There is no shortage of reasons why playgrounds benefit children, communities, neighborhoods and general physical activity levels. Allowing children to be children and enjoy the simple activity of play is an important goal, and providing a place to suit that need deserves careful consideration. Children aren’t the only ones whose needs a park or playground can suit, however. Depending on the goals and vision of the park or playground owner, an outdoor space like this can take on a variety of forms serving very different needs. Below, we take a look at the different purposes parks and other outdoor activity areas can serve as well as the unique benefits these spaces can provide depending on the vision behind them.
Different Purposes, Different Visions
A large office complex or organization that wants to build an exercise park for its employees will have a different final vision from a city looking to construct a rest and information area for a public park. Similarly, a high school looking to make a practice track field with exercise structures for student athletes will have a different vision from an elementary school planning to develop a play structure for young children. This is because a privately-owned office or apartment complex is looking to provide benefits to employees or tenants for the most part. Thus, the vision is more likely to consist of safer exercise structures, more benches along the trail, more water access, and paved roads throughout the course.
A city-owned rest and information area, on the other hand, will suite a very different purpose. Because it is designed for everyone and for public benefit, little touches like signs for specific species of trees, flowers, vines and more will really leave a memorable impression for someone. Publicly accessible areas like these are also a great place to have community activities as well as festivals, something that Austin and Zilker Park prove very well.
A Host of Well-Documented Benefits
Regardless of the vision, a park or other outdoor space can provide a wide range of often surprising advantages to those who use them and the surrounding communities. Public parks and their benefits have been widely studied, and they represent an area with the potential for immense returns for leaders in charge of making decisions. Studies by the NIH have shown immense benefits to the long term health in children with access to public parks, trails and playgrounds. Communities near public trails and nature preserves also see increased home values and increased tourism spending. Well cared for public hiking trails are a huge draw for individuals and thus businesses, and they also provide numerous ecological benefits.
Green space benefits to the environment include providing a buffer zone for natural wildlife, helping redirect flood waters, providing a refuge for healthy wildlife management, providing healthier air quality, and creating an overall healthier environment in general. That isn’t the only thing that is going to lead to better outcomes, as higher quality schools and a higher frequency of daycares in an area are all predictors of success in later life. Of course, while correlation doesn’t equal causation, many studies have shown these associations to be quite strong.
Altogether, anyone looking to construct a new park or playground should have a clear goal of the needs the structure will provide for, and they should not lose sight of this goal. When it comes to getting approval from local boards, providing a list of potential community benefits and how the final vision will help those causes can be the first step on a fast track towards approval.