The American Public Health Association (APHA), around for over 140 years, champions the health of all people and all communities. At this years 141st Annual Meeting in Boston, MA the APHA adopted 17 new policies - one policy in particular calls out the growing acknowledgement of the health benefits of spending time outside. The 'Nature, health and wellness' policy, championed by our friends at the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), states:
Nature, health and wellness — To aid in promoting healthy and active lifestyles, encourages land use decisions that prioritize access to natural areas and green spaces for residents of all ages, abilities and income levels. Calls on public health, medical and other health professionals to raise awareness among patients and the public at-large about the health benefits of spending time in nature and of nature-based play and recreation. Also urges such professionals to form partnerships with relevant stakeholders, such as parks departments, school districts and nature centers. Calls for promoting natural landscaping.
The idea that parks and public spaces can be utilized as a preventive health resource has quickly moved from niche to norm, and the passing of this policy statement by the APHA only proves this further. The epidemics that result from an indoor, sedentary lifestyle require action from all sectors of society. To elevate the message about the important role that nature can play in improving the health and wellbeing of our communities requires park agencies and healthcare providers to work together. The Institute is committed to furthering these partnerships in our own backyard and across the country through our Park Prescriptions and Healthy Parks, Healthy People programs.
[This brief description of the policy statement is not comprehensive and does not include every point, statement or conclusion presented in the policy statement. The full policy statement will be available at www.apha.org/advocacy/policy in early 2014.]
This Thanksgiving, there is much to be thankful for. The Institute at the Golden Gate’s Food for the Parks initiative has gained tremendous momentum this year. This summer we celebrated the announcement of the National Park Service’s Healthy Food Policy, outlining new healthy food standards and sustainability guidelines for national parks. Today, you will now find delicious, healthy foods offered in over 250 parks across the country.
To ensure the sustainability of this healthy food initiative, the Institute continues to collaborate with the National Park Service to generate resources for providing healthy and sustainable food service and identifying best practices across the country. The Institute recently created this user-friendly Google Map to assist park concessionaires in locating local and regional food sources. This data was compiled from across the National Park Service, USDA, and Real Time Farms, a crowd-sourced nationwide food hub guide. As we continue to develop this online resource, more layers of information and search features will illuminate how our nation’s parks can connect with more local and sustainable food hubs in every region.
All across America we see an increasing demand for healthy and sustainable foods in schools, hospitals, markets, restaurants, and our parks. Park leaders, concessionaires, and customers are all interested in reducing the overall environmental footprint of our park concession operations, and all view parks as places for health, wellness, and recreation. Thank you for joining us in the effort to bring healthy foods to our parks – Healthy Parks, Healthy People!
Wishing you a wonderful Thanksgiving!
What is the best way for us to be talking about climate change? From November 6-9, 2013, experts from as far afield as Australia gathered at Fort Baker in Sausalito, California, to share ideas on this important question. The event, which was hosted by the Institute at the Golden Gate, focused on how we can best inform, educate and empower people on this complex topic. The answer from many of the 140 participants was to make the climate story personal and place-based. How is climate change affecting us locally in our own lives? What are we already seeing and experiencing?
Many of the presenters and panelists--from authors like Jonah Sachs and Mark Hertsgaard, to academics, researchers, journalists, teachers, educators and park rangers--spoke about the value of telling real stories rooted in place. Many participants shared their personal experiences with climate change - whether it was an extreme weather event or a change in growing seasons. Since the Institute's mission is to make parks and other public spaces part of the answer, we were particularly interested to learn more from park rangers and interpreters about the changes they're already seeing in their parks.
What's your climate story?
Throughout the year the Institute team takes time to explore hubs of innovation, exchange ideas with other change makers, and build new connections. We discover new approaches from groundbreaking organizations and impact-makers that inform our programmatic perspective. Oftentimes, we draw commonalities across sectors, which inspire new Institute collaborations and partnerships.
At the 2013 Brower Youth Awards we met inspiring young leaders who pilot test environmental projects and serve as change agents in their own communities. Jonathan Ferrer, a dynamic 17 year old, shared highlights from his experience engaging hundreds of young people on environmental education and participation, including organizing the largest youth climate summit in New York. His work reminded us that through one person, impact can be amplified through the strength and support of a local community. There is a strong desire for environmental engagement among youth, and we believe that parks and protected areas can play a role as dynamic resources and inspirational venues and platforms for climate change education.
