Adapted from “Do Beautiful Parks Strengthen Democracy?” by Garrett Dash Nelson
Olmsted’s parks aren’t merely pretty places—they’re social arguments. They are some of the most important testing grounds for American democracy in action, places which express a confidence in our ability to recognize and promote the common good.
Today, the American landscape is again in transition, placing incredible strain on the fabric of mutual purpose that holds us together. At such a time, we ought to think about how to reinvoke the principles of an Olmstedian vision, in terms of neighborhoods, cities, and regions that reflect the collective enterprise of a complex society. We still long for good places to live: places of beauty, places of neighborliness, places of diversity and possibility. Olmsted’s parks are such places. They are a treasured and quintessential part of the American landscape: not merely for what they look like, but because of whom they belong to.