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Posted on February 12, 2021 at 8:09 AM by Bob Lazaro
When you think about infrastructure, transportation
networks, water treatment plants, sewer systems, electrical grid, etc. is
typically what comes to mind. The Department of Homeland Security identifies 16
critical infrastructure sectors1 . Natural landscapes and green infrastructure
are not included in their list. However, as the climate changes, it has
become more apparent that green infrastructure such as wetlands, forests, and
streams are just as critical and provide many benefits to a city and its residents.
For example, urban parks can be designed to act like sponges
during storm events and decrease flooding while filtering pollutants. A range
of Low Impact Development (LID) practices such as rain gardens, bioretention
areas, and permeable pavement can be installed in parks and public spaces.
Cities all over the world are leveraging green infrastructure to complement the
gray infrastructure such as large underground networks of pipes and tunnels.
In addition to reducing the risk from runoff, parks and open
spaces can help to preserve the urban tree canopy and provide a place for
native plant gardens. A healthy tree canopy in an urban area can improve air
quality, reduce the heat-island effect and create close-to-home opportunities
for outdoor recreation and experiences with nature.
Beyond the challenges emanating from a changing climate,
many areas are also facing a national health crisis. Nearly half of all adults
in the U.S. have chronic health conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and
obesity, and 1 in 3 children is obese or overweight. Mental illness affects
more than 46 million adults in the U.S., according to the National Institute of
Mental Health2 .
Physical activity can reduce or prevent serious health
problems, and a nearby park equipped with the right facilities and programming
can help get people outside and moving. Spending just 20 minutes outdoors,
especially in green spaces, can improve overall health and happiness. It’s been
shown to lower stress, blood pressure and heart rate, while encouraging
physical activity and buoying mood and mental health.3 Some research even
suggests that green space is associated with a lower risk of developing
Department of Homeland Security, Critical Infrastructure Sectors https://www.cisa.gov/critical-infrastructure-sectors
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), Statistics on Mental Illness https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/mental-illness.shtml
 Hon K. Yuen &
Gavin R. Jenkins (2020) Factors associated with changes in subjective
well-being immediately after urban park visit, International Journal of
Environmental Health Research, 30:2, 134-145, DOI: