Open Voices Blog

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

New Year brings new direction and new executive director at the TKF Foundation

12/30/17 | View Comments

Some exciting changes are afoot here at the TKF Foundation – ones that will see us shifting our focus and digging deeply into the network of Open Spaces we have worked to help cultivate over the past two-plus decades. A central part of these changes is our welcoming of Erin Robertson as our new executive director.

Erin is taking over for Mary Wyatt, who is retiring after more than 20 years; during which time we funded more than 130 greenspaces, and the National Nature Sacred Award Program.

Incoming Executive Director Erin Robertson

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At National League of Cities Conference, a budding interest in urban greenspaces

12/18/17 | View Comments

We were on the ground—and the agenda—at one of the largest conferences for city leaders in the US. Following, some soundbites on what we learned.


Recently, Jay Graham, FASLA and long-time TKF advisor, traveled to Charlotte, North Carolina, where more than 4000 municipal leaders from throughout the country had convened for the 2017 City Summit conference led by the National League of Cities. Our short documentary film, Butterfly Angels, which tells the story of how nature helped one Joplin community heal following the deadly cluster of tornadoes that struck there 6 years ago, was being screened; part of a program of speakers and workshops addressing ways to strengthen cities and towns.

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What do we mean by “open”?

12/07/17 | View Comments

Quite a few things, really—good things.

At Nature Sacred, we’ve honed a unique formula to infuse greenspaces into urban communities in the name of improved health, wellbeing and unity. At its core lies an ethos centered around being “open”. And let’s face it, the term open is a bit, well, open.

Let’s put a finer point on what we mean.

Physically Open

Every Sacred Place must be designed to welcome all visitors—accessible to the public. No locked gates, buildings to pass through, or fences to serve as barriers; rather, we encourage at least one open portal to gladly receive visitors of all kinds. This portal could archway, a gate, a stand of trees, a pergola, or other marker—intended to invite people into a safe, sacred space in nature; apart from the everyday stress and fracas.

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Can nature play a positive role before and after birth?

11/30/17 | View Comments

Photo credit: Legacy Health



Located at the threshold of Legacy Emanuel Medical Center’s second floor Family Birth Center, is A Nature Place, a therapeutic green space where on any given day you’ll find laboring mothers rocking in chairs; newly minted siblings gathering with expanded families, surrounded by green.

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A better way to fight neighborhood crime

11/24/17 | View Comments

While there’s been a nationwide decline in crime rates over the past two-and-a-half decades, it’s still an issue that claims a lot of oxygen and ink. And for good reason.

Though all kinds of initiatives, like better policing, have been credited for the improved statistics, some people believe the answer relies in large part to softer initiatives born in the neighborhoods that are actually bearing the struggle; efforts supported by nonprofits of many stripes.

One example: the creation of neighborhood greenspaces, of which there is often a dearth of in distressed neighborhoods. This is a cause we have been committed to for over two decades. Public health studies in recent years have noted the absence or inadequate presence of trees, parks and open spaces in underserved areas. This was noted in a report we released in 2014 titled Environmental Equality; Providing Nearby Nature for Everyone.

Since that report was released, attention to this particular inequality has continued to grow.

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Thoughts on gratitude via #Benchstories

11/23/17 | View Comments

This Thanksgiving Day, we’re re-sharing a Bench Story that includes thoughts of gratitude; this entry is from the journal in the Open Spaces Sacred Places at Bon Secours Spiritual Center in Baltimore, Maryland. 

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Disaster recovery and a nature fix

11/17/17 | View Comments

In a couple of short weeks, the Atlantic hurricane season will officially, and hopefully quietly, end, though the disaster it left in its wake will continue to tax communities from Texas to Puerto Rico for weeks and months to come.

In fact, many communities most likely will be still putting the pieces back together again when the next season begins in June. And this should give us all reason to pause. To think. What can we do to encourage recovery?

Of course, our focus at TKF is reacquainting the public with nature, and educating on the power it holds to help restore us individually and as communities and encourage better mental and physical health.  

Greening efforts are an essential piece of recovery; not just of our built and natural environments, but of the people who comprise our communities. This is a key message researchers and social scientists are urgently trying to get across to the public.

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A filmmaker’s perspective; Alden Stoner on Hurricane Healing Garden

11/16/17 | View Comments

We recently launched our latest short film on the community garden project in Queens that is part of our National Nature Sacred Awards program. Below, a letter from the filmmaker Alden Stoner, which also appeared in The Dirt, the American Society of Landscape Architects blog. 

Rarely have I worked on a project that I feel is quite as timely and potentially impactful as this film on the Beach 41st Street garden. With images of Texas, Florida and the Caribbean fresh in our minds, this story of how nature has helped one Queens community heal following Hurricane Sandy is incredibly relevant.

When we finished shooting this past spring, it was months before the name Harvey had been uttered on a weather forecast. But by the time September had arrived, and with it a new wave of destructive storms, we at TKF felt a renewed sense of urgency to shine a light on what we had learned through our work in Queens post-Sandy.

When Sandy’s storm surge engulfed the Rockaways, the devastation was intense. You get a visceral sense of what the residents of Beach 41st Street, a New York City Housing residence, lived through in the voice of Celeste Grimes, one of the resident gardeners we interviewed for the film. She described it in apocalyptic terms.

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At Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, nature is helping wounded warriors heal from invisible wounds

11/10/17 | View Comments

One year ago, work began to gently shape a lush, wooded piece of land beside our nation’s flagship military hospital into a healing garden space for wounded warriors and their families. The project has been groundbreaking. While we funded “The Green Road” project, it has been led by Dr. Fred Foote, a retired US Navy Captain and scholar at the Institute for Integrative Health. The space is intended to help address “invisible” injuries, like PTSD.

Multiple studies are underway at The Green Road to help us better understand how nature can be used to improve treatments for patients in the future. 


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Nature Meets Healthcare in Portland, Oregon

11/10/17 | View Comments

Innovative hospitals are responding to a growing desire for less medicalized births.

In hospital settings, stress is inherent among patients, families and healthcare professionals. More than forty years of research and several recent studies of patient groups have found that viewing nature can produce rapid and substantial psychological and physiological recovery from stress and anxiety (Marcus and Sachs, 2014).

The Terrace Garden at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Oregon provides the Family Birth Center and Cardiovascular Intensive Care unit community a restorative place that nourishes their psychological, physical and spiritual needs.

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    TKF Foundation

    410 Severn Avenue,
    Suite 216
    Annapolis, MD

    Tel: 410.268.1376

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    About Us

    We are a private nonprofit that supports, informs, and inspires the creation of publicly accessible urban green spaces. We believe that every city resident needs nearby green space to provide opportunities for mindfulness, respite, and renewal. The Foundation has issued its final grants to build five Open Spaces Sacred Places and research the impacts on a variety of users with the hope that the powerful connection between nature, spirit and human wellbeing will be scientifically proven.

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