In honor of Valentine's Day, the Institute staff took a few minutes to share why we love parks and green spaces, because really, what's not to love? Please share why you love the parks in the comments below!
For me, I love visiting parks because they are a great space to be social with my friends while also reaping the many health benefits of nature. One of my favorite parks in the Bay Area is Lands End because not only do you get the breathtaking views of the sea and Golden Gate Bridge, but you also get the opportunity to hike through the Presidio to Baker Beach. Furthermore, I really love spending time in parks with my friends because we always end up meeting new people and learning new things about Bay Area wildlife.
I love visiting new parks – seeing new landscapes, new rock formations, new plants and animals. Working so closely with the national parks has given me the motivation and opportunity to visit Arches, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, and Rocky Mountain in this past year. I love the amazing variety of life on this planet and the little glimpses I saw of this in the parks. But I also love the parks in my own backyard, the parks that I grew up in and that remind me of my family and my home. The county parks and city parks that my family has been hiking and exploring for years, where I had many a birthday party, and that represent connection to community and to the environment.
What I've loved most about parks this past year is the chance to introduce them to the next generation. With three young children aged six, four, and two, I'm taking every opportunity to introduce them to the many wonderful parks in our backyard here in the Bay Area. Whether it's playing in the waves at Stinson Beach, watching the wildlife on the pier at Crissy Field, or learning about America's history at the Fort Point Civil War Days, I'm grateful for the chance to see these places anew through the eyes of my kids.
Roger Williams National Memorial is the 20th smallest national park in the nation. It’s so small that I couldn’t find a spot to lay a picnic blanket down in the first beautiful days of spring in 2011. It’s so small that I walked its entire length each day to get to my first job. It’s so small, but so lovingly etched into my mind that thinking about its tiny visitor center or winding pathways (not trails!) makes my heart skip a beat.
My favorite park in Oakland is Fitzgerald and Union Plaza Parks. This small plot of land is owned by Oakland Parks and Recreation, but is stewarded by City Slicker Farms, an urban agriculture non-profit. Every week neighbors tend to the fruits, herbs, and veggies growing in the urban farm. The harvest is then re-distributed to their West Oakland community at a weekly farm stand. I like the chickens, the medicinal herbs, and I especially like the rows of nutrient-dense, leafy green vegetables, but that’s not what I love about the park. What I really love about this park is what this little farm represents: a community reinvigorating a once underutilized green space. Fitzgerald and Union Plaza Parks is a living reminder of the special places and special relationships that bloom when neighborhoods, city government, and community organizations work together.
What’s not to love about parks, especially the national parks? I love the process of planning a vacation and trying to visit as many parks as possible in one trip, the excitement of travelling to a new place by car or plane, and that awe-moment when you see the natural wonder for the first time. It’s always special to have the opportunity to gaze up at Half Dome, peer into the Grand Canyon, or watch Old Faithful erupt at Yellowstone, and those are experiences I will cherish forever. I'm already planning my next national park road trip because I can't get enough of them - Glacier National Park here I come!
I love parks because they were, and still are, a place where I can exercise my imagination. Living in the city, most buildings and streets are labelled. There's isn't really any mystery to what you see. When I was young, parks were places that my grandparents often took me to and where I remember countless hours of molding the scenery around me. At Sutro Park, near Ocean Beach, I was usually d'Artagnan from the Three Musketeers and the scene was in Paris. Other times I was Aladdin and Sutro transformed into the streets of Baghdad. Coming back to that park still elicits the best memories for me and, even now, it is a place where I can let my thoughts flow unrestrained.