Open Voices Blog

News and conversations about the growing evidence of the healing power of nature and green development in cities

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Open Voices News Roundup: November 20

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.
Mayors Get It: Parks Are Problem-Solvers
“Ask Fort Worth…

Open Voices News Roundup: November 13

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.
Parks: In a Golden Age…Without Two Nickels?
“It has…

Open Voices News Roundup: November 6

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.
Get Out and Walk – It’s For Your Own…

Open Voices News Roundup: October 30

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.
Compact and Connected Communities Improve Public Health
“We know…

Thankful for Smart Environments

11/25/14 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This November we share in recognition of the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

A couple of years ago we talked with Tim Beatley, founder of the Biophilic Cities Project, about his aims to explore innovative ways cities can incorporate nature into design and planning. This project is devoted to understanding how cities can become more biophilic, more full of nature, and to telling the stories of the places and people working to creatively build these urban-nature connections. As the site notes:

We need nature in our lives more than ever today, and as more of us are living in cities it must be urban nature. Biophilic Cities are cities that contain abundant nature; they are cities that care about, seek to protect, restore and grow this nature, and that strive to foster deep connections and daily contact with the natural world. Nature is not something optional, but absolutely essential to living a happy, healthy and meaningful life.

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Open Voices News Roundup: November 20

11/20/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Mayors Get It: Parks Are Problem-Solvers

“Ask Fort Worth Mayor Betsey Price about parks, and she’ll tell it to you straight: ‘Great cities all have strong parks. If you look at some of our European model cities, it you look at some of our Asian cities, they all have strong parks,’ she says. ‘In the end, for cities to be very vibrant and very strong, citizens have to be engaged. They have to know each other. They have to know a little bit about their city. They have to know their elected officials. There’s no better place to do that than get people out in a green space, on a trail, along the river, wherever it might be.’ Last December, Price teamed up with Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock and the City Parks Alliance to raise awareness about the necessity of strong urban park systems.”

Partners in Place: Common Ground from Allies in the Placemaking Leadership Council

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Designing for Health

11/18/14 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This November we share in recognition of the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Recently, researchers and landscape architects collaborating in TKF’s Nature Sacred Award program met for a multi-day meeting. The convening coalesced into an impromptu group discussion about how to encourage more evidence-based landscape design. How can landscape architecture firms include more scientists and health practitioners in their teams? Or, how do we promote healthcare design standards that practically meet user needs?

The Elizabeth & Nona Evans Restorative Garden, Cleveland Botanical Garden

Path gradients were carefully calculated to minimize fatigue and to provide subtle places to pause and rest, enjoy a fragrance or admire a focal point. Photo: ASLA

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Open Voices News Roundup: November 13

11/13/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Parks: In a Golden Age…Without Two Nickels?

“It has been a good couple of weeks for news about city parks. Many of them have been featured in the press with a focus on the value they bring to cities. Klyde Warren Park, a 5.2-acre deck park built over a recessed freeway in Texas, was awarded the 2014 ULI Urban Open Space Award for bridging the downtown Dallas cultural district with burgeoning mixed-use neighborhoods, “…reshaping the city and catalyzing economic development.” Klyde Warren Park is expected to generate $312.7 million in economic development and $12.7 million in tax revenue for the city of Dallas. At the Philly Parks Future Forum, park experts from five city agencies – Seattle, New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Chicago – gathered to talk about characteristics of good city parks departments. Presented by the City Parks Alliance, the forum was focused on how city parks are one of the greatest assets to the country and how they are progressing nationally.”

The Economic Case for a New Chicago Area Trail

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Open Voices News Roundup: November 6

11/06/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Get Out and Walk – It’s For Your Own Good

“Imagine this: Your doctor pulls out a prescription pad, but doesn’t prescribe a drug. Instead, the doctor orders a brisk walk in a local park. This kind of “fitness prescription” will likely become more common as we learn more about the relationship between health and regular outdoor exercise. The current state of American fitness is alarming. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than half of all adults are getting the recommended amount of physical activity … and 29 percent engage in no leisure-time physical activity at all. The numbers aren’t much better for children and adolescents, with only about 27 percent getting enough exercise. Our sedentary lifestyle is contributing to a national epidemic of obesity, which can lead to high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, high cholesterol, congestive heart failure, stroke, colon cancer, gallstones and arthritis, just to name a few!”

Minneapolis Park Will Green a Brown Part of Downtown, But at What Cost?

