There are numerous health benefits associated with access to public open space and parks. Access to vegetated areas such as parks, open spaces, and playgrounds has been associated with better perceived general health reduced stress levels, reduced depression and more.
According to the World Health Organization, physical inactivity is a major public health risk. In Australia, nearly half of all Australians do not meet even the 30 minute daily physical activity recommendations. One study found that people who use public open spaces are three times more likely to achieve recommended levels of physical activity than those who do not use the spaces. Users and potential users prefer nearby, attractive, and larger parks and open spaces (Wolf, 2008).
Thus, improving access to public open space has the potential levels of physical activity, and to have mental health benefits and reduce healthcare and other costs.
Urban parks also contribute environmental benefits. A network of parks and open spaces that include protected natural lands, ecological reserves, wetlands, and other green areas is critical to providing health habitats for humans, wildlife and plants in these densely built places. Natural landscapes are vital to preserving regional ecosystems amid growing cities.
Parks also help create human and energy efficient cities that can help slow global warming. Linear parks and open spaces make compact living attractive and viable. Trail networks link individual parks, making them easier to bike and walk. Old rail lines can be transformed into green ways, and gardens planted on rooftops maximize limited space and curtail greenhouse gas emissions. Every tree helps fight global warming by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and help cool cities.
In the US, an evaluation of the largest 85 cities in the country (population of 57.2 million) found for health savings from parks was an estimated $3.08 billion. The environmental savings are significant as well. Trees and vegetation in urban parks offer lower cost, natural solutions for addressing storm water runoff and air pollution. One major city, Philadelphia, experienced $16 million in annual public cost savings as a result of storm water management and air pollution reduction, according to a 2008 report by the Trust for Public Land Center for City Park Excellence.