Open Voices Blog

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

A City’s History and Future in Place

04/14/15 | 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. In April, we talk with several companies and initiatives developing meaningful places in our cities.

“There is a sense that everyone wants to build more community”.

Linda Fordyce, one of the cofounders of the non-profit FireHouse Hostel and Museum, has her thumb on the pulse of changes happening in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas. The hostel, set to open this year, is housed in an old firehouse within the grounds of this southern city’s oldest municipal park. MacArthur Park was formally established as Little Rock’s first public park in 1892 when the US Army traded the Little Rock Arsenal’s land, located in what is now Downtown, to the City of Little Rock to “forever exclusively be devoted to the uses and purposes of a public park”. The hostel represents a link between the city’s past and future, with part of the building devoted to a Firehouse museum, and a progressive park plan creating green space opportunities for neighborhoods and international visitors.

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Creating Place

04/07/15 | 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. In April, we talk with several companies and initiatives developing meaningful places in our cities.

 

“Placemaking is a quiet movement that reimagines public spaces as the heart of every community, in every city. It’s a transformative approach that inspires people to create and improve their public spaces.”- Project for Public Spaces

Spaces designed and constructed based on the Nature Sacred Principle, presented here throughout our website, support everyday intimate and meaningful civic sacred experiences. Nature Sacred placemaking provides opportunity for a deeper human experience within carefully crafted public green spaces that offer temporary sanctuary, encourage reflection, provide solace, and engender peace and well-being.

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What is community?

03/24/15 | 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. In March, we celebrate the success and stability borne from community engagement and planning.

 

What is community? Is it a place, a people, an act?

In many of an instance, and perhaps the most robust, it is all three.

In Oregon, a rooftop healing garden nestled within the Family Birth Center and Cardiovascular Care Unit at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center replaces a hardscape terrace built in the 1970s. A Nature Place provides a space for patients, visitors and hospital staff to heal and restore. The medical center’s doctors and nurses are the constant members of this community; the incoming expectant mothers, newly arrived babies, cardiovascular patients and their families bring the Portland community into the halls of the medical center.

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Learning From Partner Organizations

03/17/15 | 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 month we spoke with Trees Forever Founding President Shannon Ramsay about urban forestry engagement possibilities in Iowa and across the United States.

For 25 years and counting, Trees Forever has helped thousands of community volunteers, civic leaders, government officials and landowners with local tree-planting projects and initiatives. The organization took its first step when Shannon Ramsay recognized a need. That combined with her ability as an entrepreneur to gather resources and citizen volunteers to plant trees in the Midwest. ramsay
Today, Trees Forever works with over 7000 volunteers annually and is a noteworthy model of independent civic initiatives. The organization is a major voice in Midwest local and state government, local corporations, and civic community partnerships. Trees Forever simultaneously supports those who want to take urban forestry into the political arena, those who participate in community plantings, and like-minded urban forestry groups who want to increase their capacity for change.

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Community-Centered Spaces

03/03/15 | 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. In March, we celebrate the success and stability borne from community engagement and planning.

Participation in an urban greening program (such as volunteer gardening) is associated with improved community empowerment and social cohesion. And, when a community is involved in the planning, design and maintenance of a green space everyone benefits in the long-term.
The availability of community gardens and tree planting can be important to local groups, by creating places for culturally significant gardens and planting – strengthening a sense of community and tradition. For example, ethnographic research of recent Southern California immigrants from India, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines, Iran, China and Taiwan found that home gardens provided religious or meditation space, supported identity continuity, enabled cultural cuisine, provided ethnomedicine materials, provoked a sense of environmental nostalgia for their home countries while enabling new connections to place, and provided family memorial space for intergenerational linkages.

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Why are we less stressed in green spaces?

02/24/15 | 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. In February, we look at the roots of the TKF Foundation’s mission to provide public greenspaces that offer temporary sanctuary, encourage reflection, provide solace and engender peace and well being.

