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.
Congratulations to the National Park Service for their commitment to providing healthy and sustainable food in our nation’s parks. Today senior White House officials announced that all park visitors will have healthy and nutritious food choices at 250 food and beverage operations throughout the country, reaching 23 million meals served annually. Right here in the Bay Area, Muir Woods Café has already received national recognition for serving 90% organic, healthy, sustainable, and Food Network acclaimed food for the park – stop by and have a taste!
Healthy Parks, Healthy People!