Local parks are an integral part of a happy, healthy city. There are so many benefits that come from having high quality parks. In perhaps the most noticeable way, they provide beautiful green spaces and they usually have great programs for your community. However, there are many benefits underneath the surface. Here are just a few of the many benefits that illustrate the importance of local parks in our communities.
The beautiful, lush greenery not only looks beautiful but also helps us stay healthy – mentally and physically – especially in urban areas. Research from Minding our Bodies suggests that stress is reduced, while mental health is boosted, when we are surrounded by natural settings. A 2008 study by the University of Illinois also found that children with ADHD performed better on attention tests, after taking a 20-minute walk in the park, than after taking the same walk in a downtown area or residential neighborhood. Numerous studies have found incredible health benefits such as lower levels of stress, reduced blood pressure, improved mood and self-esteem, reduced risk of substance abuse, improved ability to interact socially, increased levels of physical activity and more. It’s clear that the scientific literature supports the importance of parks from a health perspective.
By providing a space where physical activity is encouraged for free, the physical wellbeing of a community should increase. By analyzing a number of studies, Active Living Research concluded that conveniently located parks “have been found to be associated with vigorous physical activity… among both adults and children.” Other factors that boost physical activity within these parks are the presence of enjoyable scenery and frequency of seeing others exercise. A great positive feedback loop can happen here, once your community starts to embrace the importance of parks.
The importance of parks can also be seen in the economic benefits they possess. Businesses near a park see a boost in traffic, as parks have many ways of attracting more people. This creates an increase in property value, business traffic and, in the end, the tax base of that community. On a larger level, parks increase the GDP and provide labor income for a large base of workers. The NRPA also notes that physical fitness and parks and recreations majors boast some of the lowest unemployment rates after graduating.
Did you know that one single acre of trees absorbs the carbon dioxide produced by driving a car 11,000 miles? According to the NRPA’s Power of Parks, this is exactly the case. Air pollution is a significant health concern that leads to many unpleasant symptoms and long-term health issues. Not only do parks function as an environmental purifier, they also serve to preserve and conserve a lot of wildlife and plant life, further highlighting the importance of parks. Additionally, trees in urban areas can add shade, reducing the risk of heat-related illnesses.
According to the American Planning Association, crime rates in Macon, GA were reduced by 50% and were directly related to outdoor and park activity. There are many factors as to how this can happen. Spending time in nature has numerous benefits we have already discussed; one such benefit is the relief of mental fatigue, leading to a reduction in aggression. Barren spaces are more prone to crime, with increased levels of fear, when compared to landscapes with greenery and open vistas. Finally, green spaces attract people and act as a gather place where neighbors form social ties that produce stronger, safer neighborhoods. This building of community not only increases safety but also increases the sense of citizenship that people hold to their communities. In the end, isn’t that one of the most important things for our social nature?
The importance of parks is quite obvious. What are your favorite benefits of parks and why? Let us know on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Google+, to stay up to date with all of your PerfectMind news.