Throughout this year’s Bioneers Conference, we engaged with social and scientific innovators spanning all sectors, who design breakthrough solutions and turning vision to action. One of the hot topics this year centered on the importance and connection between our human health and the health of our environment. Together with scientists, health practitioners, and environmental leaders, we spent time outside and explored the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of being in nature. We shared the story of our Healthy Parks, Healthy People work and found new allies and partners eager to participate in the Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement.
For the first time, an entire conference track was devoted to sustainable food at the annual Net Impact Conference for students and professionals working within and beyond businesses towards a sustainable future. We embarked on an agrarian journey to Pescadero Farm with Kitchen Table Advisors and discovered first-hand the challenges, trade-offs, and solutions to achieving cost-effective sustainable foods. In collaboration with corporate CEOs, nonprofit leaders, small business owners, and farmers, we identified common challenges across sectors and shared innovative approaches to bring sustainable food service to scale. Together, we brainstormed new solutions to sourcing, distributing, and providing healthy and sustainable food service among a variety of large-scale food service systems, including the National Park Service. From the conference, we discovered new partners and change makers that will continue to shape our sustainable food program.
The Institute’s mission is to contribute to a more sustainable and healthy world by harnessing the power of parks and public lands to advance environmental stewardship and human wellbeing. It is through the consistent development of our programs and creation of new, dynamic partnerships that we believe we will achieve the greatest impact.
Which meetings, workshops, and conferences have recently inspired your work? We encourage you to share your thoughts in the comment section below. We look forward to hearing from you!
The Institute and the National Recreation and Park Association—with assistance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—convened more than a dozen leaders representing the parks and health sector to refine on-the-ground tactics for program development program delivery, measurement, and professional training around park prescriptions.
Together, the partnering organizations are furthering the movement to elevate the initiative from a new idea to a best practice in preventive health. The goal of the National Park Prescriptions Initiative is to establish national standards, based on qualitative and quantitative evidence from programs across the country, to increase the quality of new and existing programs and support more accurate evaluation of program impacts. This time next year we hope to be disseminating a suite of resources to make it easier for diverse communities to implement a park prescriptions program of their own.
Experts in the fields of health, parks, and recreation are committed to making individuals and communities healthier through regular use and enjoyment of parks and public lands. In the coming years health care providers will be able to easily prescribe time outside for patients of all backgrounds—and parks will continue to be seen as places for health and wellness across the country.
See you in the parks!
Institute at the Golden Gate is proud to partner with Cavallo Point Lodge to offer discounted over-night meeting space to environmentally-focused organizations during the months of November through April each year. A luxury resort located at beautiful Fort Baker, Cavallo Point is a LEED-certified restoration of an historic army post with a commitment to environmental sustainability. Cavallo Point serves organic, locally-sourced meals and provides a fully suite of amenities no matter the group.
The Institute’s discounted rate period begins soon and is filling quickly. Call today to arrange an in-person walk-through or discuss details for your meeting. Visit our Convene page for more information.
Do parks have a role in educating us about the local impacts of climate change? Would you listen? This November, the Institute at the Golden Gate’s will convene Parks: The New Climate Classroom to contribute to the growing movement for meaningful, practical, and local climate change education and communication in parks and communities nationwide.
With the exception of the Bay Area, it was another hot summer across America. Not the record-breaking waves of heat that scorched the country in 2012, but hot enough to exacerbate the wildfire season, deepen ongoing droughts and water issues, and get people talking about climate change.
It has also been just under one year since Hurricane Sandy crashed into the East Coast causing more than $50 billion in damage to New York City alone. Many areas will be digging out for some time to come and considering how, and if, to rebuild.
It is impossible to say definitively that one storm or event was caused by climate change. However, the overwhelming tide of opinion—both scientific and cultural—is making the positive link between the changes that we all see and feel in the daily weather and the changes in the global weather and climate systems that we see on TV and online.
Climate change is a problem that demands worldwide action. This is the toughest form of collective action, as most of us naturally pay attention to what is happening in our own communities and interest areas. Just as Twitter, Facebook, and easy cellular access have provided platforms for communicating local stories on a global scale, there are parks and publicly managed lands that touch communities in nearly every corner of the nation and the world.
