In general public squares are designed for leisure activities, such as reading, eating, watching and meeting other people, while urban linear parks are destinations that take users to somewhere. These are places known for active recreation and many of them are connected with today’s interest in physical fitness. Examples of this kind of place can be seen in many cities such as in New York City (The High Line), Boston (The Orange Line), London (next to the Thames from London Eye to Millennium Bridge), Curitiba (Parque Linear do Cajuru), and Sao Paulo (Parque Varzeas de Tietê). The idea of a linear park has been developed in some cases as a sustainable measure of use and occupation of the city. However, the problem begins when this kind of approach does not take into account people´s perceptions in terms of the history and symbolism of the area.

This study investigates which variables should be taking into account in projects of urban regeneration of linear parks in order to preserve the symbolism of these places. In Brazil, many places like these are vandalise and abandoned by users as these don´t fit the necessities of people and are design without public participation. Urban design appears as a discipline not applied by the local government, which thinks, many times, that urban design can be replaced by good sits and flower gardens. The case study of this research is Itaimbe Linear Park, which has 1.5 km of extension (0.93 miles) and is located in the city of Santa Maria, in the South of Brazil. This park has been a site of numerous renovation projects. The methods of data collection adopted were: observations, behaviour maps, syntax map of the park with its surrounding, interviews and questionnaires. The data were analysed through qualitative and quantitative methods (non-parametric tests were applied to analyse users responses to questionnaires).

The results indicate that lack of urban planning and urban design strategies with public participation are the most negative issues in the case study, as the renovation projects done along the years created areas perceived as unsafe by the majority of users. There are many sites vandalised in the park and local residents just don´t feel part of that area anymore. At the same time, this place has an important symbolic value for people as it is part of the urban development of the city and characterized by users as a green landmark and focal point in the urban grid. These both contrasting data prove that the process of urban renovation leading by the Council is wrong as it takes into account mainly economic issues to control the budget without a focus in the preservation of the symbolism of the place. To conclude, the study identifies a series of variables that should be taken into account in renovation projects of urban linear parks hoping that these can also help the case study as it is going to be renovated again in 2014.