"... more than just a place my grandchildren enjoy."
~ J. Scott Carter
A "benefit" is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as something that promotes 'wellbeing'. So when addressing urban park benefits, a community is inclined to have concern on how provided park services promote human or societal wellbeing, either directly or indirectly.
'Wellbeing' is defined as a positive social and mental state, not just the absence of pain, discomfort and incapacity. It requires that basic needs are met, that individuals have a sense of purpose, and that they feel able to achieve important personal goals and participate in society. Enhancing wellbeing are conditions that include supportive personal relationships, good health and strong inclusive communities.
Potential benefits of urban parks include:
- Human health and wellbeing: i.e., the positive impacts of parks and park use on human health (both mental and physical) and wellbeing, either through direct or indirect effects, such as recreation and leisure activities.
- Social cohesion identity: the role of urban parks in strengthening social ties, relations and cohesion.
- Tourism: leisure visits outside of one's own living or working environment, typically longer-term stays. Apart from potentially promoting the health and wellbeing of visitors, tourism is also of interest due to its contributions to the local economy.
- House prices: the value of urban parks as part of the living environment as reflected in higher real estate prices (for both houses and apartments).
- Biodiversity: the role of parks in harboring and promoting biodiversity.
- Air quality and carbon sequestration: positive impacts of urban parks in terms of reducing air pollutant levels and carbon sequestration.
- Water management: contributions of parks to storm water/run off regulation.
- Cooling: the role of parks in the cooling of urban areas.
One key link between parks and health might be the opportunity for regular exercise and to escape the 'jar of the streets.' Exercise helps maintain healthy bones and muscles, builds cardiovascular fitness and relieves the psychological and physiological stress long linked to poor health. The chance to escape the city's noise and bustle also relieves stress, which might otherwise be expressed through aggression or the abuse of drugs and alcohol. Parks also contribute to public health by helping to mitigate air pollution, noise and other environmental stressors and by acting as green buffers between industrial areas and residential neighborhoods.
Steve Curtis has worked as a business consultant and communication specialist. He is currently mayor of Layton. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.