Nurturing rest through park planning: exploring how parkgoers of different genders practice restful recreation in the Great Lawn of Zilker Metropolitan Park in Austin, Texas



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Active forms of recreation in concert with nutrition have widely been accepted as necessary for the health of our bodies and minds. The value of waking forms of rest is often undermined by the demand for productivity and the addictive nature of media consumption in a capitalist society, especially social media usage. This paper seeks to re-establish and prioritize the importance of rest in public parks and explore how gender influences the way parkgoers experience rest. As women are faced with gender inequities compounded by intensified burdens from Covid-19, it is vital that there are spaces in the urban environment crafted to allow them to escape the harsh realities of both home and the city. Urban parks have become such spaces for recharging, recreating, and resting; however, there is a disconnect between women’s need for rest and the lack of park infrastructure crafted to meet the needs of marginalized genders. This report will explore Zilker Metropolitan Park in Austin, Texas, in order to examine how gender dimensions influence the way users practice restful recreation in public spaces and to better understand what interventions can help to meet the needs of women and other marginalized genders for restful recreation, while acknowledging the diversity of unique needs and interests present within this group. Centrally located and comprising over 350 acres, Zilker Metropolitan Park was the subject of a “community-driven” planning process, the Zilker Metropolitan Park Vision Plan, in which elements of its “Great Lawn” were proposed for modification. As Zilker is known as “Austin’s outdoor living room” and a popular destination for spending time outdoors, the outcomes of this planning process will significantly affect how people are able to enjoy the space via recreational activities of contemplation and rejuvenation. Through an investigation of how all genders currently engage with rest at Zilker and what they need from the space to experience rest, this study provides recommendations for designing public parks to be comfortable for all genders and contributes to research into the art and act of rest in public spaces.


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