Open Voices Blog

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

Open Voices News Roundup: January 6

01/06/14 | View Comments

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

Urban Nature: How to Foster Biodiversity in World’s Cities
“A few years ago in Baltimore County, Maryland, environmental staffers were reviewing a tree-planting proposal from a local citizens group. It called for five trees each of 13 different species, as if in an arboretum, on the grounds of an elementary school in a densely-populated neighborhood. It seemed like a worthy plan, both for the volunteer effort and the intended environmental and beautification benefits. Then someone pointed out that there were hardly any oaks on the list, even though the 22 oak species native to the area are known to be wildlife-friendly. Local foresters, much less local wildlife, could barely recognize some of the species that were being proposed instead…Though it may be too soon to call it an urban wildlife movement, initiatives focused on urban biodiversity seem to be catching on. The U.S. Forest Service, which once laughed off the idea that anything urban could be wild now supports a growing urban forest program.”

A Dose Of Nature Helps City Dwellers Fight Their Need For Instant Gratification

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 23

12/23/13 | View Comments

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

Hiking in a Winter Wonderland
“Just because temperatures have dropped doesn’t mean outdoor efforts to elevate your heart rate should take a nose dive, too. New York City offers many walking trails and paths through scenic, wooded parks and along breathtaking waterways. “Winter is a great time to get out and see the parks in a new way once the trees have shed all of their leaves,” said Sarah Aucoin, director of the Urban Park Rangers program, which offers guided hikes and walks in the city’s park all year. “You can see wildlife and get your heart pumping at the same time.” If you struggle to stay active in the winter, walking may inspire you to get outdoors. Dr. Susan Kansagra, deputy commissioner for the division of health promotion and disease prevention at the New York City health department, said that regular walking helps reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, osteoporosis, and colon and breast cancer.”

Improve Your Health with the Forest Therapy

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 16

12/16/13 | View Comments

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

‘Wild Urbanism’ in the Middle of Putin’s Moscow
“Just beyond Moscow’s Red Square, past the iconic domes of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the walls of the Kremlin, a new landmark is planned for Russia’s largest metropolis. In a nod to the city’s increasingly globalized identity, the new landmark will not come solely from the church or government. Instead, it will be a 13-acre park open to everyone and developed by a team of internationally renowned architects best known for designing the glam High Line in Manhattan. Inspired by the ecological diversity of Russia, Zaryadye Park will be the first new park built in Moscow since 1958, rising on a former Jewish ghetto once slated for Stalin’s tallest skyscrapers… Under the vision hatched by Diller Scofido + Renfro and Putin’s administration, free-flowing walkways and permeable pavers will encourage exploration through park areas designed to recall Russia’s varied landscapes of tundra, steppe, forest and wetlands.”

Prince George’s children learn where their food comes from at Hard Bargain Farm

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Friday Flower: Name This Bloom!

12/13/13 | View Comments

Every Friday we publish a new Friday Flower. We ask our readers, as a game, to identify the flower. Here’s today’s beautiful bloom — anybody know what it is? (And guess more Friday Flowers here.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 9.27.02 AM

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Mayors for Parks Coalition: Protecting Public Spaces

12/11/13 | View Comments

From Denver, CO to Fort Worth, TX, a new bipartisan coalition is on the rise to help support and protect public parks, trails and green spaces in urban areas. The Mayors for Parks coalition, a project from the City Parks Alliance, is aiming to remind Congress and the White House how critical parks are to urban areas.

The coalition is specifically pushing for reauthorization and robust funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is set to expire in 2015, and is a critical source of funding for city parks in the US. Since its creation in 1965, the LWCF has funded the creation of more than 42,000 state and local parks, playgrounds, urban wildlife refuges, greenways, trails, and other open spaces. But the LWCF has been underfunded by millions of dollars the past few years.

There are five other mayors from cities across the country joining Mayors Betsey Price of Fort Worth and Michael Hancock of Denver in their commitment to protecting urban parks and the funding that keeps them running. The mayors are looking to expand the coalition as they all realize how vital these parks are to the health and happiness of their citizens.

Below is one of the videos release along with the launch of the coalition:

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 9

12/09/13 | View Comments

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

Doctor’s orders: Get outside!
“We all know the drill: Get sick. Go to the doctor. Receive a prescription for medicine. Take the medicine until you feel better. But what if, instead of being handed a prescription for medication at the end of your appointment, you instead received a prescription for spending more time outdoors? That’s the premise behind a new Boston-area program piloted by the Appalachian Mountain Club and MassGeneral Hospital for Children. The program, called “Outdoors Rx,” focuses on children 13 years of age and under and capitalizes on the natural resources right in its patients’ backyards. “There’s a growing body of research looking at the benefits of the outdoors on kids. For mental, physical and spiritual health, the outdoors is good for you. It reduces the symptoms of ADD and ADHD, asthma and childhood obesity,” said Pam Hess, Outdoors Rx’s program director.”

Buena Vista Park – Green Space both Tamed and Wild

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Friday Flower: Name This Bloom!

12/06/13 | View Comments

Every Friday we publish a new Friday Flower. We ask our readers, as a game, to identify the flower. Here’s today’s beautiful bloom — anybody know what it is? (And guess more Friday Flowers here.)

Screen Shot 2013-12-06 at 11.27.54 AM

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Recommended Reading: First National Study of Urban parks and Physical Activity

12/05/13 | View Comments

How does your proximity and use of local parks contribute to your health? City Parks Alliance and the RAND Corporation will be investigating that question over the next four years in hopes of establishing a set of best practices when it comes to managing urban parks and encouraging physical activity.

The study will include 200 different parks in 25 U.S. cities that were all randomly selected. The project will include training for park personnel and members of the communities that use the parks to act as “citizen scientists” to help collect objective data for the study.

The process of researching and the results that emerge from this study will help park professionals better understand how certain management techniques can impact the amount and type of physical activity taking place in these natural, yet urban, settings.

Learn more about the study here.

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Recommended Reading: A New Class of Earth Explorers

12/03/13 | View Comments

Though there are many technological temptations keeping kids indoors, more outdoor education programs are emerging across the country to help children learn about their natural surroundings. The Earth Explorers program based out of 10 different community centers around the city of Rochester, NY is one such program that runs weekly activities for children year round that encourage exploring the outdoors.

According to the city of Rochester’s website, “The Earth Explorers program encourages youth to find nature in their own backyard. Some days, that means working in a garden at the center. Other days, we’re playing a game of Frisbee in snowshoes. A garden or open field serves as a wonderful outdoor classroom, where youth learn while staying engaged and active.”

These types of programs help expose children to hands on application of the natural sciences, as they can often be found planting new vegetables or discovering something new in the dirt. By developing an interest in nature at an early age, these young Earth Explorers can hope to maintain a connection with the natural world as they grow.

Learn more about the Earth Explorers program here.

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Open Voices News Roundup: December 2

12/02/13 | View Comments

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

How San Francisco Is Changing the Way People Think of Green Space
“Tables and chairs sit neatly arranged on a wooden platform in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District. When the sun is shining, customers spill out of cafes and restaurants and crowd onto the platform. But this isn’t just outdoor seating. It’s a park. The platform is part of San Francisco’s Pavement to Parks program, a collaboration between the city planning department and a number of other municipal agencies, including the mayor’s office. The program converts squares of pavement into plazas and postage-stamp-sized parks, called parklets. It started four years ago as a kind of experiment and has since become a fixture of civic life in San Francisco.”

Michigan: Leslie Science & Nature Center Teams with Ann Arbor Hospitals to Help Patients Heal

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