Ashburn, VA (March 1, 2014) – The latest issue of Parks & Recreation reports on results from a national taskforce about what it takes to make vibrant communities–and great parks. One thing most parks have in common–from a pocket park tightly packed between row houses to an Olmsted expanse in a central city–is trees. Just as well-built and well-tended parks are the key to any great city, healthy and abundant trees are at the root of great parks.
The Vibrant Cities and Urban Forests Task Force was convened by New York Restoration Project with support from the USDA Forest Service. The task force consisted of 25 national experts representing fields such as urban forestry, urban planning, landscape architecture and community organizing, and its diverse membership ranged from government officials to business leaders.
They examined all the factors that make a community a vibrant place to live and developed strategies that a city of any size could adopt for getting there. The final report, Vibrant Cities & Urban Forests: A National Call to Action, outlined 12 specific recommendations for growing better, healthier communities through a renewed commitment to our urban forests.
For parks, along with the people who love them and the professionals who manage them, the report could be summed up as a call to focus on the fundamentals: Parks are first and foremost dynamic ecosystems, built predominantly around healthy trees. The report makes clear that this approach is not only right for parks, but prioritizing the role of trees also has a positive ripple effect throughout entire communities.
The article cites important paybacks to communities and citizens from treed parks and other urban forests. These include providing shade and reducing energy consumption, helping to regulate the effects of climate change, providing open and inviting outdoor spaces to improve public health, and many other benefits. Combining all the positive attributes of trees, one study in Baltimore, Maryland, calculated that each tree provides about $57,000 in economic and environmental benefits over its lifetime.
When residents in a neglected corner of a city band together to unleash the transformative power of trees and parks in their neighborhoods, their efforts can serve as a catalyst to spark a sense of community empowerment that extends to other core quality-of-life issues like schools, social services and economic development.
Equipped with the right information and the appropriate perspectives, residents and policymakers can connect to ensure that the trees in our parks get the care and attention that they need from us so that we take full advantage of all the benefits they provide.
Read the full article, “Healthy Trees are Key to Vibrant Communities,” Parks & Recreation (March 1, 2014)