The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has revealed how important local outdoor spaces are for comfort, activity and solitude. Many people are finding a new appreciation for their parks.
It has never been more clear that neighborhood parks and green spaces provide essential services to their communities to help them overcome challenges, like providing opportunities to exercise and boost their mental state. However, COVID-19 also has highlighted the existing inequities that vulnerable populations face, including lack of access to quality parks and poor environmental conditions that leave them ill-equipped to prepare for and recover from climate impacts.
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is supporting the park and recreation profession in advocating for “greener parks,” or those parks that address climate impacts through green infrastructure, as a solution to the environmental, health, social and economic injustices these communities encounter. Green infrastructure is the natural and built green spaces that use nature and natural processes to manage a variety of challenges, including water quality, flood risk, and air quality and temperature, which in turn can improve human health.
Building upon existing resources that provide park and recreation professionals with the resources and training to implement green infrastructure, NRPA created the Greener Parks for Health initiative to encourage system-wide funding and policies that institutionalize greener parks in communities across the country. Through this initiative, park and recreation leaders will be equipped with the knowledge and tools to educate policymakers about the multiple benefits greener parks provide, collaborate across sectors to coordinate master plans and projects, and build champions among community members to advocate for policy change and implementation. We also know that health professionals are some of the most trusted for information on climate change and can add their voices to the Greener Parks for Health movement. Health professionals across specialties can engage with this initiative to advocate alongside their park and recreation colleagues to build the case for parks that result in more equitable health outcomes.
As we continue to experience the effects of COVID-19, we see disruption to our political system and the exposure of deep seeded inequities. For a more resilient recovery, we must advocate for and adopt policies that support the advancement of greener parks as a solution to providing equitable access to quality green spaces, slowing the effects of climate change and improving climate-related health impacts.
Early this summer, NRPA is releasing a suite of resources aimed at equipping you with the tools and knowledge to promote and advocate for greener parks in your community, including a communications toolkit, policy action framework and advocacy toolkit. Visit our Greener Parks for Health webpage to learn more about this project and key findings. Read more about this topic in the column, “COVID-19 Crisis Highlights Need for Greener Parks,” that will appear in the June issue of NRPA’s magazine, Parks & Recreation.
NRPA is a partner of Climate for Health, a coalition of health leaders committed to caring for our climate to care for our health. Founded by ecoAmerica, Climate for Health offers tools, resources, and communications to demonstrate visible climate leadership, inspiring and empowering health leaders to speak about, act on and advocate for climate solutions. NRPA is the leading non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of public parks, recreation and conservation. Our work draws national focus to the far-reaching impact of successes generated at the local level. Leveraging their role in conservation, health and wellness, and social equity to improve their communities, NRPA’s members, consisting of park and recreation professionals and advocates, are 60,000 strong and represent public spaces in urban communities, rural settings and everything in between.