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Mon. Jul 22nd, 2024

Nashville residents want and deserve more parks and green spaces

By meerna Jul11,2024
Nashville residents want and deserve more parks and green spaces


The latest data from the Trust for Public Land shows greater demand for parks and green spaces.

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  • Hal Cato is CEO of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

Earlier this year, Imagine Nashville released the results of a large, in-depth study to examine how our city is doing on a number of important issues. We wanted to identify, as accurately as possible, what’s going right and what’s going wrong in the community we share and love. The original study surveyed 10,000 Nashville adults from every neighborhood, and just last month, we surveyed our city’s youth.

We learned that many people living in Nashville don’t necessarily feel like they belong. More than half of the city’s low-income residents told us they “feel left out or excluded from the benefits” of Nashville. Three-quarters of our respondents believe the divide between rich and poor is getting worse; another three-quarters think local leaders are investing money in the wrong things.

One area in our study requires sustained, strategic investment from both current and future leaders: a majority of Nashville residents said they are dissatisfied with their neighborhoods.

When asked to identify “necessary neighborhood features,” they told us they wanted grocery stores, green space, sidewalks, lighting, and a variety of housing options.” We’re not arguing with any of these features, but of course some will be easier to deliver than others.

Nashville Has Improved Its Commitment to Parks, But It Could Be Better

Fortunately, a recent study by the Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national nonprofit that connects everyone to nature, found that Nashville’s parks are getting noticeably better, both in quality and accessibility. TPL’s annual ParkScore® index ranks park systems in America’s 100 most populous cities on five specific factors:

● Park access, which looks at the total percentage of residents who live within a 10-minute walk of a park. ● Park equity, which looks at the amount of park space per person in neighborhoods where residents identify as people of color or lower-income. ● Park square footage, which looks at the average size of parks in a city and the percentage of the city’s total square footage devoted to parks. ● Park investment, which measures per-capita spending on parks. ● Park amenities, such as basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, and playgrounds.

Nashville currently ranks 78th on the ParkScore index. That’s not necessarily cause for celebration, but it’s still a 15-spot jump from last year—we’re now somewhere between Chula Vista, Calif., and Corpus Christi, Texas.

With all due respect to these cities, I think we can do more.

Parks and public spaces are needed for healthier communities

Investing in our parks improves the health of every Nashville resident, regardless of race, ethnicity, income level or age. TPL’s data clearly shows how more and better parks correlate with:

What’s more, high-quality parks are simply great at bringing people together. People in the 25 cities with the best park scores have 25 percent more social connections between low- and high-income residents than people in lower-scoring cities. The TPL data is overwhelmingly clear: communities with greater social connections across income groups tend to have lower mortality rates, less depression and loneliness, and greater resilience during disasters.

What else in our community has such power to bring people together?

We know—because they’ve told us—that parks and public spaces are top priorities for Nashville families. These places, which offer us all a literal common ground to spend time together, will become increasingly essential to answering the big question of belonging as Nashville continues to grow.

We applaud the O’Connell administration’s plans to soon refocus on “Plan to Play,” Metro’s Parks and Greenways Master Plan. As such, work on public spaces should remain a priority until Nashville is at the top of that list.

Hal Cato is CEO of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee.

By meerna

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