The importance of parks:

Nature: A Public Health Imperative

As Atlanta’s population grows and the urban environment is developed, our access to nature and greenspace is at risk. What would we lose if we lost our connection to nature? What would that mean for our health and quality of life? And what role do urban parks play in maintaining that connection?

Nature is Medicine

At the 2019 Parks and Greenspace Conference, keynote speaker Dr. Nooshin Razani, Director of the Center for Nature & Health at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, argued for a “daily dose of nature.”

Her research shows that each time a patient visits a park, their cortisol (the hormone linked to stress) levels decrease an incremental amount below their previous visit. This suggests that repeated exposure to nature has greater benefits than a single visit alone.

Dr. Razani’s research also demonstrates that nature strengthens mental and emotional resilience in both kids and adults, an effect that can literally add years to your life.

“Those who live in greener neighborhoods have reduced mortality,” said Dr. Razani. “To me, that means that access to nature is absolutely a public health imperative.”

Blue Heron Nature Preserve is one example of precious greenspace found here in the City of Atlanta.

Access to Nature in the City

Parks are the crux of urban dwellers’ access to nature, whether it be via a wooded trail, stone steps across a babbling creek, a pollinator garden, or a perfectly placed bench under a shade tree. All children and adults deserve to have a quality park within walking distance of their home that they can visit regularly for their daily dose of nature.

If proactive steps to protect greenspace and increase access to nature are not taken now, thousands of Atlanta-area residents are at risk of not being able to access parks and the associated health benefits that can last a lifetime.

“…access to nature is absolutely a public health imperative.” ~ Dr. Nooshin Razani

 

Children engage in free play in nature, exploring the creek at Little Nancy Creek Park in the City of Atlanta.

How Can You Protect and Promote Nature in the City?

Get involved to preserve and protect nature.

City of Atlanta residents need to take proactive measures to ensure that our urban forests and natural areas are protected and that access to them is enhanced.

Atlanta’s Department of City Planning is developing the Urban Ecology Framework (UEF), a plan to determine what aspects of nature (forests, greenspaces, rivers) in Atlanta should be preserved, restored, and accentuated. Attend a public meeting to let your voice be heard in favor of preserving natural areas for future generations to enjoy (visit bit.ly/urbanecologyatl for more information).

You can also write to your City Council representative and tell them that you support policies that bring parks within walking distance of all residents (citycouncil.atlantaga.gov).

Share a daily dose of nature with friends and family.

Everyone benefits from time spent outside. Below are some of Park Pride staff’s favorite places to get their daily dose of nature close to home:

  • At Cascade Springs Nature Preserve in southwest Atlanta, you’ll find trails, moss-covered boulders, native plants and wildlife, and a waterfall cascading into Utoy Creek.
  • Constitution Lakes Park features a lake and beautiful wetlands crossed with a boardwalk and meandering trails in south DeKalb.
  • A hidden gem outside the perimeter, Tucker’s Henderson Park offers over four miles of wooded hiking trails, as well as a Native Plant and Wildlife Walk!
  • Ashford Forest Preserve is a serene 30-acre natural area in Brookhaven. The park offers peaceful respite with walking trails through old growth forest, meadows, and wetlands.

 

To learn more about Dr. Razani’s research on childhood health, her practice, and the Park Prescription initiative, view her TEDxNashville video: bit.ly/razanitedx.

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