For the Love of Cleveland: The Power of Place - How Parks Can Improve Public Health
Our first event for Tuesday, June 19 was another in the "For the Love of Cleveland: The Power of Place" series put on by the City Club on Public Square with the sponsorship and support of the Cleveland Foundation, along with PNC and the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District. On this day, the focus of the discussion was on how parks can improve public health.
Once again, Mr. Rick Jackson, Senior Host/Producer at Ideastream, moderated the conversation. The participants were:
- Ms. Jacqueline Gillon, Community Engagement Specialist for Thriving Communities at Western Reserve Land Conservancy
- Mr. Stephen Love, Program Officer, Environment, Cleveland Foundation
- Mr. Alex Robertson, Program Director for Recess Cleveland
- Ms. Shanelle L. Smith, Ohio State Director for The Trust for Public Land
As the program notes read in part:
"Historically, the term health often referred to the presence or absence of disease. Today it is commonly recognized that health encompasses not only physical components, but social economic, and environmental ones as well. Urban communities often face higher health risks as a result of how our cities are built. Design shortcomings can lead to issues like greater exposure to toxins and pollutants as well as physical isolation which can create or exacerbate common health challenges such as obesity, chronic disease, depression and other mental health issues. The answer may lie in parks, not prescriptions. Well-designed parks, playgrounds, and public green spaces provide a free place for moderate physical activity, mindfulness and play, access to healthy food and clean water, and offer opportunity for neighborhood interaction..."
The conversation concerned the potential of parks to upgrade the neighborhood not only as a gathering space for its inhabitants, but economically as well. Key factors that stood out for us are that neighborhood feedback in the planning stages of a park is essential because each park must be designed to fit the needs and desires of a particular neighborhood whose residents must also take a vested interest in use and maintenance once the park is created. Not that a park should only be of use to its residents, but parks have the potential to connect surrounding neighborhoods for the better.
Other points touched upon in the conversation dealt with the challenges of establishing more green spaces and how these challenges are being met. It seemed like the basic consensus was that the situation has significantly improved in recent years, but there is still a long way to go, and we must let our political leaders know that this is what we want to make it happen.
During the Q and A, we asked Mr. Love about the potential of immigrants/refugees who worked in agriculture in their countries of origin to contribute to the design and creation of green spaces. Mr. Love agreed that the potential was indeed there and spoke of the possibility of the establishment of a credential in the area of green infrastructure that should be of great interest to ecologically-minded people including the foreign-born.
Margaret W. Wong & Associates LLC