Green space is not vacant space. Parks are critical infrastructure in our cities, and the ultimate in multi-use space for the community. We should never take them for granted.
Let’s start by considering one of Australia’s most important public parklands:
OK, so that looks and sounds nice, but do parks really matter all that much in our daily lives?
Here are five reasons why the answer to that question is an emphatic: ‘Yes’.
#1: Parks improve your health
Parks provide millions of Australians every year the opportunity to improve their health – their physical health and mental health.
Around 50% of Australians are considered overweight, and one of the leading causes is a more sedentary lifestyle:
There’s evidence that shows adults who sit less throughout the day have a lower risk of early death, particularly from heart disease. Sedentary behaviour is associated with increased risk of being overweight, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. – National Heart Foundation report.
This is not meant to be a ‘guilt trip’, but a motivator to get outside.
Some of the health benefits of parks include:
- they provide opportunity for an active life – combatting obesity and keeping your cardiovascular system healthy
- they help you de-stress – being in parks reduces stress, tension and mental fatigue
- they lift the gloom – being in parks and nature has a positive impact on your mood, attitude and outlook on life, and can help in managing depression and other related clinical health conditions
Want to improve your health – find out even more here:
#2: Parks improve your brain
Spending time in a park will make you smarter. It also leads to greater creative thinking and a reduction in stress that often clouds clear thinking. These are actually researched findings.
A recent study from the University of Edinburgh looked at the effect on the brain from spending time outdoors in a park setting. Neural patterns (fluctuations in brain activity) were measured as participants walked through a cityscape, and then turned off the city streets to walk through a large urban park, before returning to the city streets. The results showed that when participants entered the park they had reactions such as a cleared mind, and the ability to think clearer and deeper.
In children it has been shown that spending time in parks and nature improves and sustains their attention, increases learning engagement and has even been used in the management of some forms of ADHD.
Want to improve your brain and think clearer – find out more here:
#3: Parks improve your lifestyle
Parks and green space are more than the green spaces between – they are the ‘green glue’ that binds. They make a city liveable and improve the quality of our lives.
Parks and open space play a social role within our community. They bring people together, or they provide the breathing space for people to spend time on their own. They provide important space for organised sport, events, picnics and social gatherings (consider how many outdoor weddings are held these days!).
As more of us are living in cities in high density housing without backyards, our parks are becoming our de facto backyards. They are our playgrounds, our meeting places and our refuges.
Want to improve your life? Find out more here:
#4: Parks improve your city
Parks are important environmental infrastructure. Parks and green space cool our cities, they clean the air we breathe and they help us manage stormwater. They provide shelter and homes for native birds and animals, and are often the main protectorate of remnant threatened plant species.
Our cities are increasingly designed with flat, dark surfaces like roads, concrete paths, high-rise buildings and apartment blocks. While newer buildings are being designed to mitigate or harness the heat of our cities, parks and green space are the only real ‘absorbers’ of this urban heat.
Urban heat is an issue because it, for example, drives up energy consumption. The hotter our city is, and the warmer our climate gets, the more we rely on air conditioning and other forms of cooling. Expansive urban parks like Centennial Parklands are ‘the lungs of our city’ and help mitigate this urban heat effect.
Parks also assist with managing stormwater. Consider a future for our cities where there are more highly dense buildings, hard surfaces, shrinking private green space coupled with more frequent and more extreme storms. Parks and green space absorb or soak up excess water in the environment, reducing the physical, social and economic impacts of storm damage due to flooding. Perhaps insurance companies should be part-funding parks!
Interested in reading more, then try these:
- Urban planning and the importance of green space in cities to human and environmental health
- “Watch this (green) space” – an interview with Sacha Coles on urban green space
#5: Parks improve your hip-pocket
Parks and green space impacts upon your hip-pocket – directly and indirectly.
Did you know, for example, that living within a short distance of a well maintained public park will significantly add the the value of your property (up to 20% of the house price value in Centennial Parklands case)?
Parks also reduce downstream health care costs for a society by providing preventative solutions to health problems. Through sport, recreation, fitness, clean air or simply a space to relax and de-stress, parks directly reduce the incidence and impact of physical and mental health issues. This pretty much means parks are critical health infrastructure!
Parks also employ people – directly and indirectly. Through sectors such as infrastructure and maintenance, science and conservation, sport, tourism, events and the service industry, parks create jobs.
Increasingly parks are also supporting jobs in the arts sector. Through filming and photography, artistic events and workshops, and supporting educational institutions (such as the Australian Film Television Radio School and Randwick TAFE in Centennial Parklands case), parks provide both the inspiration and the backdrop.
There is so much more to quantifying the value of parks which you can read here:
- Can you put a dollar value on parks?
- The true value of trees
- What value does parks provide the community?
So, what do I do now?
Simple. Get outside and enjoy our parks and green spaces.
Parks exist for all of our benefit. Millions of Australians use parks and green spaces every year for any number of reasons.
That’s the beauty of our parks – they are the ultimate in multi-use spaces. A park, or space within a park, can change on an hourly, daily or weekly basis.
One moment a spot in a park may be used for a mother’s group gathering then later in the day as a place for organised sport. Another spot may be used by schools for education then later become a venue for an outdoor wedding. One day you may use a space to simply sit, and read a book on your own, then later that week that same space may be part of an outdoor cinema or food and wine festival being enjoyed by thousands.
One space, multiple uses. The ability and flexibility of parks and green space to provide opportunities for the many is incredible. And that will only become increasingly important as our cities grow.
So now get outside and enjoy our parks and open spaces. Use them to improve your life and your community – just don’t take them for granted.