Why parks? Why now?

Darlene Heater, executive director of University City Partners, addressed the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners on April 15, 2019, about the urgent need for funding to buy park land. This is the text of that address.

Dear County Commissions, County Manager and Parks Director,

Thank you for allowing me time on the Monday evening public comments agenda to share the reasons that parks are important to building livable communities that attract and serve residents. I am sharing them in written format via this email.

Reedy Creek Park playgroundAs I shared, land for parks is disappearing before our eyes–and especially so in high growth areas including University City.

I am urging you to plan for our future that will include easy access to parks. We are at a tipping point, and parks make Charlotte livable, inclusive, healthy. And, they strengthen our community fabric.


Parks reflect a community’s quality of life

Parks are a tangible reflection of the quality of life in a community. They define the shape and feel of a city and its neighborhoods. They provide identity for citizens and are a major factor in the perception of quality of life in a given community.

Parks also ensure the health of families and youth and contribute to the economic and environmental well-being of a community and a region.

Access to parks and natural amenities is the foundation of great places – they are what attract people … and investment. Most importantly, public parks can provide rich and equitable opportunities for all residents. Here’s why:


Parks create community

People gather to share experiences, socialize and to build community bonds in common green spaces. These public commons are often the glue that holds the community together and the means to maintaining and improving future positive social interactions.


Parks make us healthy

Parks make a neighborhood more enjoyable to walk through and provide space for popular sports, encouraging physical activities. They provide hiking trails and other amenities designed to get people active.

Direct exposure to nature has its own benefits on mental health, reducing stress and increasing happiness. Recent studies show that even 10 minutes in a park or urban woodland area can tangibly reduce stress.


Parks help kids develop and learn

Being outside and playing in nature is crucial for the healthy development of children. Learning to play in nature improves hand-eye coordination, improves the child’s ability to learn and reduces symptoms of ADHD, training the brain to focus better.

Children who spend a significant amount of time in nature also experience better emotional stability and improved mental health.


Parks improve air quality and storm water management

Because trees remove a wide variety of pollutants from the air, parks reduce the risk of certain cancers and air pollution’s adverse effects on children, the elderly and anyone with underlying respiratory problems. Parks also help communities manage storm water naturally.


Parks preserve our local ecosystems

Parks provide natural habitats for animals, insects and flora. This also makes parks great places to teach children about the environment and the importance of preserving natural ecosystems.

I am urging you to plan for our future that will include easy access to parks. We are at a tipping point, and parks make Charlotte livable, inclusive, healthy. And, they strengthen our community fabric.

Yours in service,

Darlene Heater

Executive Director

University City Partners


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