Safe Routes to Parks

By on Aug 19, 2016 in News

Parks and Recreation Magazine recently published an article that offers insights into the saferoutesbenefits of green spaces. By promoting an active lifestyle and positively effecting human psychology, the Safe Routes to Parks program can transform the lives of the nation’s most vulnerable populations.

Green spaces are a viable tool for improving public health and decreasing crime.

Benefits of Green Spaces

Research published in the Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives reveals that living in proximity to green space lowers the risk of all-cause, non-accidental mortality by 12 percent. Greenery reduces residents’ chances of dying from illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Scott Brown at the University of Miami studied Medicare recipients in Miami-Dade County. Those who lived near green spaces experienced fewer chronic conditions: greenery reduced risk of diabetes by 14 percent, hypertension by 13 percent, and hyperlipidemia by 10 percent.

The 2015 Urban Studies report finds that transforming vacant or gray spaces into green spaces reduces property crime and violent crime in the area.

Marginalized neighborhoods—particularly urban, low-income communities—suffer in multiple ways from a shortage of green space. These communities are prone to crime, violence, poor air quality, and polluted waterways. Record-high obesity ratings, respiratory ailments, chronic disease and shorter life expectancy plague residents. Green spaces have the power to mitigate such ills in the communities that need them the most.

Yet many high-risk neighborhoods lack green spaces. Those with parks face barriers to access. The National Recreation and Park Association’s Safe Routes to Parks Program aims to create parks and remove the barriers to attendance.

Safe Routes to Parks Program

The program first aims to create parks within a 10-minute walk of underserved communities. Studies reveal that residents within a 10-minute walk of a park have lower rates of obesity and are likely to be more physically active.

The organization aims to make new and existing park easier and safer to access. The program encourages collaboration with local leadership to improve and maintain public infrastructure. This may include, but is not limited to lighting, sidewalks, and bike lanes.

Once parks are present and accessible, the next step is to create an engaging environment that will appeal to residents. Unique park programming varies by neighborhood to accommodate the interests of residents. These programs and amenities support healthful and sustainable activities for residents with minimal impact on the environment.

Safe Routes to Parks acknowledges a link between environmental health and the well being of residents. As a result, the program seeks ways to integrate park features and programming that optimize the quality of air, water, and land in the neighborhood.

Environmental site improvements may include features such as green storm water management, passive solar heating and cooling through landscaping. Environmentally conscious programming educates the public on community care, sustainable practices for home and on-the-go.

Measuring Success

Safe Routes to Parks gathers and analyzes data to measure effectiveness. Primarily, the research will help the organization enhance the programs. Secondly, the data will aid in propagating the program in new communities. Data points include park attendance, changes in public health (obesity, high blood pressure, stress-related ailments, etc.) water capture and quality, radiant heat levels, and crime occurrences, to name a few.

The data can help the Parks and Recreation staff prioritize investments and maximize resources. To learn more, visit