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Funding Public Parks Could Save Lives

Funding Public Parks Could Save Lives
This has been a bad year for state and local parks. If you’ve come across park gates that are chained shut or playgrounds that are rusting, as we have, then you know this firsthand. Budget crises have forced states to not only drastically cut park funding but consider unprecedented closures as well. The impact, as Deena Loyola, the communications coordinator for Utah’s Parks and Recreation Department, said earlier this year, is that parks (and the public) suffer because of “reduced hours, facilities that are less clean and fewer law enforcement rangers.” California, with over 60 of its 278 state parks on the chopping block for 2012, is scrambling for private philanthropy to keep as many open as possible. This neglect runs contrary to public opinion, which consistently supports parks, even in a time of shrinking budgets, because they are good for the economy, animal habitats, family bonding, community building and the growing problems of childhood obesity and nature deficit disorder — a term coined by Richard Louv, who argues that children are spending less time outdoors because of parental safety fears and the presence of TV and other electronic screens. But recent research suggests that parks aren’t just good for our well-being, they may even be a matter of life and death. In a December 2005 Environmental Health Perspectives article, Amy Schulz and her colleagues suggested that parks might be a protective factor in cardiovascular disease r…
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