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Liberty Playground, funded in part by Liberty Mutual Insurance, is a universally accessible playground in Plano, Texas. Photo: Cooper Neill/Getty Images for Liberty Mutual Insurance

Parks are becoming part of a city's infrastructure to provide environmental, social and economic roles in addition to recreation.

The big picture: After decades of a lack of investment in parks, planners are reimagining how they can use spaces that were previously unattractive.

What's happening: Sharing the cost across utilities, health and housing programs, and economic development initiatives has made it easier to pay for parks with multiple funding sources.

The parks serve several purposes: Playgrounds for recreation, linear parks for pedestrian and cycling routes, reservoirs for stormwater management, or central squares for pop-up fairs and gatherings.

  • In Houston, voters approved a $100 million bond effort to transform 3,000 acres of land along nine bayous into a vast network of parks and trails.
  • In Philadelphia, The Oval in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a parking lot during the winter, but in warmer weather becomes a place for family activities. It's slated to be a permanent park.
  • San Francisco installed a playground at the foot of City Hall to revive the neglected Civic Center Plaza.
  • Providence, Rhode Island, turned a former brownfield site into a park with a bicycle pump track, trails and a parkour course. Its rain gardens reduce flooding.

What they're saying:

"Cities are doing this to remain economically competitive to attract families and young workers who eventually create their own families. But they're also making sure they're creating opportunities for existing residents who have weathered the storms of disinvestment."
— Catherine Nagel, CEO of City Parks Alliance

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 1 hour ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dominion files $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani

Photo: Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Dominion Voting Systems filed a defamation lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani on Monday seeking $1.3 billion in damages for his "demonstrably false” allegations about the company's voting machines.

Why it matters: Giuliani led former President Trump's efforts to overturn the results of the election and spread the baseless conspiracy theory that Dominion's voting machines flipped votes from Trump to Joe Biden.