This post was first published on the City Parks Blog – http://cityparksblog.org
One of the most well regarded world cities in terms of urban planning is Curitiba, Brazil — a place known for its efficient and innovative bus rapid transit system. But the city is also known for its parks, in particular using them to increase quality of life and act as green infrastructure to protect against floods.
The city has about 50 square meters of parkland per person (i.e. 12 acres per 1000), most of which were created in the last 30 years under the direction of forward-looking urban planner/former mayor Jaime Lerner. The protected land is complemented by compact housing, as the city of 1.5 million has a population density of 10,750 per square mile (which is around the same as Philadelphia or Washington, D.C.).
Roughly 21 million square meters (5,190 acres) are linear parks along rivers and streams that act as buffers between flood-prone rivers and the city. Legislation set aside certain low-lying areas and river basins as special protection and management areas. The city also used a loan to purchase land at a number of critical sites around the city. Engineers built small damns and created new lakes that act as holding basins when flooding occurs.
In effect, these green spaces are giant stormwater facilities, with the lakes as central features. If rains are heavy, the lake rises over the surrounding parks. And Lerner and parks director Hitochi Nakamura made sure to connect places to one another (as mentioned in the below linked video). Together they helped create over 90 miles of new trails within the city, located in southern Brazil about 250 miles southwest of São Paulo.
Much has been done to document what’s occurred in Curitiba. A nice 15-minute video (YouTube) by Journeyman Productions gives a good overview, and includes interviews with both Lerner and Nakamura. (The segment on parks starts just after the seven-minute mark.) Another good resource on all of the planning efforts and problems that persist in the city is the book, Urban Renewal, Municipal Revitalization: the Case of Curitiba Brazil.