Dealing with “the Dark Side” of Parks

Parks provide a number of benefits, but they can also generate negative impacts that transform communities in less desirable ways. In some cases, parks provide a place where crime, drug use, and other illicit activities thrive, impacting public safety and perceptions of parks. In others, parks contribute to ecosystem “disservices” by raising aesthetic concerns (when poorly managed), generating environmental impacts (due to excessive recreational use), and fueling social tensions (when restricted use or inequitable access turns parks into contested spaces). Collectively, the “dark side” of parks poses significant challenges for managers, yet these issues are rarely part of conversations about the broader impacts of parks in communities. During this session, we will review research highlighting the potential negative impacts of parks in communities, discuss specific issues facing parks in NC, and outline strategies for dealing with these problems. Our ultimate goal: turning challenges into opportunities.