RICH and SHARPE: Parks are about promoting everyone’s public health — not just boosting homeowners’ property value

Kyle Rich, Assistant Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies, and Erin Sharpe, Associate Professor, Recreation and Leisure Studies, both at Brock University, had a piece recently published in The Conversation that discusses the role of parks and greenspaces in promoting health and well-being in urban communities.

They write:

“The COVID-19 pandemic put a lot of attention on the role of parks and green spaces — particularly in large cities. But, not all of this attention has been positive.

Although the pandemic has clarified the beneficial role of parks in promoting health and well-being in urban communities, it has also highlighted inequities in accessing parks and green spaces, problems with a culture of enforcement and led to a series of policy responses that were heavily criticized.

 Recently, police in Halifax clashed with protesters and violently evicted people staying at Peace and Friendship Park and Spring Garden Road Library. Earlier this summer, Toronto police forcibly evicted residents living in encampments at Lamport Stadium, Trinity Bellwoods Park and Alexandra Park. Under the guise of “park remediation” these violent evictions were described as reasonable, firm and compassionate by Mayor John Tory despite the clashes with protesters, use of pepper spray and numerous injuries and arrests. 

These actions have been repeatedly justified as a means of protecting public safety, but activists, health experts and even city councillors have spoken out against the use of violence in these responses. 

Although current events have created a buzz, they reflect a trend in public policy that has been developing for some time and changing the way we see, use and value parks in our cities. They also highlight some of the limitations in our thinking about how parks can serve as a health resource for our communities.”

Continue reading the full article here.

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