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The Health Benefits of Parks

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Parks make Inland Region city neighborhoods more livable. They offer opportunities for recreation, exercise and socialization to youth, families, and adults who might not be able to purchase recreational amenities elsewhere. When parks are co-created by residents, they can also provide shared multi-cultural spaces where people can experience a sense of community and wholeness. Exposure to nature in parks, gardens, and natural areas can also improve individual and social health,1 and Creative Placemaking, 2 a cooperative, participatory process where residents co-design and rejuvenate parks and recreation spaces can lead to parks that reflect local identity through culture and art. Typically, 5 elements drive Creative Placemaking: equity, arts and culture, community engagement, partnerships and stewardship.

The City of San Bernardino’s Existing Park and Recreation Environment

Residents living at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains have access to broad regional park and recreational amenities. But within urban parts of San Bernardino, including zip code 92410, park access is much less optimal. San Bernardino totals about 40 parks that provide about 2.2 acres per 1,000 residents. However, this is less than half the city’s planning goal of 5 acres per 1,000 residents and below the California law requiring a 3-acre standard. Meeting the state standard will require 185 additional acres of parkland. Because of the current shortage of parks, 8 in 10 San Bernardino residents do not have access to 3 acres of parkland within walking distance (1 mile).

– ESRI News: Envisioning a Community of Health, Hope and Purpose 3

Why parks matter

According to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, research shows that public parks – even small “pocket parks” – contribute to health in multiple ways, from promoting physical activity to improving mental health and even having the potential to reduce health care costs. 4

Parks foster mental, physical and spiritual health

Parks encourage physical activity – Studies show that people are more likely to exercise when they have easy access to parks within their community.

Parks advance health equity – they help restore people from day-to-day stress and struggles

Parks help kids flourish – they help children be active. When kids play, they develop higher order cognitive and problem-solving skills as well as social skills

Parks are a powerful prescription to combat chronic disease – exposure to and use of parks promotes measurable improvements in psychological and physiological health

Parks help mitigate climate change – green spaces improves air and water quality—some parks provide storm water retention and water filtration and flooding control. In a heat wave, residents can go to a park and get some relief.

Solutions in Action:
El Sol’s Holistic Park: El Sol received a $5,000,000 California State Parks grant to transform an underutilized space on Waterman Avenue, zip code 92410, into a vibrant holistic campus with gardens, walking trails, park space, playgrounds and free wellness amenities for the whole community to enjoy. This holistic campus will provide opportunities for play, exercise, community gathering, social support, and environmental and health education for more than 10,000 children and adults who live within one mile of the park.

Residents, partners, and El Sol worked for 8 years to obtain land in the most low-status area of San Bernardino where our park and campus will be built (located on Waterman Ave., an area zoned for industrial use that also abuts many apartments and homes) with the vision of creating a safe, powerful and healthy park where community can gather, be inspired and create. In 2014 the holistic advisory board and residents co-designed the health, educational, and artistic elements of the park and community center. Because of our long-standing relationships, the City of San Bernardino also worked with us to develop the concept plans. Designed by a community advisory committee, the Holistic Park and Campus will cater to the culturally specific, wellness and Quality of Life needs of the underserved and unserved residents in San Bernardino. This project will serve primarily Latinx, Black, Asian, LGBQTIA, and immigrant populations. Services and activities will be designed using Creative Placemaking principles.

“[Green] space gives us freedom to explore and to discover, to see butterflies and birds and spy larger animals. I see that as a necessary part of our culture and humanity—the free space to play, to gather or to simply be by yourself. We have a need for parks and green space, and to connect with nature, just as surely as we have a need for water. They feed our souls.”

For more information about this project and to get involved in monthly Creative Placemaking meetings, contact Isaac Mendez at isaacmendez@elsolnec.org or (909) 884-3735.

[1] https://benefitshub.ca/entry/the-health-benefits-of-parks-how-parks-help-keep-americans-and-their-commun
[2] ttps://www.tpl.org/our-work/parks-for-people/parks-people—philadelphia
[3] https://www.esri.com/content/dam/esrisites/sitecore-archive/Files/Pdfs/library/reprints/pdfs/healthnews_envisioning-a-community.pd
[4] https://www.rwjf.org/en/blog/2016/08/6_reasons_why_parks.html
[5] https://www.rwjf.org/en/blog/2016/08/6_reasons_why_parks.html

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