Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Parkland Dedication Deputation by Donna Bush for MVCRA to DSC June 11, 2013

Parkland Dedication

Mayor and Councillors,

Once again, I am saddened that Markham is still considering a
reduction in Parkland Dedication because there are so many benefits that greenspace provides to all residents. While we have previously discussed this topic, today I am here to remind council that there are huge benefits to preserving Parkland Dedication -- not reducing it.

Urban parks and open spaces provide many important benefits
including improving overall health, increasing social and spiritual well-being, and enhancing environmental quality.

Some benefits that I have found include:
1. Protection of natural environment
2. Residentsʼ identity and pride
3. Community visual appeal and function
4. Development of strong communities
5. Individual growth and development
6. Prevention of social problems
7. Reduction of health problems and costs
8. Integration of disabled, disadvantaged and socially alienate

There are also many economic benefits listed in a publication called, “Economic Benefits of Parks and Open Space: How Land Conservation Helps Communities Grow Smart and Protect the Bottom Line”. It states, “Communities around the country are learning that open space conservation is not an expense but an investment that produces important economic benefits.” 

1. Attracting Investment: Parks and open space create a high
quality of life that attracts tax-paying businesses and residents to communities;
2. Preventing Flood Damage: Floodplain protection offers a
cost-effective alternative to expensive flood-control measures;
3. Safeguarding the Environment: Open space conservation
is often the cheapest way to safeguard drinking water, clean the air, and achieve other environmental goals.

The Faculty of Health, Medicine, Nursing and Behavioural Sciences Deakin University Burwood, Melbourne states:
“...research indicates ... humans may be dependent on nature for psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs that are difficult to satisfy by other means. Findings so far demonstrate that access to nature plays a vital role in human health, well-being, and development that has not been fully recognized.”

In terms of health, parks and other natural environments have been viewed almost exclusively as venues for leisure and sport. Yet recent research shows that ʻgreen natureʼ, such as parks and viewing nature, can reduce crime, foster psychological well-being, reduce stress, boost immunity, enhance productivity, promote healing, and improving psychological state, particularly of people in confined circumstances such as hospitals.

Studies clearly demonstrate that being in a natural environment affects people positively, particularly in terms of Cardiovascular and Mental Health.. In fact, the positive effects on human health, particularly in urban environments, cannot be over-stated. As a result, urban planning should ensure that the communities have adequate access to nature.

Nature is important to people.

Exposure to Nature and Greenery Makes People Healthier.

A growing body of research shows that mere contact with the natural world improves physical and psychological health. One important study reviewed the recovery of surgical patients in a Pennsylvania hospital. The rooms of some patients offered views of trees, while others faced a brown brick wall. A review of ten years of medical records showed that patients with tree views had shorter hospitalizations, less need for pain killers, and fewer negative comments in the nursesʼ notes, compared with patients with brickwall views.

“...research on recreational activities has shown that savanna-like settings are associated with self-reported feelings of ʻpeacefulness,ʼ ʻtranquility,ʼ or ʻrelaxationʼ...“Viewing such settings leads to decreased fear and anger ... [and] is associated with enhanced mentalalertness, attention, and cognitive performance...”

CBC News published a study, Parks help narrow health gap between rich and poor dated November 7, 2008

An excerpt states, “The difference in the rate of deaths between the richest and poorest was roughly halved for those living with the most greenery around them, compared with those with the fewest green spaces, the researchers found.

Reseachers went on to say, "The size of the difference in the health gap is surprising and represented a much bigger effect than I had been expecting..."

ʻSo the key message is green spaces are another tool for
governments to combat this health gap between rich and poor.ʼ
Green spaces may encourage people to be more physically active, and previous studies have suggested that parks and open space help people reduce blood pressure and stress levels, and perhaps even heal more quickly after surgery.

In a commentary accompanying the study, Terry Hartig of the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University in Sweden agreed: "This study offers valuable evidence that green space does more than pretty up the neighbourhood. It appears to have real effectson health inequality, of a kind that politicians and health authorities
should take seriously."

A very interesting fact is that “Park and recreational service use continues throughout the life cycle. Recreational participation declines with age, but park use does not. In fact, people between the ages of 65 and 74 use local parks more frequently than any other age group from those 15 and older.”

For small children, playing is learning. Play has proven to be a critical element in a childʼs future success. Play helps kids develop muscle strength and coordination, language, cognitive thinking, and reasoning abilities.

For children with Attention deficit disorder (ADD), this condition negatively impacts academic performance, peer relationships, and family harmony. Plus, these children are at greater risk than their peers for low self-esteem, anxiety, and depression. Current treatments of medication and behavioral therapy have serious side effects -- but parks provide treatment therapy without negative consequences. Benefits to ADD children include better concentration on schoolwork and similar tasks, and a reduction in symptoms.

Research suggests that humans prefer nature in their landscapes because it is a key ingredient of human habitat, it is essential to our psychological and social health, social behaviour, cognitive functioning, and work performance.

In fact, residents of neighbourhoods with greenery in common spaces are more likely to enjoy stronger social ties than those who live surrounded by barren concrete.

And, what about our air quality?

Yesterday, Councillor Burke mentioned the growing problem with our deteriorating air quality and global warming.
Parks and greenways can mitigate air pollution and increased
temperatures. Mature tree canopies can reduce air temperature five toten degrees and trees filter pollutants out of the air. 

According to American Forests, trees in Atlanta remove 19 million pounds of pollutants annually, a service worth $47 million.

In presenting this information to you today, it is my hope that this council will realize that a reduction in parkland dedication would be a very negative and short-sighted move. Residents are counting on all of you to look after our environment, so that we can all enjoy a long and healthy life. 

Once council gives up our greenspace, it is gone forever. 

Before voting on this important health and quality of life
issue, ask yourself if you want your legacy to be that you did your part to help increase the health of Markham residents. If you do, then show your community by voting against decreasing Parkland Dedication.

Again, I respectfully ask each and every one of you, to vote to
preserve greenspace and to vote against a reduction in Parkland Dedication.

Thank you, Donna Bush -- Markham Village City RA

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