The Institute at the Golden Gate asks, “What if, in addition to conservation of the natural world, one of the main goals for park systems was to actively help people understand the changes taking place in the natural world at their doorstep?”
The Institute recognizes the vital role that parks can play to help the public understand the local implications of climate change. To support the growing movement among parks to effectively and emphatically fill this role, the Institute will convene Parks: The New Climate Classroom this November. Bringing together leading thinkers on behavior change, communications, place-making, and design, this event will provide practical tools and connections to strengthen existing programs and launch new ones.
Following on the successes of the Institute’s Food for the Parks and Healthy Parks Healthy People work, Parks: The New Climate Classroom is another way the Institute is helping parks respond to our nation’s most pressing challenges and build for a 21st century future.
The idea that health care professionals could prescribe nature and outdoor activity has been around for several years, with "park prescriptions" now being pioneered by several organizations in various parts of the country.
On Monday, October 7, representatives of some key organizations agreed to take things to the next level at the first ever "National Convening on Park Prescriptions". The event, which took place in Houston, Texas, was co-hosted by the Institute at the Golden Gate and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The meeting included leaders and park champions from across the country, such as the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF), the "Walk With a Doc" group, Kids in Parks, and groups working on diabetes treatment and prevention, children's health and kinesiology. Other groups that played a critical role in the lead up to this meeting but were unable to attend due to the government shutdown included the National Park Service and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The event was a huge success and we will now be moving forward together as part of a growing national movement to prescribe parks and nature for people's mental and physical health. Watch this space for more news on this exciting movement in the coming weeks and months!
Here at the Institute at the Golden Gate, we’re delighted to welcome two new members to our advisory Council.
Whitney Mortimer is a Partner and Global Marketing Director at IDEO, the highly-respected international design and innovation firm.
Jay Ku is Head of Corporate Partnerships at GOOD Worldwide Inc, the LA-based company that serves a global community through its Good.is online platform, GOOD Magazine, and other services.
At the Institute, we believe strong partnerships and collaboration are essential to achieve sustainable development and lasting change. We’ve sought to be on the frontline in this respect, testing new concepts such as “collective impact” – which focuses strongly on how to build partnerships that make the sum greater than our parts.
We’re thrilled to have two new Council members who bring a personal commitment to effective collaboration and who are part of GOOD and IDEO, organizations with remarkable track records in building effective partnerships.
To see a complete list of Institute Council members, please visit: http://instituteatgoldengate.org/who-we-are
Director, Institute at the Golden Gate
This November 7-8, 2013 the Institute at the Golden Gate will convene Parks: The New Climate Classroom, our premier forum on climate change education and communication. We look forward to seeing you there and having your voice in the conversation.
In the tradition of the Institute's Turning the Tide conferences in 2009 and 2010, and the Healthy Parks Healthy People U.S. convening in 2011, Parks: The New Climate Classroom will build on the Institute's ability to foster action-oriented dialogue and collaboration among diverse stakeholders.
Parks of all sizes and types have a strong educational platform to communicate important topics and engage their visitors in an exploration of how the world works and why. The Institute has made it one of our core programmatic missions to strengthen this connection and build on the fact that people are more receptive to learning about the natural world when they are having a great experience outside. Parks have a unique, trusted platform for communicating about science, changes to the natural world, and observable phenomena taking place right there in the park.
The Institute's recent climate change education work has shown us that communicating about climate change is most effective when it is tied to local places and ideas that people in that area care about. Polar bears and ice caps are important climate stories, but when the impacts and implications of climate change hit home in our backyards is when the opportunity for learning and new actions becomes the strongest.
Parks: The New Climate Classroom is for anyone who understands the intrinsic connection between parks and education and wants to learn new tactics to communicate climate change topics to new audiences in meaningful ways. Parks are a tool and resource that can make all of our work richer, deeper, and more intimately tied to the places we live. Whether you work in public lands, public education, or the private sector--this gathering is for you.
For more information, visit www.instituteatgoldengate.org/parks.
