The Importance Of Public Parks and Community Gardens When Bringing About Change – Emily Bramich_3436710

Parkland and community gardens provide a number of important benefits to communities. These large open spaces encourage activities that benefit health, physically and psychologically, increase social benefits as well as have a positive environmental impact.  Community gardens also bring about change by promoting sustainable living through direct participation and also can be seen as an education tool for the younger generation. Together, as a society that wants to see environmental and social change, investing in keeping and creating parkland is an important starting point.

As the population continues to expand problems of finding solutions that can support this unstoppable future continue to be explored. One of the problems societies are facing is finding space to build housing. Within cities that are seeing a decrease in housing properties in replacement for apartment blocks the question being raised is how crucial are backyards? The solution to having minimal to no outdoor space, with a focus on families with young children, is park access. Are parks sufficient enough to replace the benefits of a backyard?

In some cities, like New York, families have been used to this lifestyle of raising children in an apartments and relying on parkland for outdoor activities for a long time. However, in cities like Melbourne and Sydney where this circumstance only applies to a small number but will grow to effect a larger amount in the near future it is therefore important to take care of our open spaces, realize their potential and act on ways to embrace and improve the future of our following generation’s health and wellbeing through the endless benefits of parks.

There are a number of reasons why you might visit a park:

  1. To walk your canine friend
  2. Picnic with your friends or family
  3. Read a book while your child plays on the play equipment
  4. Have a game of soccer

All these activities and the numerous other reasons why you would venture outside to parkland all have a positive effect on your physical health and psychological well-being.

It is no myth that physical activity reduces obesity and the risk of a number of illnesses that can lead to premature death such as coronary heart disease and type two diabetes.Strong evidence shows that when people have access to parks, they exercise more. With this in mind seeking ways to lower obesity solutions can be found in investing into improving facilities that encourage sports and other physical activities in parks. These could range from outdoor basketball courts, goal posts, bike tracks, cricket nets and even some innovative and interactive park games that encourage small children be involved.

Not only is spending time in parks significantly beneficial to physical health but also plays an important roll in keeping psychologically healthy. A growing body of research shows that exposure to nature and greenery makes people healthier. A study in the Netherlands that complied health information on more then 10 000 residents next to a landuse database, that allowed researches to know which people lived near city parks, agricultural land and nature areas, produced findings that made the health connection evident. It showed that people who lived in a greener environment had fewer health complaints and better mental health. The study also found that the same health benefits of living near forest and agricultural areas were equal to those that lived near city parks.

The social change that can be achieved through the use of activities in public parks is easily overlooked. Programs that have run in parks in the US for at-risk youth have shown a link in the reduction of juvenile based crimes in those particular areas.  One program that saw success in many communities was “Midnight Basketball” where courts were left open late at night.  Significant decreases in arrests of juveniles were evident where these programs were offered.

Another important factors are that these open spaces help to create stronger ties within neighbourhoods and also play a critical role in a child’s social development. These types of environments where young children can safely interact with others help kids develop muscle strength and coordination, language, cognitive thinking, and reasoning abilities.

With global warming increasingly showing signs of a changing climate what hurt does it do to plant a few more trees? Dedicating space to open areas within cities should also be about creating an example of a community’s stance against climate change. As wells as absorbing carbon dioxide, trees and the soil underneath them also act as natural filters for water pollution and also keep cities cooler mitigating the effects of concrete and glass.

In the bigger picture if you look back to before cities began to develop making way for roads and buildings what existed there previously would have be bush land teaming with life. This expansion of a concrete city and the population that fills it has resulted in the destruction of a perfectly designed ecosystem. Native flora and fauna were either destroyed or pushed out to other areas where they could survive. National parkland has proven a critical importance to keeping large areas untouched for animals and their habitats and lowering the extinction rates to as little as possible. However, national parks should not be solely relied on to provide homes for native plants and animals. City parks, as well as other green spaces such as bike path strips, should be used to introduce native plants back into their original home. With native plants, come native birds and other animals that feed there or live within it.

Community gardens are growing in popularity. People are cleaning up vacant lots to create an environment that is accessible to the whole neighbourhood and encourages community participation. These gardens provide a beneficial path to changing our lifestyles and outlooks for a healthier and more sustainable future.
Community gardens increase residents’ sense of community ownership and stewardship, provide a focus for neighbourhood activities, expose inner-city youth to nature, connect people from diverse cultures, engages a healthy habits with foods as well as physical exercise and build community leaders.
It teachers people about living sustainably and encourages to buy and support local businesses. Involving small children also provides positive examples of a healthy lifestyle for themselves and builds their knowledge of environmentally friendly practices.

There many ways you can become involved in community gardens in order to change and improve your lifestyle and environmental outlook. Simply enquire through the internet or local council to source the nearest garden – or you could start your own!

http://communitygarden.org.au – provides extensive information on events and ways to become involved but also simple steps to create your own community garden.

It is easy to take parkland for granted and overlook the potential of public garden spaces. Giving your eye a long distance to wonder over an open green space when you have been spending your days between giant building structures is an activity that everyone should undertake for the good of their health. Perhaps next time you walk to work along the Carlton Gardens take note of possible new additions that could be made to encourage more social interaction or maybe you notice the native birds among the trees and decide to start your own native backyard garden.
Nature had it right to start with so why when we are facing many societal problems are we looking the other way? Parks and green land offer many chances to make changes to the community – they are the perfect place to bring people to together.

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