We Need Parks & Green Space

During the Pandemic

By Sandy J. Slater, PhD;  Richard W. Christiana, PhD; Jeanette Gustat, PhD. 

This is a summary, please read the full version of this article athttps://www.cdc.gov/pcd/issues...  

This work lays the groundwork for a current PAPREN Parks & Green Space Work Group research study,  which includes a policy scan of all available state-level guideline specifically looking for restrictions to physical activity and community spaces to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19. In addition, the work group will identify variations in how governments supported or restricted physical activity opportunities as part of the assessment. PlayCore is a proud participant of this workgroup.

The importance of engaging in any type of physical activity regularly, for both physical and mental health, is well established, and may be particularly beneficial in protecting the body and limiting the damage caused by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Exposure to nature or green space also has positive physical and mental health benefits. Closures of parks and green spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the options for physical activity and may affect vulnerable populations more than others, exacerbating inequities for people to access parks or green spaces if they do not live near them. Although the recommendations provided can apply to a wide variety of populations in urban, suburban, and rural settings, they may be particularly relevant for minority populations in urban settings. While not a comprehensive list nor a list that can or should be implemented in all places; it is meant to be a starting point for a conversation between national, state, and local governments, parks and recreation departments, other nonprofit organizations, and researchers. The following short-term and long-term recommendations encourage access to green space for people while allowing for appropriate safety protocols and physical distancing. 

Short Term Recommendations:

  • Keep parks, trails, and green spaces open
  • Modify policies on the use of public transit to allow access to parks and green spaces
  • Adopt Open Streets or Slow Streets initiatives so that pedestrians and cyclists have more space to move.
  • Adopt consistent messaging, targeted to the specific population, especially vulnerable and marginalized populations with consideration to multiple languages and the use of pictograms or diagrams.

Long Term Recommendations:

  • Create built environments for all users, ensuring that access and green space is prioritized on streets in neighborhoods that lack them.
  • Consider where to locate parks and green spaces, in close proximity to people, regardless of where they live
  • Conduct ongoing monitoring and evaluation, to include unintended consequences, the impact on health, and with consideration to an open platform for policy makers and researchers to share evidence-based strategies and learning.

The COVID-19 pandemic has illuminated underlying disparities in access to parks and green space for underserved and vulnerable populations. Building a stronger infrastructure of neighborhood parks and green space throughout the country will help limit the impact of future public health disasters. Before and during a pandemic, national, state, and local policy makers, urban planners, and governments should thoughtfully consider what is appropriate and important for overall population health and how best to implement some of the recommendations proposed while maintaining appropriate physical distancing in public spaces. Access to parks and green space is vitally important for the health and well-being of individuals, and it will lead to healthier populations.

Can you re-open your public green space?

PlayCore has compiled a list of helpful resources to guide you on this path.

COVID-19 Resources