It’s been an exciting year for the Institute’s Food Program! In June, the National Park Service (NPS) – in collaboration with the Institute - announced new guidelines promoting healthy and sustainable food options as a part of the national Healthy Parks, Healthy People initiative. We are making exciting strides to ensure that when you visit a national park, you will get to hike to beautiful sights and also taste delicious, locally-sourced, sustainable bites.
How is this transition to sustainable sourcing taking place? We have seen wonderful successes in select dining establishments already, so now we are taking on the challenge of assisting NPS concessioners across the country to make more environmentally-friendly, socially-conscious, and financially-responsible food sourcing decisions.
Our three-prong approach includes designing regional-based tools, establishing local connections, and highlighting best practices.
Designing Regional-based Tools
Selecting NPS concessions contracts involves multiple, standardized steps across the country, which are detailed in the Institute’s Food for the Parks report. To promote local, sustainable foods in accordance to the NPS food and beverage concessions proposal process, the Institute is developing a cost evaluation tool. The function of this tool will help to determine the local versus non-local price differentials for high demand food and beverage items in various regions of the country. This information will help concessioners shape significant financial sourcing decisions. A special focus will be given to items which grow locally in a region while opportunities to consider alternate menu options will be presented.
Establishing Local Connections
Because sustainable food systems strategy has its roots in local community development and environmental stewardship, the Institute is also providing real-time data on the availability of local and hyperlocal food and beverages. Utilizing information from our friends at Real Time Farms and USDA, parks concessioners will be able to identify, manage, and investigate cost differentials through potential relationships with local farmers, food hubs, and farmers markets. Participating in local food economies will ensure savings in energy expenditure, transportation costs, promote healthier farming practices, and result in higher quality, less-processed food and beverages for parks visitors.
Highlighting Best Practices
To supplement the regional cost evaluation tool and local sourcing information we are developing, the Institute will continue to develop and distribute educational materials highlighting the value of sourcing local and sustainable food and beverages. The Institute will design trainings on how to utilize cost evaluation tools and design resources for successful implementation.
Through this approach, the Institute will continue to support the dynamic NPS Healthy Food Program and promote the environmental, economic, and social benefits of responsible sourcing. We look forward to updating you as our food work moves forward!
Our featured blog writer, Namita M. Koppa, currently serves as the Institute's Food Program Consultant. With a background in public health, sustainable food systems, and geospatial analysis, she is passionate about finding holistic, creative, and cost-effective solutions to sustainability challenges. Raised by a mom and dad who love to travel, Namita has fond childhood memories of road-tripping to the nation's most beautiful sites via cargo van. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the world, being active, hearing peoples' stories, making craft beer ice creams, and cheering on the Duke University Blue Devils.
I want to share one example of a process we have used to strengthen Healthy Parks, Healthy People practice in our region. The model is called “collective impact” and it is gaining traction around the country. We first heard about collective impact in Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR) and have been implementing it ever since.
Healthy Parks, Healthy People (HPHP) doesn’t refer to any one program. Originally a messaging campaign adopted by Parks Victoria in Australia, HPHP serves as an umbrella for any and all activities that draw a connection between public lands and human health.
For the past several years, parks all over the globe have been working to put this concept into practice, figuring out what it means by reaching out to unfamiliar partners and testing new programs and practices. Here in the Bay Area, we saw this happening to varying degrees of success. There was a fair amount of friendly competition as different agencies were tried to solve different pieces of the HPHP puzzle. Here at the Institute, we thought creating a more formalized community of practice could create a rising tide to lift all boats. But more than just sharing information with each other, we believed there may be some things we could only achieve if we tackled them together—an elephant in the room we might only move if we each put a hand on it.
Beginning in June 2012, we launched a series of monthly meetings that were very carefully crafted to help all park and public land agencies in the Bay Area to realize a common health agenda. Participants spanned parks and public lands, public health, private healthcare, and community advocacy groups.
Get Others Excited
Our first meeting was an invitation to play in the kiddie pool, giving our participants an opportunity to see if this kind of collaborative work was for them. We asked participants to think about areas in their HPHP practice where they were struggling to make traction on their own as a single organization. We shared those—which ranged from addressing transportation needs to using the right language to communicate with local communities—and then broke into groups to tease out what some collaborative solutions in those areas might look like. At our meeting’s close, we invited folks to continue the conversation by joining our series of monthly strategy meetings and craft an HPHP agenda that would move our entire region forward. Of the 50+ participants in this meeting, about 12 organizations committed to meeting monthly with us to create the initiative from scratch.
