Our 30 Year Obsession with Parks, Explained
By Rachel Maher, Park Pride
For 30 years, Park Pride has engaged communities to activate the power of parks. Thirty years.
The organization was founded in 1989, the year that Seinfeld premiered.
Park Pride was organizing volunteer projects and beautifying Atlanta’s greenspaces when America was “getting online” in the early 90s.
Park Pride was helping neighborhoods transform into communities—with a greenspace at its core—as everyone on Earth dealt with the reality that Pluto wasn’t actually a planet in 2006.
And it was advocating for more and better access to parks and nature in 2011, when the global population tipped 7 billon people.
Thirty years. A lot has changed over the course of three decades, both for the world and for Park Pride. And yet, it’s 2019 and we remain committed to advocating for and improving parks. Why? Why does Park Pride do what we do, and why is it so important? Why have we been obsessing over parks for the last 30 years?
You might find the answer surprisingly simple:
- Parks are good for people.
- Parks are good for communities.
- Parks are good for the environment.
Parks are good for people.
The research suggesting that time spent in nature improves individual health and well-being continues to grow. Lowered blood pressure, decreased levels of stress, improved mood and focus, boosted immune system, improved sleep, and increased energy levels are just some of the reported health outcomes of time spent in greenspace. In an urban environment, parks often provide our only connection to nature and a peaceful respite from the fast pace of city life.
“I think coming here and getting that connection to nature is so vital,” says Jessie Hayden about Briarlake Forest Park, a DeKalb County park that sits on 21 acres of remnant old-growth forest. “We are so nature deprived, and I do think coming into the park will improve your health.”
Additionally, whether you walk the trails, play basketball, or jump around the playground, having adequate access to a park encourages active lifestyles for everyone from 8 to 80-years old.
Parks are good for communities.
A great neighborhood park is a safe space for neighbors to gather, connect, and nurture a common community identity. They invite and even encourage community engagement, making communities stronger. Often, friendships between local residents are formed in parks.
“We have met so many different people in the neighborhood that we hadn’t met before,” says Jennifer West with the Friends of Armand Park in Northeast Atlanta. “This park has really brought our neighborhood together.”
Parks have the power to be the heart of communities.
Parks are good for the environment.
Parks are good for the environment, specifically our urban environment, in so many ways. Lush vegetation and trees help reduce the temperature of our city and keep us cool. Trees standing in parks and along trails clean and improve air quality. Trails that connect the places where people live, work, and play make it possible to choose cleaner transit options, such as walking or biking.
Additionally, the natural systems that exist in parks, as well as the green infrastructure amenities that are added, improve water quality by filtering and returning clean water to our creeks and rivers. This is a vital function of parks for the wildlife and communities that depend on those water sources for drinking and recreation!
Finally, parks are places within an urban setting where natural environments can thrive! They’re vital for habitat preservation and restoration, serving as a space our wildlife neighbors to make their homes. Many park groups around the city and region are certifying sections of their parks as wildlife sanctuaries through the Atlanta Audubon Society or are joining initiatives such as the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail.
“After we built the park and we have all these native flowers, native trees, and native berries, we have Monarch butterflies, bumblebees, hummingbirds (which are my favorite!), and the occasional opossum,” explains Lindsay Street Park Ambassador, Annie Moore. The park, located on Atlanta’s Westside, recently became a part of the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail thanks to their pollinator garden planted specifically to support migrating monarch butterfly populations.
People, communities, and the environment are the root causes of our obsession with parks. Parks are not merely a “nice to have” amenity; they are central to the quality of our urban lives. Without them, what kind of city would Atlanta be?
The benefits we enjoy from parks represent the “greener good” for which Park Pride has advocated for three decades. Join us at the Green Tie Gala this Thursday, September 19th to pledge your commitment to the next decade of the greener good for you, your family, your neighbors, and all Atlantans to enjoy. Online ticket sales will close on Tuesday evening (September 17th) with a limited number of walk-up tickets available the day-of. I hope you’ll join us.