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New Report on Climate Change Planning, Parks Play Role

Many readers of this blog will know that we often write about the role of parks within smart growth for their social, environmental and economic benefits. And this relates to climate change as well (see this earlier post). They help filter air and water, provide spaces for people to stretch, socialize and recreate in compact, energy efficient development and provide carbon-less transportation routes for biking and walking.

The International City/County Management Association, or ICMA is now out with a report on how communities can address climate change through smart growth, providing nine strategies for successfully making the connection on local and regional levels. One of the strategies centers on parks, noting that “preserving and creating green space serves important environmental purposes and can also increase overall community quality of life.”

The report provides an insightful case study from Minneapolis, saying that the city’s “sustainability plan recognizes the importance of parks and open space not only in promoting community health and well-being, but also in “supporting plant and animal life and… improving natural systems degraded by urban land uses.” In addition, it mentions the Twin Cities’ regional effort to create an interconnected greenway system and protect over 600,000 acres of open space.

Other recommended strategies include: greening the local economy through more environmentally focused job sectors; engaging the community in climate change planning; transit-oriented development and streets that accommodate walking and biking; green building practices and building dense, compact development. These factors all make parks even more useful for a community.

The report provides best practices from around the country on all of these factors and could be a useful tool for parks and recreation managers and advocates working with city government to encourage use of parks along with other initiatives to address climate change.

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