Define a Clear Target
At the next session with this committed leadership team, we mapped out all of our current activities and identified gaps. We started to see that we weren’t sure if our HPHP activities were reaching those communities that could benefit the most from healthy activities in our parks. And to be honest, we didn’t know those communities very well. We also recognized that, so far, our new HPHP regional collaboration had mostly attracted interested park actors but not as many health or community leaders. We guessed that we might not yet be attracting the right health stakeholders because we didn’t have something really concrete to offer yet from the park side and took that into account as we proposed activities we might take on together.
At our third session, we tried to more concretely articulate our purpose statement in coming together. We recognized that we could not take on all HPHP principles at once, so we chose a defined target. There is evidence that park prescriptions most benefit communities of low income and traditionally low access to parks. These are often also communities with the most health disparity and at the highest risk of chronic health problems. We decided that, to really make an impact with HPHP, we were going to prioritize our activities to serve those communities with high health risk first.
Start Something Tangible
With this target now in place, we had a clear outcome to strategize toward: increase the wellbeing of high health need communities through regular use and enjoyment of our parks. This statement, though simple, clarified our audience (high health needs first) and the type of behavior change we were aiming for (prioritize enjoyment rather than rigorous activity; regular use rather than one-off or semi-annual events).
We debated several proposals for “first step, low-hanging fruit” activities we could take on together. We judged them against a set of criteria we created to help us stick close to our target. After much brainstorm and debate, we agreed that the best first step we could take was to commit to offering consistent, culturally relevant programing designed for first-time park users that health care providers could prescribe just as easily as a drug you could pick up at Walgreens. We thought, how incredible would it be for this to take place in every park and open space in the Bay Area at a time that works for residents and is consistent? The Director of Maternal and Child Health at the San Francisco Department of Public Health agreed that this targeted programming would be a huge offering to the healthcare and public health community in our region. This became our agenda for 2013.
The Power of Collective Impact
Our “warm-welcome” HPHP park programming now takes place the first Saturday of every month in over 23 park sites around the Bay Area with over thirty agencies and organizations on board. Some things are standardized, like the way we measure participation and program outcomes, but in many ways the programming itself is varied, as well as the recruitment strategy, so we are able to compare different approaches in different communities, evaluate and improve what we are doing.
Just to tease out the timeline: within two months we were committed to a target—the change or outcome we were trying to seek together. Within about four months we had committed to an agenda for action and a timeline. And after twelve months we are moving full steam ahead, practicing and measuring our progress. This group of over twenty park agencies and a dozen health and community supporters decided that it wanted to create an MOU that would hold us accountable to this agenda through 2015. All of this was driven by the members of the collaborative; as the facilitative leaders, we committed to holding the process and asking the right questions at the right times.
Friends and Allies
If you are looking to create a collective impact collaboration for your social issue or cause, know that you’ve got allies behind you. Click here for a summary of different programs we modeled our own effort on. While it may not be exactly clear which “low-hanging fruit” your community will take on right away, we are confident that you can get started with only the resources you have at hand. Once you share a commitment to improvement with the right stakeholders and have set a few ways you plan to measure your success and hold yourselves accountable, taking meaningful action comes easily.
Who can lead the way on climate change? Many years ago, I thought the solutions might come from the top, and that politicians or diplomats had the answers. Now, I believe progress can come locally and that we all have a role to play. I take heart from the multitude of local and regional initiatives that have blossomed in recent years. Regional and local governments, individual cities and states, as well as neighborhoods, communities, and schools, are all leading bottom-up movements for change. There are also many nonprofit organizations, think tanks, companies, and entrepreneurs who are genuinely and seriously engaged. We can feel inspired by such energy, and should be finding ways to support and scale up such activities.
The Institute at the Golden Gate is supporting this movement with a program of our own. Our initiative is focused on using parks to engage the public on climate change. In our latest report published in May 2013, we identified examples of innovative, effective, and powerful educational programs in 13 parks around the world. During the course of our research, we identified many more parks where the public were being informed about climate change in a compelling, empowering way.
