Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Embrace the public in public parks

With an ever increasing population to accommodate, Addis is home to a number of urban parks and gardens. Unfortunately, only a handful of these spaces offer what public parks are prized for: people-centered, green, public spaces that improve the psychological and physical health of its surrounding community, while mitigating the effects of urban pollution and social ills.
The best kept parks and gardens are too often full of obstacles that restrict individuals from taking advantage of all the potential benefits of the spaces. Many parks are only intended for aesthetic appreciations, with signs warning to stay off the greenery. In order to understand why we need more interactive and people-friendly green spaces, it is important to appreciate the incredible range of benefits that they offer.
Public parks reward communities with countless entertainment and health benefits. Large, open spaces offer ripe conditions for recreational sports and promote physical activity within communities. Natural sanctuaries in urban environments are also an accessible source of psychological wellbeing, aiding in stress reduction and rejuvenation. Well-maintained communal spaces also offer an alternative to bars and cafes as leisure destinations.
Numerous studies have also demonstrated how activities and programs held in public parks and gardens help alleviate social ills ranging from alcoholism to crime, especially among the youth, by fostering a sense of community and purpose. The American National Recreation and Park Association notes that “opening the doors to parks and recreation facilities to young adults may help them create lasting attachments to their community.”
Urban gardens and parks also offer aesthetic and environmental conservational benefits. Designating ecologically rich areas as public gardens in order to conserve pristine spaces is a clever way of killing two birds with one stone. Beautifying our communities can go hand in hand with efforts to conserve vulnerable ecosystems.
Still, one might wonder what economic incentives might prompt us to invest in such ostensibly unprofitable spaces. Public parks and gardens yield considerable economic benefits. Parks in residential areas increase property value by attracting homeowners and businesses.
Moreover, the management and maintenance of recreational areas offers significant opportunities for job creation. Large vegetated spaces also provide cost-free mitigation for urban pollution, primarily caused by vehicle emissions.
On the other hand, poorly maintained parks reflect a negative economic climate, making a park’s long-term and diverse benefits contingent on proper upkeep.
While massive renovated parks stretch across Menelik II Avenue and beautiful gated gardens spring up around the city, seldom are these spaces openly accessible to the public. Expanding access to public parks is just as important as investing in any other spaces focusing on entertainment and wellness. The social, environmental and economic benefits associated with public parks and gardens far outweigh the financial costs of their formation and maintenance. A sustainable urban development model would thus be incomplete without due consideration of the innumerable positive externalities offered by public parks.