With climate change, it is becoming more challenging for water-limited cities to sustain historic watering levels in urban parks, leading park managers to consider changes to park designs. However, the extent to which people value parks that deviate from conventional designs featuring primarily irrigated lawn remains uncertain. We use a choice experiment to assess public preferences for different park designs in Perth, Australia. With a scale-adjusted latent class model, we identify optimal groundcover compositions for four preference classes. We find that while having some watered grass in urban parks is important, the public are also accepting of non-irrigated alternatives. Incorporating at least 40% native vegetation groundcover can both increase the utility the public derives from parks and conserve water. Park managers also have a high degree of flexibility in designing parks that vary from the optimal groundcover composition but that still deliver near-optimal benefits to communities.