Parks are on the front line of climate change. Park rangers and other staff members are a trusted and respected source of information. What better place could there be for the public to be informed and inspired on this critical issue? While some visitors are already learning from our parks, an even larger number could benefit. With 283 million visitors to U.S. national parks alone, we believe there’s an opportunity to scale up and increase the impact.
To read my full article published recently in the Global Institute of Sustainability's Thought Leader series, please visit: http://sustainability.asu.edu/news/archive/climate-action-who-will-lead
Director, Institute at the Golden Gate
What do Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Aspen Institute, The Nature Conservancy, National Parks Institute, and Institute for the Future have in common? All have held environmentally-focused meetings at Cavallo Point Lodge with the help of the Institute’s special reduced rates!
The Institute has partnered with Cavallo Point Lodge, the first national park lodge and first hotel on the National Register of Historic Places to receive LEED Gold Certification, to bring environmentally-focused organizations and groups to an inspiring setting by offering a specially-discounted rate. Between November 1st and April 30th (holiday weekends excluded), eligible organizations can apply for lodging and meeting facilities at Cavallo Point Lodge at heavily reduced prices.
Situated in Golden Gate National Park at historic Fort Baker, Cavallo Point offers deluxe meeting and overnight accommodations while maintaining a commitment to sustainability and environmental ethics with over 14,000 square feet of meeting space, outdoor gathering places, and historic and contemporary rooms, menus featuring locally produced and organic ingredients, and conservation of endangered and native species in conjunction with the National Park Service and the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.
Since 2008, more than 11,000 guests from over 100 organizations have participated in green meetings held at Cavallo Lodge under this special arrangement. To learn how you can be one of them, check out our Convene page or email Convene@InstituteatGoldenGate.org.
This year’s priority period (Nov - Apr) is booking up fast, so don’t wait!
Since 2009, the Institute at the Golden Gate has been catalyzing partnership opportunities into action and helping to make the idea of Healthy Parks, Healthy People mainstream. To this point, the Institute has built a national movement by telling the stories of successful "park prescriptions" programs around the country and inspiring leaders in the parks and health fields to take up the charge.
Over the last year we have begun a partnership with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Recreation and Park Association to compare data from park prescription pilots around the country. Together we have reached out to over two dozen experts and those already implementing park prescriptions, in order help to set national standards for programming. These experts and implementers will gather for an in-person convening in October 2013 to set the agenda and vision for park prescriptions moving forward. We hope this will further solidify Healthy Parks, Healthy People as a policy practice, and provide the evidence and rigor it needs to survive beyond any one administration or individual champion.
The Institute is committed to supporting a growing network of medical practitioners, insurance providers, parks and federal lands, and the communities they serve to establish and share best practices to connect healthcare and park resources. We look forward to reporting back in mid-October to share next steps on how park prescriptions programs will be improved and increased around the country in the coming years.
See you in the parks!
The Institute's starting point is our belief that parks and public lands can play a critical role in tackling many of society’s biggest social and environmental challenges. Working closely with partner organizations, we identify unique opportunities to bring about change locally, regionally, and nationally.
From Local to National
Since the Institute was established in 2008, we have developed a model for changing systems locally, regionally, and nationally. Our starting point is usually a specific success or approach we feel could be replicated elsewhere and taken to scale. For instance, in the realm of food policy, we were inspired by local examples in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area of cafés serving healthy, delicious, and sustainably-grown food in parks. A few years ago, examples like Muir Woods Cafe were rare in national parks, which often had a reputation for serving food that failed to match the awe-inspiring vistas and other sensory pleasures visitors come to parks to experience. The idea that the mission and values of parks could be embodied in all aspects of the visitor experience—including food service—resonated with us.
Inspired by local efforts to innovate for a better food experience, the Institute researched and published two reports examining how all parks could start to serve food that stands up to a spectacular park experience while also supporting a conservation mission. With the Institute’s support, the U.S. National Park Service adopted standards and guidelines that will affect the nutrition as well as the sustainability of tens of millions of meals served across all of America’s national parks. With these standards in place, NPS now leads the way for other large food service operators in other sectors such as museums, hospitals, schools, and stadiums, and is sharing its expertise across the country.
