Parks are an essential part of any urban community. Not only do they provide places for children to play, they offer a critical—and often under appreciated—variety of environmental, economic, and public health benefits. And they don’t have to be large to have a significant impact. Even a small park, if thoughtfully designed and well tended, can make a big improvement in a community’s quality of life.
Some of the benefits of urban parks are obvious. They provide space for organized sports, biking, walking—all sorts of healthful physical activities. They also provide space for social activity like concerts, farmers markets, and family gatherings as well as informal socializing with friends and neighbors—all of which fosters a sense of community and is beneficial for mental health. But what about benefits you may not have thought of?
Trees and other plants help clean the air by filtering out pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter (dust and soot ) emitted by burning fossil fuels. Air pollution exacerbates asthma and is harmful to cardiovascular and respiratory health.
Urban heat island effect
Cities tend to retain heat due to the prevalence of hard, dry, and often dark surfaces such as asphalt and concrete. Parks—especially parks with deciduous trees—help cool urban neighborhoods by providing shade and absorbing carbon dioxide.
Vegetation, berms, and other landscape features can muffle the racket of trucks, sirens, jackhammers, and other stress-inducing noises, which, researchers tell us, can be a risk to human health.
Well-designed parks can prevent stormwater runoff and reduce flooding by encouraging rainwater to filter slowly back into the soil instead of pouring into—and potentially overwhelming—storm sewers and drainage ditches.
Beauty and happiness
Don’t underestimate the power of parks to boost a person’s sense of well-being. Studies show that even a brief exposure to nature can reduce stress and improve mood.
Still not sold on the value of urban parks? Well, consider that parks and green spaces have been shown to increase property values in the surrounding area. Average home values increase 16% when located within 1,500 feet of natural areas, and parks contribute up to 20% of the value of homes in urban areas.