New Orleanians talk funny, but parks are serious
By Jeff Thomas
More better is a funny New Orleans kinda’ rewording. Does it mean more and better or does it mean even better? Sometimes it just means superior. Depends on what you are talking about. But regarding parks in our city, more better means all three. More parks will give our people more access to better health. Cause parks are not only spaces for physical but also mental health. Parks also help the environment and can be storm water management tools. New Orleans must utilize it’s green infrastructure and create the best park system in the country. A bright future in our city is directly tied to a great park system in the city. Yes, New Orleans does need more better parks.
Benefits of Great Parks in New Orleans
People are healthier when they are active. As one of the fattest cities in America , New Orleanians need to exercise more. Doctors recommend moderate exercise as a part of healthy weight loss. 30-45 minutes of moderate exercise a week will keep healthy people healthy and help people who need to become more healthy. And the best place to exercise is in a park. Parks allow lots of people to exercise at once.
“Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical wellbeing, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality,” according to scientists such as public health researchers Stamatakis and Mitchell.
People are happier when they are outside in nature. Reduced stress. Less chronic disease,
Kids stay out of trouble when they have consistent recreational activities. “Although park and recreation departments are significant players in providing services that promote youth development, the case for the importance of the departments has not always been fully made. The services provided by park and recreation departments are more than fun and games, or gym and swim programs. These programs—which are typically organized, structured, and adult-supervised or led —provide excellent opportunities for adolescents to develop and grow to become fully functioning adults. Participation in these activities is associated with autonomy and identity development, positive social relationships, and learning conflict resolution, academic success, mental health, and civic engagement.” (Witt and Caldwell, 2010, p.4}
Parks reduce crime. Information about parks and crime is mixed. Sometimes parks become havens for criminal activity. However, when well maintained and consistently programmed, parks reduce crime significantly. Cities that fully support parks benefit from safer communities as a concept called “territorial reinforcement” results from neighborhoods that take ownership of the space creating a strong sense of community. The increased funding for parks in our city must ensure that each is properly funded. These are neighborhood funds that are better spent and cheaper than police patrols.
Parks help with storm water. Mayor LaToya Cantrell insists that more rain and more frequently is the new normal. In New Orleans, our need to be storm water experts is paramount. From retention ponds to rain gardens existing parks can be retrofitted with create stormwater management facilities.
- Rain Gardens: these shallow depressions in the ground are planted with various native plants to treat and capture stormwater runoff. They can be placed in areas visible to park visitors and would be enhanced with educational signage.
- Porous pavement (also known as pervious or permeable): unlike regular paving that allows water to quickly run off, porous pavement allows precipitation to soak into the ground.
- Vegetated swales: these shallow channels are planted with various native plants and used instead of underground pipes and concrete channels to move stormwater from one location to another. They have the bonus of allowing for infiltration and cleaning of the runoff.
- Naturalized infiltration basins: these are depressions in the ground that provide temporary storage and infiltration of runoff. They are planted with myriad natives to provide wildlife habitat and to look aesthetically pleasing.
Parks bring people together. That’s pretty evident. If you don’t know what I mean, then you need to get out to your closest park and see all the people who are there.
And the city is well on its’ way to creating a great parks system. A recently approved millage dedicates money for most of the parks in the city. This millage will dedicate funds for Audubon Park, City Park, Parks and Parkways, and NORDC. A part of the millage requires a yet to be seen parks master plan. As the city administration and the park partners work to create the master plan, the benefits of more better parks cannot be underestimated.