Partnerships and Pilot Testing
The Institute is fortunate to work with some remarkable collaborators in California, nationally, and internationally. In San Francisco, we draw on the expertise and connections of our parent organization, the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, and our partner, the National Park Service. In fact, partnerships are at the heart of everything we do. We believe that collaboration is the key to scaling up good policy and practice.
While we have the support of innovative partners in the Bay Area and are often inspired by their ideas and leadership, we actively seek out innovation wherever it can be found. For instance, one of the most original park responses to a larger societal problem first appeared in Australia. Several years ago, Parks Victoria developed a new concept called Healthy Parks, Healthy People. The idea was to make parks and outdoor spaces an active part of the movement towards preventive health care. The Institute at the Golden Gate and other allies in regional and national parks helped bring the idea back to the U.S.
The next stage was to test the Healthy Parks, Healthy People concept to prove that it could work in practice. Locally, the Institute has been working extensively with land management and health agencies in the Bay Area to test the concept rigorously. In San Francisco, we have worked with our city parks and health officials to pilot the idea that doctors should be prescribing nature and outdoor activities to patients. Across the wider Bay Area region, we are working with 30 organizations to help roll out Healthy Parks, Healthy People programs across nine counties. We are also working with experts nationally and internationally to help identify best practice and how we might bring it to scale.
A Model for Change
While every challenge requires a different solution, the Institute's approach often involves several tried-and-tested steps. These include painstaking research, publishing case studies and roadmaps, convening key stakeholders, testing ideas on the ground, and finally, influencing decision makers.
One example of this approach is our work on climate change education. In 2012, the Institute identified another area where our distinctive approach and networks could allow us to have an outsize impact: climate change. Parks are often on the frontline of climate change impacts. The National Park Service and many other park agencies both in the U.S. and internationally are taking climate change seriously, planning adaptation strategies and responses. Some park superintendents are also using this as an opportunity to engage the public on this critical issue. However, such examples are far from universal. Hundreds of millions of people visit parks and protected areas around the globe. Many are not educated or informed about climate change by their visit to the park.
The Institute views this as a huge missed opportunity to communicate effectively with a massive audience about the impacts of climate change. There is a clear gap in existing climate communications and obvious benefits if this gap could be filled.
Following the approach taken successfully in our food and health programs, our work on climate education focused in its first stage on taking stock of current activities: Who is currently educating the public about climate change in a park context? How are they educating them and with what success? The results of this research were published in May 2013 (see our climate page for more).
The next stage will be to start a dialogue among key stakeholders to identify best practices from among the many different methods currently employed and identify opportunities to spread good practice. We will hold a major conference in the Bay Area in November 2013: a high-level, cross-sector event to identify new models and methods for using parks as an important educational tool. Finally, the Institute will take these lessons to decision makers regionally, nationally, and internationally with a view to moving policy forward.
In order to truly effect change, we believe every good policy must become a widely-adopted, common practice. To ensure that the best ideas across our programs stand the test of time, our work is complemented, as needed, by local pilot testing of identified “best practice” to prove beyond all doubt that the policies are effective, replicable and scalable. As our climate program matures, you can expect to see local pilots, communities of practice, and regional collaborations emerge to stand alongside our existing food and health demonstration projects.
This summer the National Park Service (NPS) announced its commitment to provide healthy, nutritious food at every national park in the country. NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis, joined by Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and White House Senior Policy Advisor on Nutrition Sam Kass, issued new healthy food standards and sustainability guidelines for 250 food and beverage operations across the nation, reaching over 23 million meals served in parks annually.
This exciting Healthy & Sustainable Food Program was shaped and influenced by the work of the Institute at the Golden Gate’s Food for the Parks initiative. It’s also part of the international Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement that promotes the health and wellbeing of people and the environmental sustainability of our planet.
Here in the Bay Area, our parks have led the way in prioritizing the availability of local, organic, and healthy foods for visitors. Muir Woods Café was the first park concession to integrate healthy and sustainable food standards into its operations, and continues to receive local and national recognition for its healthy and delicious menu items. Through local partnerships and sustainable food service practices, the food served in our parks directly helps to reduce environmental impacts and contributes to our local economy.
Explore the healthy, sustainable and delicious food offered in the Golden Gate National Parks. Visit Muir Woods and taste the signature grilled cheese sandwich with tomato soup—or enjoy the seasonal sandwiches and salads available at the Beach Hut and Warming Hut by the Golden Gate Bridge.
