Why do we need Green Space?
No matter how one defines a green space, it is clear, given the present state of modern humanity – obese, bored, and depressed – that green space is vitally needed. Here, we explore a multitude of different types of green space which are beneficial our wellbeing. The final section will include a measureable look at the health and urban cost reduction benefits of urban green spaces.
A greenway is a strip of undeveloped land near an urban area, set aside for recreational use or environmental protection. However, the term can in fact include a scenic road and though many are in urban areas, there are some rural greenways, for example the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway, a hiking trail in southern New Hampshire. There is also the Kanza Trail, a biking trail in rural Central Kansas. A greenway is a trail and sometimes a wildlife corridor, found in both urban and rural settings. Frequently they are created out of a disused railway, canal towpath, utility or derelict industrial land. Rail trails are one of the most common forms of greenway, and they also resemble linear parks. In the south of England the term also refers to ancient trackways or green lanes, especially those found on chalk downlands, like the Ridgeway.
An Open Space Reserve
An open space reserve is an area of protected or conserved land or water on which development is indefinitely restricted. The purpose of an open space reserve many include the preservation or conservation of a community or region’s rural, natural, or historic character; the conservation or preservation of a land or water area for the sake of recreational, ecological, environmental, aesthetic, or agricultural interests; or the management of a community or region’s growth in terms of development, industry, or natural resource extraction. Open space reserves may be urban, suburban, or rural; they may be actual designated areas of land or water, or they may be zoning districts or overlays where development is limited or controlled to create undeveloped areas of land or water within a community or region. They may be publicly owned or owned by non-profit or private interests.
Urban Open Space
In land use planning, urban open space is open space areas for parks, green spaces, and other open areas. The landscape of urban open spaces can range from playing fields, to highly maintained environments, to relatively natural landscapes. They are commonly open to public access; however, urban open spaces may be privately owned. Areas outside of city boundaries, such as state and national parks as well as open space in the countryside, are not considered urban open space. Streets, piazzas, plazas and urban squares are not always defined as urban open space in land use planning. The term urban open space can describe many types of open areas. One definition holds that, as the counterpart of development, urban open space is a natural and cultural resource, synonymous with neither unused land nor park and recreation areas. Another defines open space as land and/or water area with its surface open to the sky, consciously acquired or publicly regulated to serve a conservation and urban shaping function in addition to providing recreational opportunities. In almost all instances, the space referred to by the term is, in fact, green space. However, there are examples of urban green space which, though not publicly owned/regulated, are still considered urban open space.
Wildlife crossings are structures that allow animals to cross human made barriers safely. Wildlife crossings may include underpass tunnels, viaducts, and overpasses, mainly for large or herd type animals. They may also include amphibian tunnels, fish ladders, canopy bridges for monkeys and squirrels, or tunnels and culverts for small animals such as otters, hedgehogs, or badgers. It may also include green roofs for butterflies, birds, and the like. Wildlife crossings are a practice in habitat conservation, allowing connections or reconnections between habitats, or combating habitat fragmentation. They also assist in avoiding collisions between vehicles and animals, which in addition to killing and injuring wildlife may cause injury to humans, as well as potentially damaging property. Similar structures can be used for domesticated animals, such as using creeps for cattle. These structures can be urban, suburban, or rural.
Health Benefits of Green Spaces
Access to vegetated areas such as parks, open spaces, and playgrounds has been associated with better perceived general health, reduced stress levels, reduced depression, and more. According to the Worth Health Organization, physical inactivity is a major public health risk. In Australia, nearly half of all Australians do not meet even the thirty minute daily physical activity recommendations. One study found that people who use public open spaces are three times more likely to achieve recommended levels of physical activity than those who do not use the spaces.
Users and potential users prefer nearby, attractive, and larger parks and open spaces. Thus, improving access to public open space has the potential to increase levels of physical activity, and to have mental health benefits and reduce healthcare and other costs. Urban parks also contribute environmental benefits. A network of parks and open spaces that include protected natural lands, ecological reserves, wetlands, and other green areas is critical to providing healthy habitats for humans, wildlife, and plants in these densely built places. Natural landscapes are vital to preserving regional ecosystems amid growing cities.
Parks also help create human and energy efficient cities that can help slow global warming. Linear parks and open spaces make compact living attractive and viable. Trail networks link individual parks, making them easier to bike and walk. Old rail lines can be transformed into greenways, and gardens planted on rooftops maximize limited space and curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Every tree helps fight global warming by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and by helping to cool cities.
In the US, an evaluation of the largest 85 cities in the country, a total population of 57.2 million, found the health savings from parks was an estimated $3.08 billion. The environmental savings are significant as well. Trees and vegetation in urban parks offer lower cost, natural solutions for addressing storm water runoff and air pollution. One major city, Philadelphia, experienced $16 million in annual public cost savings as a result of storm water management and air pollution reduction, according to a 2008 report by the Trust for Public Land Center for City Park Excellence.