'Right to the Active City': Public Recreation and Urban Governance in Baltimore

Thumbnail Image


Publication or External Link





Since the inception of the Baltimore City Department of Recreation and Parks (BCRP) in 1940, public recreation in Baltimore has continued to be restructured in relation to changing modes of urban governance, in particular in regards to the city's network of recreation centers. More recently, the reorganization of recreation resulted in the 2011 Mayor's Recreation Center Task Force plan, which proposed the further reformation of the department and changes to the provision and distribution of recreation centers and recreational services. This dissertation - entitled Right to the Active City: Public Recreation and Urban Governance in Baltimore - draws from a diverse and reflexive theoretical and methodological approach in exploring the historical and contemporary forms, practices and experiences of public recreation in Baltimore, specifically focusing on the city's recreation centers as social and spatial manifestations of the processes of urban governance.

In seeking to engage and analyze the individuals, institutions, spaces and practices of urban public recreation, the primary goals of this research are: 1) to examine the intersection of historical and current formations of recreation policy and broader processes of urban governance, including the implications of these changing arrangements for the localized experiences of public recreation; 2) to analyze the spaces of public recreation, in particular the changing forms and practices of planning and design that is embedded within a shift between different `recreation center' models; 3) to draw out and describe the often complex and contradictory inter-relationships between the City government, BCRP, community and non-profit groups and city residents, focusing on the associations that actively construct and constitute an emergent form of public recreation; and 4) to provide a nuanced research approach that both contributes to relevant scholarly fields, including public health, kinesiology, sociology, urban studies and physical cultural studies, and simultaneously seeks to promote the co-production of research that can be engaged by and with those involved in the processes of public recreation. In short, this research attempts to better grasp the lived experiences of the active urban body and urban physical cultures, through an analysis of the planning and provision of recreational sites, services and opportunities in a specific postindustrial metropolis.