To learn more about Food for the Parks and how parks are pioneering innovative and sustainable food practices, visit www.instituteatgoldengate.org/food.
This article was featured in the Parks Conservancy August 2013 Park E-ventures.
President Obama recently articulated his point of view on climate change in a policy speech at George Washington University. For many people who work on climate change on a daily basis, including the Institute at the Golden Gate, it was a long-awaited and welcome boost. It also got us thinking about our own point of view on climate change as it relates to our core constituency of parks and other protected areas.
According to a recent survey conducted by Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communications, 70% of Americans believe that climate change should be a priority for Congress and the President. This represents an opening for parks in the national climate change dialogue. There is a desire for action and parks are well-positioned, trusted sources of information that can help the American public understand and feel the scope of the issue and what action is needed by our elected officials, our institutions, and each other.
In our recent report, Climate in the Parks: Innovative Climate Change Education in Parks, we state that “The onset of climate change has become one of the greatest challenges facing parks and protected areas in the 21st century [and] embedded in this challenge there is also opportunity, as parks offer visual, historic, and tangible examples of the impacts of climate change.” The Institute’s point of view aligns with President Obama’s—that climate change is a defining issue for our time, that the science is evolving in depth, but settled in assessment, and that responding is not a political priority, it is a moral obligation.
We also believe that parks are a vital natural and community resource in our collective national response to climate change and that President Obama should reach out to the broad parks community and engage our active participation in helping to educate all of us on the challenges and opportunities of a changing climate. We’re in this together.
The programs brought over 100 people out to parks across the region, many for the first time. Families, seniors, and community groups participated in activities ranging from a stroll around the Crissy Field tidal marsh to a healthy hike in Santa Clara County to an interpretive walk at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline in the East Bay. Participating agencies had staff on hand to introduce visitors to the features of the park and talk with people about the many physical and mental health benefits of spending time outdoors.
With mounting evidence that people of all ages are more physically active when outside and often experience lowered stress levels in that environment, parks and health care providers are working together to make it easier to spend time outdoors. Together, we are helping to create a healthier Bay Area population through the regular use and enjoyment of parks and public lands right here in our own backyards.
This regional collaborative is part of the international Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement that takes a holistic approach to promote the health and well-being of people and the sustainability of the planet.
To learn more about Healthy Parks, Healthy People or to join an activity near you visit hphpbayarea.org. See you in the parks!
This article was featured in the July 2013 Park E-ventures.
We’ve seen the statistics. For the first time in history, the majority of people now live in cities. What’s more, urbanization is rising rapidly, with today’s 3.5 billion city dwellers swelling to 5 billion in 2030 and 6.3 billion by 2050. Is there a role for parks in ensuring that such rapid growth is sustainable? How can parks be part of the solution to human health and wellbeing as our cities continue to grow?
Ever since urban parks were first designed and built by pioneers such as Frederick Law Olmstead, the importance of natural spaces in cities has been recognized and supported. Parks are an affordable resource providing an abundance of mental, physical, and social health benefits while at the same time contributing directly to common goods such as air and water quality, biodiversity and carbon sequestration. Today’s global Healthy Parks, Healthy People movement is an example of urban parks’ value and relevance. This movement has mobilized public lands as a free or low-cost preventive health resource, fostering programmatic partnerships with individuals, families, and community health organizations as a way to increase their relevance and build constituencies with stewardship values.
We tend to think of the urban and the natural as opposites, but I would argue that the connections between human health, societal health, and environmental health play out robustly in all aspects of urban life (UCLA’s Jon Christensen might agree). The American Planning Association also identifies a host of ways that parks and open spaces are key to improving life in cities, including:
As urbanization continues apace, we at the Institute at the Golden Gate recognize the growing need for practical tools to help urban parks make these important contributions. Over the coming months, we’ll be sharing stories from interviews in our own backyard and beyond as we build our urban program. As with our health, food, and climate work, we will share stories from the brightest spots of innovation, bring together communities of practice around key issues, and ultimately make policy recommendations that are field-tested and stakeholder-approved.
We welcome your feedback and engagement as we build out our connections and urban activities.