Parks are important to the health of a community. We know this beyond a shadow of a doubt. Sure, they encourage exercise. But increased physical activity is only one of many benefits of parks. They have the potential to enhance economic opportunities, increase property values, offset pollution, and reduce crime. There are even studies that have connected time spent in nature with greater attention spans, lower stress levels, and better pain management.Not all places across the U.S., however, have equal access to green space. The National Recreation and Park Association’s Great Urban Parks Campaign is making available a grant to increase recreational opportunities and connection to nature in underserved low-income communities and communities of color. A co-objective of this grant is to incorporate green infrastructure into a model that can be replicated in other areas. Thus, parks will provide practical features like storm water management, as well as contribute to the overall quality of life for their visitors.
Can parks really make a difference? Village Green in Macon, Georgia, is a lower-income community that beautified and added recreational programs to their local parks. The project served as a catalyst to unite neighborhood watch groups, the police department, and the community at large. The results included a 25 percent increase in park visitation and a 50 percent decrease in crime in the area.
The deadline for the Great Urban Parks Campaign grant is April 29, 2016. For more information click here. In addition, the Aetna Foundation’s Cultivating Healthy Communities program is also making up to $2 million available to underserved, low-income and minority communities to promote healthy behaviors including the addition of more green space. State and local governments are eligible to apply. The deadline is April 15, 2016. More information can be found here.