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Designing for our Senses

11/04/14 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This November we share in recognition of the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

 

Our earliest known civilizations created landscaped gardens to experience Nature’s inherent beauty, foster human health, or display social status. Temple gardens in ancient Mesopotamia developed from the idea of a sacred grove, where lush trees hung with ripe fruit. American explorers in the 19th century were captivated by the vast wilderness of opportunity. And the 21st century will see exponential increases in urban living likely resulting in strains on natural resources and quality of life. Human understanding and assumptions about Nature will continue to shift, and we hope to contribute to the knowledge of Nature’s inherent healing power. Providing places for refuge, recreation, and community connection, urban green spaces in the 21st century have the potential to improve individual and community well-being and wellness in multiple ways 1.

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Open Voices News Roundup: October 30

10/30/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

Compact and Connected Communities Improve Public Health

“We know from exhaustive past research that walkable neighborhoods and cities reduce driving, associated emissions, and living costs.  Three important academic studies published earlier this year demonstrate that they are good for our health, too. In particular, the research, which examines different aspects of compact, walkable, and mixed-use communities and compares those aspects to published government health data, finds that such neighborhoods and cities are strongly associated with reduced rates of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.  The reason is close to a tautology:  walkable environments encourage walking, which in turns facilitates good health.  While researchers are careful to point out that many other factors facilitate good health as well, the results hold up even when the studies are controlled to eliminate those other factors from consideration.”

South Los Angeles Residents Push to Transform Railway to 8-Mile Greenbelt

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Mindfulness in Green Spaces

10/28/14 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This October we share in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Urban green spaces provide opportunities to enjoy natural scenery, relax, sit quietly, commune with others, meditate, pray, or self-reflect. Yet your surroundings, whether a small urban park or a few plants outside your window, aren’t just a backdrop for beneficial activities. The places and spaces we inhabit interact with our bodies and minds in amazing and sometimes imperceptible ways.

Research continues to expand on the mental and physical health benefits of spending time in nature. We are less stressed, more focused, and generally happier when we spend time in the outdoors. Urban green spaces, especially those small pockets of green you find hidden among your neighborhood, can provide a moment of peace and quiet. We know exercise provides innumerable benefits, but so does pausing to appreciate your surroundings and breathing with purpose. In studies investigating benefits of meditation, the list continues to grow:

Lowered heart rate, lowered blood pressure, improved metabolism, improved respiration, improved cognitive functions, longer attention spans and improved perceptual ability, memory, intelligence and empathy 1.

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Open Voices News Roundup: October 23

10/23/14 | View Comments

Every week, we bring you the latest news in placemaking, landscape architecture and urban planning, the nature-mental health link, and much more. Check back each week for new roundups and items.

10 Ways to Get Your Kids Out in Nature, and Why it Matters

“According to Richard Louv, 2008 Audubon Medal Recipient and author of Last Child in the Woods, kids today are becoming more and more removed from nature, at the expense of their own psychological and physical well being. Children are spending more time in structured activities and on electronic devices, leaving little time for unstructured play in nature… Children who spend more time in nature develop better motor fitness and coordination, especially in balance and agility. And the benefits of the mind are not to be overlooked; greater time in nature can help children develop a healthy interior life, greater mental acuity, inventiveness, and sustained intellectual development. As it turns out, being in nature is not the “tree-hugging” hype of the past.”

Green from Green: Public Parks Increase CRE Value

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The Future of Cancer Research

10/21/14 | View Comments

Each month in our Open Voices blog we share insight from leaders in our communities who are advancing what it means to have sacred, open green spaces in our cities. This October we share in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

In addition to the stress from a cancer diagnosis, decisions like deciding the best treatment plan for your body can be daunting. In our decades-long research battle with cancer, scientists are documenting the outcomes of different treatment options and technology. An unfortunate and documented side effect of chemotherapy is loss in cognitive function and ability to focus and concentrate. And, we know from several studies that those who have recently discovered their cancer diagnosis but not even began chemotherapy already face demands on their attention and cognitive abilities. A few researchers are working to develop breast cancer health interventions to maintain or restore attention capacity during the demanding phases of illness. This research group is studying the effects of a nature-based intervention on the cognitive attention of women newly diagnosed with breast cancer 1.

A woman enjoys a moment in nature

A woman enjoys a moment in nature


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TKF Foundation
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We are a private nonprofit that funds publicly accessible urban green space. We believe that everyone needs to “be in nature” as nature both heals and unifies us. The Foundation partners with organizations to create Open Spaces Sacred Places, which increase a sense of community and contribute to a deepening of human connections. These sacred places reawaken and reaffirm the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing.

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