If these last few years of dealing with a global pandemic have taught us anything, it’s that time in nature is more important than ever. When my city was shut down, I took refuge in my neighborhood parks and natural spaces. Like many, I felt safer being outdoors where exposure was minimized, and I could reap the benefits of nature during an extremely stressful time. In fact, more and more doctors are recommending time in nature as part of their patient’s mental health treatment. And the benefits don’t stop at mental health. In addition to an increase in overall happiness, various scientific studies have shown evidence that making outdoor time a priority improves sleep quality, enhances the immune system, and increases heart health. For more information on the many benefits of nature, check out these articles on how nature can play a role in disease prevention and how nature contributes to your child’s health.
With so many benefits, access to greenspaces (land that is partially or completely covered with vegetation) for everyone should be a no-brainer, right? Unfortunately, access to nature is not so easy for many in the U.S. For example, as my family works on finding parks for the 10 Park Challenge, I have discovered that we have no parks that are a safe walking distance from our home, forcing us to drive to every park we visit. This surprised me since we live in a fairly “green” area of our state. Read on to uncover the problems we face with greenspace availability and what you can do to help.
With so many science-backed benefits tied to getting outdoors and exploring nature, it’s disheartening that many people in our country don’t have access to safe local greenspaces. This is especially true for our under-represented and low-income communities that have historically low access to safe local greenspaces. Many in our community don’t have the option to just “jump in the car and drive to the park”. This is something that needs to change. We need to make it a priority for EVERYONE in our country to have safe, local access to natural spaces. Thankfully numerous mayors across the nation are answering the call by signing and implementing the 10-Minute Walk Initiative.
What is the 10-minute walk initiative?
According to their website, this movement seeks to “create a world in which 100% of people in U.S. cities have safe access to a quality park or green space within a 10-minute walk of home by 2050”. That means they are inspiring leaders across the country, from the smallest city to the largest metropolis, to ensure their citizens live within a 10-minute walk (or roughly half a mile) of a natural space they feel safe visiting.
That’s no small feat with more than 100 million people across the U.S. lacking access to a park within a half-mile of their home. However, local green spaces provide some surprising benefits to both local and global communities.
Local Greenspaces Can…
- Provide opportunities for locals to be physically active.
- Improve the environment as the trees and other foliage help to clean and cool the air.
- Provide opportunities for environmental education through programs and features within the greenspace.
- Build community through interaction with neighbors and provide opportunities to work together to improve the surrounding area.
- Improve the local economy by boosting nearby businesses.
How You Can Get Involved
Here at Hike it Baby, our vision is a world where EVERYONE can enjoy the physical and mental benefits of spending time outside. That’s why this movement is near and dear to our hearts, and we hope you will join us in making the 10-Minute Walk Initiative a reality. Here are three ways you can help this cause and aid in the construction of natural greenspaces within all cities across the U.S.
- Write a Letter to Your Mayor. Click here to find out if your mayor has signed on to the 10-Minute Walk Mission. If they haven’t, write them to encourage their participation. Better yet, spread the word and encourage your friends and neighbors to flood their mailbox (or inbox) with letters asking them to join the cause.
- Participate in trail clean-ups, programs, or fundraisers to build new greenspaces. This helps improve current parks and programs and helps raise the funds needed to build new, quality green spaces. Need a place to start? Hike it Baby branches across the United States host trail cleanups in mid-July as part of our annual Together We Hike birthday celebration. Check out our community page to see if there is a trail clean-up near you.
- Support businesses that actively support local trails. There are companies out there who have taken up the call to improve local parks and build new ones. For example, the Two for the Trails program from Athletic Brewing Company aims to protect the outdoor places we love. This company donates 2% of their sales to protecting and restoring local trails. Last year alone, they donated $1 million to trail-based non-profits and IMPACT programs that work to protect outdoor spaces. Over 60 grant winners were able to earn funds to fuel their tireless efforts to improve natural spaces for us to enjoy.
How do you plan to get involved? Let us know in the comments below!
Photos by Michelle Pearl Gee