Memorial Day Weekend — What better time to discuss the benefit and value of public parks?
If you live in a city, there’s a good chance you’re flocking to the nearest park to celebrate the beginning of summer. And that’s because public parks have so much to offer, especially to us city dwellers.
Just this afternoon, I visited my favorite urban oasis, Prospect Park in Brooklyn. Family barbecues were in full swing, with music blaring and the smell of charcoal thick in the air. Friends gathered on picnic blankets to enjoy the oncoming of summer. Kids ran around with soccer balls and scooters, not a care in the world.
Prospect Park, photo credit Julie Rosenberg, Brooklyn Paper, 2009
In a place like this, you see the kind of life that’s missing on city streets. It’s the kind of life that can’t happen within the confines of a home’s walls. It can only happen in those places that are open and accessible to all people, regardless of their age, race, income level, or education. It’s places like these that force you to share, observe, and interact with people you may not encounter in your typical day-to-day.
But besides being a great place to socialize and people watch, parks offer a great many other benefits. Study after study shows that humans need to be in touch with some element of nature in order to remain sane. I love this article in Newsweek on the subject. Researchers found that because we use a less demanding form of attention when we’re in a natural setting, taking a walk in a park can be just the right fix for a stressful week at the office.
And of course, the environmentalist in me can’t ignore the benefits that parks have on our air and water quality. Trees not only release more oxygen into the air, but they also remove a number of air pollutants, like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and ozone. Beyond that, the extensive root system of a tree will help filter out pollutants from rainwater, and also help return water right back into the environment instead of being funneled through our sewer systems. All in all, trees are pretty amazing at what they do.
Three Trees, photo credit Petr Kratochvil
To read more about the social, economic, health, and environmental benefits of parks, check out this 2003 report from the Trust for Public Land. TPL is a leading organization in the advocacy, planning, funding, and maintaining of our nation’s city parks.
So what are you waiting for? Head out to your nearest park and reap the benefits!