I'm a big fan of cities. I even went to graduate school for city planning. But I'm well aware that cities can be hard on people mentally. One of the most critical pieces of a healthy city, in my opinion, is a good number of parks. These are not just useful for superficial recreation and a premium view. These help residents psychologically and are worth a great deal.
In fact, a study from the University of Wisconsin has found that green space is more important than money. A poor person living near greenery was even more likely to have a self-reported higher level of peace and happiness than a wealthier person living in an area with less greenery.
To be specific, if someone lived in a neighborhood with 10% less tree cover, they were more likely to report signs of depression, anxiety, and stress.
The researchers controlled for "race, age, income level, education, marital status, employment and other factors."
I know I'm just one person, and likely don't fit the norm (hey, I'm here writing on TreeHugger), but we were recently searching for a new home in the city of Wrocław, Poland, where we currently live (a city of 1 million), and I ended up realizing that a good amount of quality green space was critical to my idea of a satisfactory neighborhood. Several factors were important for us. For example, we really didn't want to move someplace where we'd have to drive or even have to wait long for a tram. But one of the most important factors ended up being the proximity to parks, and the quality of nearby parks. I'm happy to find out that this was super logical.
I think we often consider proximity to parks an add-on, a luxury feature. But when it comes down to it, nearby parks or other green space might be one of the most valuable aspects of where we live, or one of the biggest deficiencies if we don't have any nearby. Something to consider the next time you make a move.
And no the city planning side of things, as I have thought for many years, city planners and decision-makers need to really see parks and green space as essential infrastructure in the city ("green infrastructure" as some call it). These are not things to squeeze in where possible. These are necessities that no neighborhood should be without.
Furthermore, with adequate park space in urban areas, I think people will feel much less driven to the suburbs (no pun intended), which cuts commute times and has tremendous environmental benefits.
This is actually nothing we shouldn't know already. Mike wrote on Earth Day about another recent study that also showed urban green space has strong psychological benefits for UK residents. But another study in the pocket adds emphasis the the importance of humble trees, grass, and shrubbery.
By the way, we ended up finding a place down the street from the biggest or second biggest park in Wrocław and even closer to another decently sized and very pleasant park. We got pretty lucky with that!