Urban Park Designs Influence the Health of City Residents

Parks in cities are more than just pretty places to sit and relax.  They have positive effects on community health. The design of a park “plays a crucial role in how much it is used and, therefore, what level of impact it can make” on community residents.

Jeff Caldwell from UrbDeZine Chicago decided to examine various designs and forms of urban parks, which all have positive effects on the community’s health.

Minneapolis/St.Paul has a park that is includes five different lakes, called the Chain of Lakes. This park encourages residents to be physically active in more than one outdoor activity. The Wissahickon Park in Philadelphia improves residents’ health by keeping the water clean. The park “absorb[s] and clean[s] the polluted run-off water from surfaces before it can hit the waterway.” Lincoln Park in Chicago is designed to include different features that “draw different races and ethnicities” to the park. Groups of people have different preferences in what they like in parks and types of activities in which they want to participate. Ruff House Dog Park in Richmond provides space for dog lovers to be active with their dogs. And finally, Caldwell focuses on Portland, Oregon. Portland has about 10,000 acres of parkland in the city. The city truly prioritizes parks and benefits they provide for community members.

Caldwell shows us that there are many park forms but they all have something in common: they help us improve our health and well-being. Providing open park space in the White Flint sector is important to us, which is why we continue to advocate for the Wall Park development.

The Power of Walkability: A Town’s Million Pound Loss

TED Talks recently released a video from April 2013 of Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City, discussing the healthy transformation his city recently experienced. Mayor Cornett speaks about how his city, once named by Men’s Health Magazine as one of the fattest cities in America, was able to lose a collective million pounds through the use of a few strategies. Cornett mentions that focusing on sidewalks connecting services and amenities throughout the city was a huge factor in this amazing transformation. We hope that the sidewalks and walkable areas in White Flint will inspire healthy changes among our residents, as well!

Please enjoy this video and share any and all thoughts!

 

Is Walking the “New Wonder Drug”?

The design of our cities and towns may have a major impact on our health and well-being. As diseases such as obesity and diabetes rise to epidemic levels in the United States, what strategies are both health professionals and community development practitioners using to combat these health concerns? How does urban design impact the levels of these diseases in the US?

Jay Walljasper, a guest writer for Project for Public Spaces, recently uncovered a “new drug” doctors are prescribing to treat or even prevent these health concerns, an activity community development practitioners should focus their attention on.

Walking

 

Walljasper interviewed Bob Sallis, a leader from the National Walking Summit which took place in D.C. a few months ago, to discover why walking is the “new wonder drug.” Sallis discussed three factors that make walking the best treatment: “1) Low or no cost; 2) Simple to do for people of all ages, incomes, and fitness levels, and 3) Walking is Americans’ favorite physical activity.” Sallis’ reasoning seems straightforward but why are doctors prescribing walking now? Walking may be one of the oldest activities known to human-kind, so I should be able to walk to work or walk to my favorite shop.

Well, a problem is that many regions across the U.S. are not designed to promote physical activity like walking. If we want to use walking as a treatment or prevention for epidemics such as obesity and physical inactivity, then the places we live in must make walking easier. As we know, the built environment of an area influences the way people live. We believe that cities should be built to encourage walking, which will ultimately make us happier and healthier.

White Flint’s current design is focused on the car, preventing pedestrians from having a safe and secure space to walk. The White Flint Sector Plan is designed to encourage healthier living by promoting walkable spaces. Walking may be the best “new” treatment but our towns and cities must foster the ability to walk for this treatment to be successful.

Read Walljasper’s full article here.