One of the great joys of living in Minnesota (Life Floor headquarters are located in Minneapolis, MN, which at the time of writing this, is a balmy -4F) is the emphasis on parks, green spaces and natural landscapes. We’re a land of 10,000 lakes, and just about every single one of our lakes has a park attached, usually with a playground, a well-maintained trail, and (our favorite) splash pads. As people who have grown up with beautiful parks, and who are raising our children to enjoy these parks, we cannot be more thankful that we live in a part of the country that treasures park and recreation programs.
But not every part of the country is as fortunate as Minnesotans. 1-in-3 Americans do not have readily available access to public parks. The Trust for Public Land’s 10 Minute Walk To a Park is a campaign founded on the idea that no child in America should grow up more than 10 minutes away from a local park, green space, or preserved open area. Since its founding in 1972, The Trust for Public Land has helped over 7 million people by creating 4,900 parks nationwide and protecting 3,544,000 acres of public land. Their main focus is to create green spaces in urban areas where a lack of parks leaves children with limited options for play.
The public demand for parks is supported by a solid base of research. A study by the Trust for Public Land has shown that bond measures involving the acquisition of parks or conserving open space have had voter support exceeding 75%. This is an amazing majority of the public that views parks as a vital part of government spending. Beyond the economic, environmental and health benefits of having accessible parks (which are many) neighborhood parks become a centerpiece of the social atmosphere of a community. They are often the spaces where people socialize, where communities gather together to volunteer, learn, vote, celebrate, mourn and interact without barriers to entry.
So essential are parks to a thriving community that, according to the National Recreation and Park Association, “there are no communities that pride themselves on their quality of life, promote themselves as a desirable location for businesses to relocate, or maintain that they are environmental stewards of their natural resources, without such communities having a robust, active system of parks and recreation programs for public use and enjoyment.” (x)
The 10-minute Walk To A Park campaign helps Americans of all ages, but there’s no question that children are hugely impacted by the condition of our public parks. The importance of play (x) has been well documented in terms of childhood development. Green spaces, playgrounds and splash pads are safe, unique and engaging ways to encourage experimentation and imagination. Access to parks, as well as other recreation opportunities, have been strongly linked with reductions in crime and juvenile delinquency, which is a benefit to everyone.
The more innovations that go into making parks a boon to every member of the community, the more vital it is that every American has access to them. Whether that’s turning empty lots into playgrounds, industrial riversides into river walking trails, or revitalizing space that already exists and needs to be protected, there exists a way to create space that’s safe, green and accessible to everyone.
We strongly believe in creating places of play that are safe to play in, as energetically as kids want to, without the risk of serious injury, and look forward to partnering with municipalities around the country to support their aquatic play areas.