The Importance of Neighborhood Parks
With the recent renovations at John Lucas Park at 19th and Sylvanie streets, it reminds us of the importance a park brings to a neighborhood. Unfortunately, not every neighborhood in St. Joseph has a park within walking distance. However, due to the size of our community and the geography, even if you aren’t within a 15- or 20-minute walk from a park, you are typically within a 10-minute drive.
The value of parks in general involves the benefits of green space, socialization, provide event space, recreational activities, reduction in crime, interaction with nature and increased property values. They also have a positive impact on psychological well-being, development of children through multi-sensory experiences, provide inclusiveness and social equity. Parks provide green space for stormwater collection and in larger cities they serve as areas where urban heat is reduced, becoming a green oasis in the middle of asphalt and concrete. In most cases, you get all these benefits for free.
Every park is different and has different amenities, but the value remains the same. At a parks and recreation conference a few years ago, the keynote speaker asked the audience to close their eyes and recall a happy memory from their childhood. After opening our eyes, he asked for a show of hands from the people whose memory was in an outdoor setting. Approximately 80% of the hands in the room went up. This was a powerful moment for parks and recreation professionals. Obviously, not every person’s memory took place in a park, but the reality of most of them being outdoors was impactful for people who spend their adult lives trying to provide opportunities for people to have fun and achieve some level of enjoyment.
The physical improvements at John Lucas Park involved new lighting, new athletic surfaces, and amenities which eliminated unnecessary fencing and shortening the remainder of necessary fencing. These changes are only the seed to the growth of benefits well beyond those physical improvements.