the Neighborhood Design Center
Project No. 3350

Magruder Park: Using Observational Research Towards a Park For Everyone

A key greenspace within the city of Hyattsville, Magruder Park had not seen substantive updates for a decade. NDC was tasked with evaluating the park’s current patronage to see what infrastructure might be lacking, or reimagined, to support the variety of uses and diverse communities of the region.

What We Did

  • Community Outreach
  • Data observation
  • Research
  • Site Planning
  • Co-Design


  • Bradley Site Design
  • Rivera Group


  • City of Hyattsville

The Challenge: A park for a diverse community

The City of Hyattsville sought to understand if Magruder Park worked for all members of the community. Magruder Park is easily accessed by foot, bike trail, car, bus, and just over a one mile walk from the West Hyattsville Metro station and draws people both locally and from the surrounding area.

Hyattsville as a whole is roughly 33% African American, 31% White, and 34% Latino, and 57% of park users we surveyed identified as Latino. It was abundantly clear that any equitable engagement strategy needed to have native Spanish speakers on the team. NDC partnered with the Rivera Group, a D.C. based multilingual outreach and Spanish language translation organization, who provided real time interpretation at meetings, conducted on-site surveys, and facilitated focus groups and outreach with Spanish-speaking neighbors.

The Gehl Institute’s Public Life Tools

In the summer of 2017, our Baltimore office was selected by Gehl Institute to conduct a study of public space in the YNOT Lot, a small park in the Station North Arts District. This research-based process offered compelling insights about who used the lot and how programming of the space changed user demographics. In responding to the Magruder Park project set out by the City of Hyattsville, we knew the observation-based methodology that these tools would support our community-driven process. 

NDC staff conducted public life observations using the Age and Gender Tally, the People Moving Count, and the Stationary Activity Mapping tools. These various tools captured not only the demographics of who was using the park, but gave insight into what activities were popular in which parts of the park, where people most liked to move, and for how long people were spending time in each area.

“[These tools] get you to really focus on what you're looking at and what’s really happening. We started to notice not only who is using the park, but also who wasn’t.”

Marita Roos, Programs Director


“I am encouraged. There’s a lot of thought that has been put into the plans, and a lot of listening to the community, so I appreciate that.”

Rebecca Lee, Hyattsville Resident

The ‘Park Champions’ group, seen above discussing designs, was formed for this project but members have stayed connected and continue to support park improvements.

As work on Magruder Park moves forward, NDC will continue to develop appropriate programming for new spaces and conduct additional research on how these interventions might change user demographics.