMA comprehensive plans (RCW 36.70A.070(8))

  • Manual 2: Planning Policies and Guidelines, Washington State Recreation and Conservation Funding Board - The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board’s how-to manual for developing a park plan. Local jurisdictions seeking funding from this agency are required to have a plan that is consistent with these guidelines. In particular, see Appendix C: Level of Service Tool and Guide
  • Department of Commerce Growth Management Act Periodic Update - Includes resources and checklists for preparing comprehensive plan updates, including the parks and recreation component

Comprehensive Park and Open Space Plans and Elements

This section includes examples of stand-alone comprehensive park plans, as well as sample parks and recreation elements from GMA comprehensive plans (see RCW 36.70A.070(8)). For guidance on the preparation of the parks and recreation element, see WAC 365-196-440.

City Park Plans

County Park Plans

Metropolitan Park District Plans

Park Design and Standards

This includes information on general park and recreation level-of-service standards,  resource information and local design standards for different types of park development.

General Reference

Washington Local Government Design Standards

Design of Facilities

Miscellaneous Design Resources

  • Public Playground Safety Handbook, Publication No. 325, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, November 2015 - Guide to safe playground and playground equipment design
  • NatureGrounds - A comprehensive program that provides best practice guidelines for creating and retrofitting play environments for parks and school grounds that integrate manufactured play equipment and the living landscape.
  • American Sports Builders Association (ASBA) - National organization for builders, designers, and suppliers of materials for tennis courts and other athletic facilities. Publications available for purchase and download 

County and Regional Open Space Programs

This section includes selected open space preservation programs, including conservation futures. Conservation futures are a funding source authorized by state statute that may be implemented by counties to preserve lands of public interest (see RCW 84.34.200 - 84.34.240).

  • Vancouver-Clark Parks and Recreation Conservation Futures Program - Acquisition program for farm, forest, open space, and recreation lands
  • King County Greenprint Project - An open space and resource lands conservation and acquisition strategy informed by a GIS model
  • Mountains to Sound Greenway - Supports conservation and enhancement of the landscape from Seattle across the Cascades to Central Washington
  • Pierce County Conservation Futures Program - Includes a process for nominating property for purchase of land or the rights to develop land
  • Regional Open Space Strategy for Central Puget Sound (ROSS), Green Futures Research and Design Lab, University of Washington - Collaborative effort of the Bullitt Foundation, the Green Futures Lab, and the UW Northwest Center for Livable Communities 
  • San Juan County Land Bank - Open space acquisition program funded by real estate excise tax, conservation futures, private donations, and grants

Recommended Resources

  • Measuring the Economic Impact of Parks and Recreation Services, by John L Crompton, Research Series, National Recreation and Parks Association (2010) - Hands-on guide for preparing economic impact studies that measure the economic return residents receive on park and recreation department investments
  • Measuring the Economic Value of a City Park System, Trust for Public Land, 2009 - Describes seven attributes of city park systems that provide economic value and are measurable: property value, tourism, direct use, health, community cohesion, clean water, and clean air, and provides rationale for calculating each value factor. Shows how these value factors can be applied in case studies of five cities

Last Modified: May 17, 2021