The Call of the Wild (our need for green space, at large)
Summer in the Pacific Northwest is a nature lover’s playground. Alpine meadows bloom with wildflowers that beckon city-dwellers to their trails and lakes. The cool waterways come alive with swimmers, sailors, and jet skis. Local splashpads fill with children on summer break. In every direction, you can see the response to nature’s invitation to come out and play.
But before you know it, fall happens. The transition to cooler and more frequent rainy days can be a harsh reality check. However, the need to spend time in nature doesn’t change; we still need natural spaces to enjoy.
Green spaces are an important part of any urban environment, connecting us to those wild environments we miss. This can look like a lot of different things, depending on where you are in the world. Parks, waterfronts, trail systems, gardens, protected wilderness areas, restored wetlands, forests and even sports fields qualify as green space. What matters is that people have yearlong access to them.
Being Well in Nature (the benefits of green space to humans)
There is a robust set of research that has been done over the past decade quantifying and qualifying the importance of nature in day-to-day human life. Green space provides more than a literal, physical reprieve from our built environments. Time spent in a natural environment also improves our mental health, lowers blood pressure, improves focus and productivity, and leads to a strengthened sense of community.
“Green”ing the City (the benefits of green space to nature)
To combat this cycle, cities need dense tree canopies and a diversity of lush green spaces. These spaces contribute shade while also absorbing pollutants such as carbon dioxide (CO2)—which is valuable for carbon sequestration— providing cleaner and cooler air. When examining the ripple effects of green space, it becomes clear how important parks, trails, gardens, and natural areas are to a healthy urban fabric.
Getting Outside in Vancouver, WA (equitable green space in our city)
Sustainable urbanism can begin to address some of these inequities through encouraging robust, multi-modal transit systems. New and existing green spaces must be close to lower-income developments, easily accessible via public transit, and have secure bike parking. Green spaces should be well-lit and provide safe lighting for individuals hoping to use the space before or after work. Ultimately, community engagement is key in understanding the specific recreational needs of neighborhoods and how green space can be curated (or left wild) to support them. The importance of spending time outdoors is essential to a community’s wellbeing, and everyone deserves equal access to these vegetated, urban amenities.
When the City of Vancouver invites public input before construction begins on major public projects, your voices matter. We know that natural spaces benefit everyone and that everyone needs access to them; turning that knowledge into action is something we all have to do together.