In our previous issue, we highlighted a report published by the NLC Center for Research and Innovation that discusses ways in which municipalities can take advantage of our natural resources to help reinforce our nation’s infrastructure. The initiative, known as Green Infrastructure, uses nature’s design and integrates the existing ecosystem into a city’s urban environment.
In the January 23rd issue of Governing.com, the idea of urban parks is presented as an interesting tie-in to these efforts. With nearly 80% of Americans living in urban environments, and “a new focus on environmental resilience to flooding…driving city planners to more strongly consider “mixed-use” infrastructure”, the report makes a compelling argument for the important role urban parks play, “urban parks are not luxuries; they are essential infrastructure for 21st century cities”.
Mayors in many cities recognize the reciprocal value of an urban park. As these green spaces improve the quality of life for residents, property values increase, leading to greater investment in the community. An article published by the University of Washington, College of the Environment, cites that “homes that are adjacent to naturalistic parks and open spaces are valued at 8-20% higher than comparable properties”. And a briefing paper published by the American Planning Association lists several cities where these statistics play out.
Understanding the value of parks, not only to community and property values, but also how it supports water infrastructure management, Atlanta embarked on an impressive project in the historic Fourth Ward Park and Reservoir. The park, featuring a water-retention pond designed to help mitigate flooding, includes a 22-mile network of parks and trails connecting 45 neighborhoods. Atlanta’s Department of Watershed Management saved million by choosing this option over “tunneling and installing a single-use network of pipes.”
Jaime Matyas, President and CEO, Student Conservation Association, outlines many other benefits of public parks in a guest post at NLC.org, including one of great value that is not as easily quantified, when she suggests that “enhancing our nation’s parks and ensuring that their upkeep benefits everyone can become a point of community and national unification.”