Our well-being depends on parks; their future depends on us
To a significant degree, our well-being rests on time in nature.
In the North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District, there is a new opportunity — and a new responsibility — to shape the future of our parkland. The way residents of the unincorporated areas of NCPRD are represented and given voice in district decisions has been proportionally expanded. The revised bylaws of the District Advisory Committee give unincorporated area residents direct opportunity to choose their own representatives and develop community-led neighborhood parks forums. To result in balanced representation, four unincorporated sub-areas have been identified. Proportional in population to the fifth sub-area, the city of Milwaukie completes our parks district. How well the system thrives depends upon your participation, and the participation of your friends and neighbors.
In March, an informational meeting will be held by Zoom, followed by a second meeting for unincorporated residents to select representatives to the NCPRD District Advisory Committee (dates TBD). You are invited to attend and be part of choosing the future of our parks. To stay informed about parks meetings and related community collaboration, please fill out the form at https://tinyurl.com/59qou23r.
These days there is a wealth of research showing a basic need for spending time in parks and natural areas. Being outdoors in natural settings results in lower levels of stress hormones, enhanced immune response, better cardiovascular health and improved brain function. It is linked to greater academic achievement and reduced childhood obesity.
Drivers on roads lined with trees drive more slowly. More greenspace in a community correlates with lower crime rates. Following surgery, hospital patients recover more quickly and need fewer pain medications if they have a window that looks out on nature.
Unfortunately, we are deficient in parks in the unincorporated areas of North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District. A standard recommendation is 10 acres of parkland per 1,000 people. In the north urban area of Clackamas County, there were only 2.8 acres per 1,000 people at the time the county's comprehensive plan was written.
As reported by a study in American Planning Association magazine, it has been concluded that every resident should live less than a mile away from public greenspace. In recent years, some wonderful potential parkland has gotten away. Without taking stock and bold steps, the situation will continue to degrade. Now is the time to pivot. There is no time to lose.
According to the Clackamas County Comprehensive Plan, "Population density and recreation needs are rising, once cherished open spaces are disappearing and more people are demanding more places for a variety of recreation activities."
Going forward, we need to add to our public greenspace and ensure that it is equitably distributed among all neighborhoods in the district. There should be a focus on identifying potential new parkland. We can look for suitable places for dog runs and continue agreements with schools about sharing their sports fields with the community during after-school hours. As district residents, we need to imagine everything we want our parks to be. Perhaps people would welcome free community enrichment events focused on nature — brown-bag picnics in various parks with presentations about geology and ancient floods, wildlife and ecosystems, clouds and hydrologic cycles, watersheds and swales, local fish and the world of fungi — with children's story hours and hands-on activities, such as art, writing, photography, theater or poetry integrated into the mix.
So, when you want to relax or exercise, feel the tension leave your shoulders, and feel the commonality we all have with the wildlife and beauty of the natural world, remember your community parks — how much enjoyment they provide and how we need to have more of them.
To be part of this new collaboration and make North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District truly your parks district, sign up to receive emails about parks-related opportunities at tinyurl.com/59qou23r.
Anatta Blackmarr is an Oak Grove resident.
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