Originally, the term referred to an area maintained as open space where residences, industry and farming were not allowed, often originally so that nobility might have a place to hunt. These were known for instance, as deer parks (deer being originally a term meaning any wild animal).
Today, the strict usage, based on the original meaning, is an area of open space provided for recreational uses. Parks in this sense are usually owned and provided by the government. Park uses are often divided into two categories: active and passive recreation. Active recreation is that which require intensive development and often involves cooperative or team activity, including playgrounds and ball fields. Passive recreation is that which emphasizes the open-space aspect of a park and which involves a low level of development, including picnic areas and trails.
In some countries, especially the United Kingdom, the concept of the country park has become established. Such parks provide recreational facilities typical of the countryside rather than the town, and may represent an effort to save countryside from urbanisation and development.
The concept of preserving unique landscapes for the pleasure of the general public was established in the United States, and implemented during the presidential administration of Teddy Roosevelt. Tourism and, later, recreation, were the intended purposes of the lands TR set aside in the system. These parks were ultimately termed national parks and today constitute the National Park System. Similarly, state governments have also set aside and continue to set aside lands of various sizes to preserve them for the enjoyment of the public.
The term park is also used in reference to industrial areas, often termed industrial parks. Some technology research areas are also called research parks. The word park may also be used in community names, such as Oak Park or College Park. And sometimes the active recreational aspect may be carried to the extreme of creating an amusement park, usually privately-owned.