Frederick Law Olmsted, the great 19th-Century urban planner, understood the rejuvenating potential of city parks in the lives of ordinary Americans. Parks, he said, offered the common citizen a place to retreat at no cost for a respite that could be afforded otherwise only by the rich.

Orange County, of course, is not the kind of teeming metropolitan environment that Olmsted faced while reshaping some old urban centers of the East. But much of what he said rings true today in Southern California, now heavily developed and heavily populated. The county increasingly has urbanized and become inhabited by immigrants who, like their predecessors a continent away a century ago, can ill-afford to go away on holiday.

The Board of Supervisors this week approved more than $600,000 in matching funds for park improvements in four cities. In doing so, the supervisors showed that they grasped the importance of supporting a network of good urban parks.

Anaheim will receive about $335,000 for lighting projects at five parks. This will be helpful to the city's efforts to make parks more accessible in the evenings and to discourage graffiti. La Palma has plans to build a large gazebo for concerts and plays and to improve playgrounds in its Central Park. Orange wants a gymnasium in El Camino Park, which has the highest user rate in the city. And Placentia wants to upgrade parks to provide access to the handicapped.

By working with the cities, the county is helping make life more pleasing for all.

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