Why Light Parks? A Park Lighting Investigation

Why Light Parks? A Park Lighting Investigation
 

Imagine this scenario. You’ve just gotten home from work and you’d like to go for a jog before your spouse gets home. You live right next to a large community park that you enjoy exploring from time to time. It’s early October, so by the time you scarf down some leftovers and put your running clothes on, it’s already getting dark outside. You can see the edge of the park outside your window. A few lonely lamp posts flicker on and off, barely illuminating the concrete walkways that lead deeper into the park. Some of the lights appear to be broken. Your imagination wanders and for a moment you think you see movement at the edge of the trees. It could just be the weather, but a chill comes over you, and you think to yourself, Hey, you know what, maybe it’s too dark for that jog today. You unlace your sneakers and prepare for another night in.

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Photo by Nourdine Diouane.

Now imagine, in an alternate universe, you’ve just come home and still want to go for that jog. You put on your running shoes and eat a snack. The park across the street is well-lit with bright LED park fixtures. There are people walking their dogs on the paths and children with their families playing on the playground. Despite the fact that the sky is now dark, activities are extended within the community park under the glow of the strategically placed fixtures. There are no dark shadows or places for people to hide behind, and you head out the door for a brisk autumn jog before your spouse arrives home.

An Unprecedented Success

Obviously, the difference between these two imagined scenarios is clear: proper lighting made the difference between our protagonist going for a jog or not. However, the idea that public parks are always safer due to proper lighting is a complex one. Is it a matter of public perception, or does increased visibility inherently increase the safety of a public space? Studies and initiatives over the years have served to cautiously support both ideas.Take the 2008 example of the Inglewood, CA community ridden with public park gang violence. The community banded together and launched its GRYD Summer Night Lights initiative, which aimed to increase nighttime lighting in gang-prone parks and increase nighttime activity programming for members of the community. Crime dropped dramatically, with a reported 40 percent decrease in gang activity and a 57 percent decrease in gang-related homicides. As a result of the program’s success, more cities have adopted similar lighting and programming initiatives in public parks with similar success. This speaks volumes about the effectiveness of community outreach, and people think it may also have to do with the lighting aspect. As for the exact reason that the Summer Night Lights program was so effective, the jury’s still, at least partially, out.

Why Light Parks?

There are some arguments against certain measures to light parks. It has been noted that only lighting pathways may be dangerous and act as a way for criminals to track the routes of pedestrians. Poorly designed park lighting may also increase certain types of vandalism like graffiti. However, it can also be argued that well-designed park lighting is far superior to poor park lighting and no park lighting at all. There are many theories as to why strategic park lighting is both an effective crime deterrent and a great community building tool.

For one, evenly spaced, bright lighting in parks allows daytime activities to extend into the evening hours, such as sports, walking, and cookouts. More people in a public space engaging in recreational activities deters crime by increasing the

Photo by Andrey Kirov.

perception of safety. If people feel that parks are safe at night, they will be more likely to visit, thus increasing the positive perception of safety in a positive feedback loop. Additionally, proper perimeter and edge lighting means that unsavory individuals will have fewer places to hide to conduct shady business after hours. Overall, most experts agree that an overall increase in lighting in parks and similar spaces is beneficial to the overall environment and community by deterring crime and increasing after-dark community activities.

 

LEDs: The Answer to Dark Parks

In terms of how to light a public park, LED park lighting fixtures are the clear winner. LED technology is superior to traditional lighting methods in every way. On average, LED fixtures last more than 75% longer than traditional lighting methods, thus making them more cost-effective. LED light fixtures are durable and many fixtures are vandal-resistant. They do not “burn out” in the traditional way that fluorescent lights do. LED lights may be equipped with photocell sensors and motion sensors and may even be solar-powered. Of

VAND 90-Inch LED Bollard Light HC ramp lighting

A VAND vandal resistant bollard perfect for parks.

course, there is the issue of light pollution, but most LED park lighting setups can be arranged in such a way that light trespass and pollution is kept to a minimum while maintaining desired standards of brightness. LED park lighting can also be used to draw tourists, such as in the case of beautiful LED art installations like the sculpture in Phoenix’s Civic Space Park. LED is the answer to modern lighting challenges and improves upon its predecessors as any good technological advance should.

Access Fixtures has curated a page of floodlight, bollard, and spotlight options with which to light a park or similar public space. For larger municipal parks, our decorative street lighting page may be better suited to the task. We also offer vandal-resistant bollard lights and wall packs for added assurance. All of our options are energy-efficient LED and come with a 5 year warranty. If you are looking to light a public park or similar public space, feel free to request a photometric analysis or discuss your best options with a lighting specialist.

Sources:

GRYD Foundation

http://grydfoundation.org/programs/summer-night-lights/

Juvenile Justice Research

http://www.juvenilejusticeresearch.com/docs/Summer%20Night%20Lights%202016%20Report_FINAL.pdf