Welcome to Parks4Life – Exploring Leadership and Innovation in park management


This is the first posting of Parks4Life, a site to explore Leadership and Innovation in park management with a special emphasis on urban parks and the concept of standards and thus better practice.

In starting this discussion it is important to explore in a historical sense why innovation and thus leadership is important in park management.  Yes the legacy of National Parks as they are now (with the question of will this be true in a 100 years time? to be explored in the future) was about individuals who saw more than trees in the landscape.  This legacy has been well documented, will be well celebrated by USANPS in 2016 and will be debated for ever and a day.

However my journey and exploration starts with the concept of “design” legacy.  It is a conceptual concept that isn’t discussed or explored in the park management sector even though it is embedded in the National Park legacy and there will be much debate about what it is.  However consider Apple, any significant architectulural structure or significant urban design – they are all built around “design” and “legacy”.  But in this concept is another connected idea that of embedded activation – a concept that Apple is famous for, such as iTunes.

As I explore the concept of “Design Legacy” over the coming months by looking at the great designers such as Capability Brown,  it is best however to start with an individual who may have left us with a modern design legacy – Brian O’Neill…

See the future:


Brian developed a concept of park management that potentially has no boundaries and breaks all the rules of park management from social community engagement, social enterprises, participation of not-for-profits, decision-making and how the private sector invests.

It is a legacy that needs to be better understood and explored…

If you wish to add to this discussion or even post your thoughts please do




  1. Thank you Neil for starting up this conversation. I had the great pleasure of meeting Brian O’Neill at a master class a number of years ago in Melbourne. I was spellbound. The way in which Brian thought of another ‘angle’ to engaging the community and the philanthropic culture in the US was inspiring. His enthusiasm and respect of parks was infectious and I know I went away with a renewed passion for the work we do . We unfortunately don’t have the same philanthropic culture here in Australia, but it has existed in the past in at least Melbourne, such as with the Myer family. Perhaps we need to find a new ‘angle’ to inspiring our future designers and parks managers and gaining the respect for our parks that it deserves. I think through these sort of discussions we can find a way.

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