Beverly Sandalack pens report to spur discussion about the vital role parks play in Canada’s cities
Parks and open spaces in the city are much more than just green spaces and we need to change how we view, plan and measure their value, says Beverly Sandalack, associate dean (academic) of Landscape + Planning at the Faculty of Environmental Design, in a recently published report.
“Parks are more than a benign area, they are part of a structurally complex environment,” writes Sandalack, a professor and researcher at the Urban Lab, in “A Landscape Approach for the 21st Century,” a report she wrote for the not-for-profit Park People to help spur discussion about parks in Canada’s cities. “Parks play an ecological role, they are important for social and public health and they play a huge part in shaping the identity of neighbourhoods and cities.”
Parks also have a big role in mitigating the effects of climate change. “A city’s resilience is affected by how well its parks and open spaces can absorb the impacts of change,” says Sandalack. “Understanding and measuring the ecosystem services these systems provide will help us better understand them as green infrastructure and prioritize investment.”
Cities need to start recognizing the value of parks and putting them at the top of the priority list when it comes to both budgets and planning, she says. Parks should not be an afterthought in any urban planning. They are “part of the deepest layers of urban infrastructure. They need to be elevated to the highest levels of importance in our planning and budgeting process.”
Sandalack also calls for a comprehensive approach to planning and managing parks and open spaces that involves different disciplines and departments, changing how planners are educated, and improving “methods, processes and regulations” around parks.
Cities have always planned their parks to reflect the values of the time, be it a certain aesthetic or athletic use. These days, there is much concern about sustainability and how to ensure ecological and public health in our built environment. “We have the potential to start seeing parks and open spaces as a much more comprehensive system that better reflects local climate and biodiversity,” says Sandalack. “They will help ensure our very survival.”
Sandalack presented this work at Park People’s Heart of the City, a two-day national conference held in Calgary in March. About 100 people dedicated to city parks came together to explore how to “harness the power of city parks for all Canadians.”