Did you know there are two theoretical frameworks that attempt to explain the psychological experience of chronic stress and the restorative effect of nature? The framework that has received the most attention, Attention Restoration Theory (ART), was developed by Stephen and Rachel Kaplan, and proposes that nature has certain properties that allow a person to recover from the mental fatigue caused by the focused attention needed to get things done at work, school, and in our busy lifestyles. The other perspective, psychoevolutionary theory, looks at restoration from a more general perspective of stress reduction, and posits that people respond to certain perceptual qualities of nature that encourage our physiological systems to relax and recover in ways that help improve behavioral and cognitive performance. Both frameworks generally argue that human beings react positively to certain qualities and characteristics of natural environments.

brain-park

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Can Community Spaces Relieve Stress?

02/17/15 | 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. In February, we look at the roots of the TKF Foundation’s mission to provide public greenspaces that offer temporary sanctuary, encourage reflection, provide solace and engender peace and well being.

Can community green spaces help relieve the stress from everyday tasks and life events? And, what might be special about nearby green spaces?

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that a nearby park helps you feel better and spend time with your family. But does science have anything to say about stress and nearby nature spaces? We know that simple visual exposure to nearby nature (such as window views and green roadsides) alone or combined with moderate activity in green spaces can effectively reduce stress. Multiple studies demonstrate the restorative benefits of nature when participants complete a stressful task followed by prompts of natural or built areas. Blood pressure lowers when study subjects look out a window with a view of trees. Nature walks are associated with blood pressure improvement, better task performance, and decreased anger compared to results of an urban walk! 1 And,we know that our heart rates decrease more rapidly with a window view of a natural scene compared to a view of a blank wall or a natural scene presented on a plasma screen.2

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Open Voices News Roundup: February 12

02/12/15 | 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.

A Natural Match: Drexel Research Team Connects Urban Design to Public Health

“As inner-city school kids climb and swing at a state-of-the-art playground with a rain garden and trees, will their surroundings make a difference in their health and social well-being? At urban community gardens nearby, will the fresh produce and a greener view help local residents breathe easier? Such questions, connecting urban design and natural systems with public health, are the focus of a new convergence of research and community engagement efforts at Drexel. A new team of faculty from the School of Public Health and Westphal College of Media Arts & Design is bringing together research on these interdisciplinary questions within community-based projects in West Philadelphia—some of which are already underway, and some that have yet to begin.”

First Ladies support new Healing Garden at Children’s National

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Feeling Stressed? Take a Time Out in Nature

02/10/15 | 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. In February, we look at the roots of the TKF Foundation’s mission to provide public greenspaces that offer temporary sanctuary, encourage reflection, provide solace and engender peace and well being.

The influences of stress on general health and incidence of disease is well documented in the medical community. And most of us, simply by carrying out tasks in everyday life, feel the sources and consequences of stress. When we are faced with ‘acute’ stressors in our lives – such as loss of a job, or a divorce – we turn to coping and resilience strategies that immediately address negative emotions or situations. Support for stressful life events can be found in formalized health care centers and community groups.  But, what do we do about chronic stress?

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Open Voices News Roundup: February 5

02/05/15 | 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.

How Trees Can Make City People Happier (and Vice Versa)

“There’s plenty of evidence that hints of nature help us humans live in the urban spaces we’ve built. About five years ago, one major study showed that, across the world, living in cities is associated with higher levels of depression and other mental health problems; a rash of studies since have shown that people feel like green spaces — parks and community gardens, usually — help them deal with the stresses of urban life. Mark Taylor, a public health researcher at the University of Trnava in Slovakia, wondered, though, if there might be a way to establish that connection between nature and mental health without relying on people’s own accounts of their well-being. “There’s been a fair bit of research that looks at different ways in which people say they feel some kind of benefit of being around natural spaces,” he says. “But nearly all of that was subjective.” You can ask people if they feel better, he says, and plenty might say they do. But how to know for sure?”

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    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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