Shweta Nanekar discusses teens and parks at NRPA event

Shweta Nanekar discusses teens and parks at NRPA event

How can we make parks more inviting to teenagers? A WithersRavenel landscape architect tackles that question during an upcoming presentation at a national conference.

Shweta Nanekar, PLA, LEED AP (BD + C), will present an education session Sept. 24 at the annual NRPA conference in Baltimore. “But I Have Nothing to Do in the Park! – Thinking About Places for Teens,” focuses on an often-overlooked audience when it comes to park planning and design.

For teenagers who do not regularly exercise or are not involved in active sports, a technology-heavy, sedentary lifestyle is a risk that could lead to future health problems.

Needs of teenagers “are not accounted for in design or budget or programming,” Nanekar said. “We need to think about the spaces between childhood and adulthood that will engage teen minds socially, physically and cognitively to help them on a path to becoming healthy young adults.”

One of the keys to park improvements, Nanekar said, is including teens in the process. “We have to go where teens are, not the other way around,” she said. “We also have to move the discussion forward, make clients aware of teens.” She’s heartened by recent developments in the Triangle and across the country, with municipalities taking steps to make park space more welcoming, and useful, for teens.

Nanekar has focused on children, teens and family-friendly design for more than a decade. She has a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Nagpur University in India, and worked for an architectural firm on site design before beginning to take landscape architecture classes at N.C. State. Her coursework led to a master’s degree and job at the university along with a passion for landscape architecture and parks.

“There are layers of challenges when you are designing the culture of communities,” she said. “You have to understand the users, sites, sustainable design principles, natural resources, safety, public health and more.”

Nanekar has a husband who is a software engineer, a son in 7th grade and a daughter in 2nd grade. Her family enjoys exploring nearby towns, parks and greenways, and spending time with friends. She also has a big extended family in India.

The National Recreation and Park Association conference runs Sept. 24-26 at the Baltimore Convention Center. For more information on WithersRavenel’s Parks and Recreation services, click here.