“While everyone deserves the opportunity to experience nature, for many, physical obstacles in the environment preclude access”, says Dr. Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, OTR/L, SCEM, CAPS, FAOTA and Therapeutic Design consultant for the Serenity Garden. Dr. Wagenfeld sees the project at Wekiwa Springs State Park as a pioneering exercise in removing obstacles and expanding access by design. “There is a model here that all state and national parks in the country should follow.”
“Essential to our conceptual path has been the research done by the American Public Health Association (APHA) especially, the 2013 statement on Improving Health & Wellness Through Access to Nature ” says Sarafaith Pekor, Serenity Garden Project Manager “The research is very compelling and we are taking their recommendations to heart. It has given us an exciting blueprint for innovation at Wekiwa Springs State Park”
SUMMARY QUOTES FROM THE APHA STATEMENT ON IMPROVING
HEALTH & WELLNESS THROUGH ACCESS TO NATURE
- “People of all ages and abilities enjoy higher levels of health and well-being when they have nature nearby in parks, gardens, greenways, naturalized schoolyards and playgrounds, and natural landscaping around homes and workplaces. Access to nature has been related to lower levels of mortality and illness, higher levels of outdoor physical activity, restoration from stress, a greater sense of well-being, and greater social capital.”
- “A rapidly growing body of evidence establishes that protecting and restoring access to nature in different spheres of people’s lives, among those of all ages, social groups, and abilities, can alleviate some of the most important problems in public health, including obesity, stress, social isolation, injury, and violence.”
- “In order to promote people-nature contact across American communities, public health practitioners and policymakers should form alliances with parks departments, planning and design departments, housing agencies, greening and garden organizations, cooperative extension services, school districts, and nature centers to prioritize access to natural areas, productive landscapes, and other green spaces for people of all ages, income levels, and abilities. Moreover, public health officials, physicians, nurse practitioners, and other health professionals should advise patients and the public at large about the benefits of green exercise, personal and community gardening, and nature-based play and recreation.”
APHA urges public health practitioners, policymakers, community-based and environmental justice groups, and researchers to advance policy and planning activities that incorporate or address the following objectives in relevant legislation, land-use planning guidance, or public health priority-setting regulations:
- Land use decisions should prioritize access to natural areas, productive landscapes, and other green spaces for people of all ages, income levels, and abilities.
- Public health officials, physicians, nurse practitioners, and other health professionals should advise patients and the public at large about the benefits of green exercise, personal and community gardening, and nature-based play and recreation and form alliances with parks departments, departments of planning and design, area aging agencies, greening and garden organizations, cooperative extension services, school districts, and nature centers to increase access to green spaces where people live, work, and play and to raise awareness about their value.
- Access to green spaces as part of livable communities and urban design and planning should include coordinated and cooperative strategies with the partners described above and should include universal design that serves the needs of all users seamlessly and as invisibly as possible.
- Partnerships to increase access to natural settings should include efforts to clean up and green vacant lots and contaminated areas in order to transform areas associated with danger and crime into natural and safe environments.
- Park and recreation funding, through public agencies or public-private partnerships, should be allocated for the construction of parks, gardens, and other outdoor active environments, as well as safety features (e.g., safe playgrounds) in areas that currently lack these resources, and funds for the maintenance of existing parks should be protected or enhanced. In addition, there should be an emphasis on safe walkable and bikable areas.
- Tree planting and natural landscaping should be promoted around homes, schools, workplaces, hospitals, prisons, and other institutions. Citizens should be encouraged to participate in creating and sustaining these environmental changes.
- Schoolyards and the play areas of child care centers should include natural landscaping and school gardens, and contact with nature should be promoted through place-based education and adequate periods for safe outdoor recess.
- Community gardens should be considered as a primary and permanent open space option as part of master planning efforts; gardens should be developed as part of land planning processes rather than as an afterthought in neighborhood redevelopment projects.
- Trails and greenways should be networked to provide for safe active commuting to work, school, and services as well as recreation areas, with a particular emphasis on safe walking and biking.
- Hospitals, assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and institutions that care for people with mental illness should provide access to healing gardens and other natural settings.
- Education and training programs for health professionals, community leaders, students, educators, community residents, and others should include information on the importance of promoting nature contact through green surroundings and active programs and investing in safety to prevent violence, unintentional injuries, and falls.
Taken From APHA Policy Statement Number # 20137. The original document is a detailed and thoroughly researched abstract. To access full document:CLICK HERE