Friday, March 20, 2020
Parks are a Necessity More Than Ever Before
By Shanelle Smith Whigham, State Director, Trust for Public Land
Two weeks ago, I was on a The City Club of Cleveland panel to talk about the book Palaces for the People and to discuss "how can we ensure public spaces are designed for and by the people who will use them?” Today, I’m on Day #4 of social distancing and working from home for the next six weeks (or more).
I’ve seen many articles and news reports suggesting that people should spend more time outdoors for renewal and their mental and physical health. These articles confirm what we know at the The Trust for Public Land, that parks are a necessity and not a nice to have and that across all age groups, greater access to parks is associated with reduced stress, reduced risk of depression, and greater mental health and well-being.
What is not escaping my mind is the 100 million Americans, including 28 million kids, who do not have access to a near to the home park, and in particular, all of my Clevelanders do not live within a 10-minute walk to a park.
On the panel, I posed the question, if those who live in our most vulnerable communities can't get access to job centers, how can they get access to some of our iconic regional parks? This is the question that all Clevelanders who work within the park space and care about our community should be asking themselves.
Now more than any time ever in my lifetime, even more than the Great Recession, we are seeing inequities play out in ways we have never seen before, and I am challenging myself on how can I use this time because I have the privilege to, to think bigger, and bolder about how to transfer power to those who have been traditionally deemed powerless.