The Benefits of Open Spaces from the Urban Land Institute

GreenlineAn article by Elizabeth Shreeve for UrbanLand, the magazine of the Urban Land Institute highlights several of the reasons why the uses of open spaces by communities can, “play a key role in the creation of sustainable, healthy places”. Now more than ever is an important time to really understand what benefits active open spaces can have for a community and what kind of future we could envision for our community with The Kingston Greenline.

As Shreeve writes, she explains that open spaces can bring together several different attributes including, “aesthetics, recreation, and green infrastructure”. When selling the idea of open spaces to the decision makers in real estate, she outlines the several different ways in which open spaces, which include bike and pedestrian routes, can benefit a community as a whole.

The first benefits that open spaces can have for a community are the health benefits. According to statistics Shreeve cites from Active Living Research, “only one in five American adults meets overall physical activity guidelines”.  Shreeve explains the issue of obesity in communities, which is an issue that can relate to our community as outlined in the  Ulster County Community Health Improvement Plan for 2014-2017. One reason for the lack of physical activity among communities that the article notes is the lack of safe sidewalks for activity that can be a barrier to accessing a means of physical activity.

The community health benefits of a more walkable community are important to note when it comes to the exploring the case for trails, greenways and parks. Shreeve utilizes many great statistics and findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and American Journal of Preventive Medicine to support  her connections to open spaces and positive community health outcomes.

As she notes, spaces are beneficial to the health of the surrounding community, as statistics from the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reveal, “ people who have access to walkable open spaces in their neighborhoods get nearly 45 more minutes of moderate intensity exercise”.  Shreeve explains the further benefits writing, “people who live in neighborhoods with trails, greenways, and parks are twice as healthy as those who live in neighborhoods without such facilities”, citing the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The next case that Shreeve makes is what kind of economic benefits open spaces bring to the table, explaining several important aspects of the case.The first statistic that she utilizes is worth noting, as she uses statistics from North Carolina’s department  of Transportation. The overall cycling infrastructure in the state cost roughly $ 6.7 million, “but has an economic impact of $60 million”. Utilizing the example of the city of Dallas and its urban trails, Shreeve explains that having a trail located in an urban highly populated area can be attractive to outside members of the community as Executive Director of the  Dallas Friends of the Katy Trail explains,”  we have found that people have chosen to move to the area specifically to be near [the trail]”.With a range of additional benefits that Shreeve outlines, including boosting property values, and delivering a good return on investment in the overall long term picture, she makes the case for trails and greenways.

Putting the issue into a greater perspective, Shreeve explains that the constant changing and growing landscapes of cities and communities will have to address goals for , “transportation, community gatherings, urban agriculture, habitat, and aesthetics”. As her article outlines, open spaces have the ability to create unique solutions for these developmental goal that communities may have in the future.





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