A definition of an urban environment is the environment of a place usually characterized
by many buildings in a limited amount of space. Most of the living spaces, working
spaces, shopping areas, educational facilities, services, etc. are grouped in close
proximity to each other making the importance of open spaces in the urban environment
a key consideration in urban planning if the health of a place and its people are
both considered important.
Places that have a flourishing tourism industry seem to have open spaces high on
their list by providing a variety of well cared for landscaped and protected natural
areas that provide a combination of habitat for wildlife and support for human health
and recreation. Open spaces within the community also serve to increase liveability,
enhance property values, and are an essential requirement for any kind of leisure
activity, organized sport or cultural endeavour.
The mental and physical health benefits of parks and green spaces have been demonstrated
to be actual preventative measures that impact positively on health care and health
care costs by relieving the stress and strain of modern day life.
Over time many urban places around the world have come to realize that open spaces
provide a healthy alternative for people in the urban environment and have gone
to great lengths to provide open spaces to the public with unique and imaginative
naturalized open spaces. The following is a small sample of places and the efforts
made for open spaces.
Over the years, the Hamilton Conservation Authority, with the help of the
Hamilton Conservation Foundation, has acquired almost 4,400 ha (10,900 acres) of
open space in the watershed it serves.
In Montreal the 200-hectare Mount Royal Park was declared a heritage site
to protect its natural and cultural qualities by municipal authorities and the Government
In New York, Central Park was the first landscaped public park in the United
States. Wealthy merchants and landowners were advocates for creating the park because
they admired the public grounds of London and Paris and urged that New York needed
a comparable facility to establish its international reputation. In 1853 the state
legislature authorized the City of New York to use the power of eminent domain to
acquire more than 700 acres of land in the center of Manhattan to create a park.
The extension of the boundaries to 110th Street in 1863 brought the park to its
current 843 acres. Central Park today, continues to be shaped by the public that
uses it, from the joggers, disco roller skaters, and softball leagues to bird watchers
and nature lovers.
The Chicago Park District owns more than 8,800 acres of green space, making
it the largest municipal park manager in the United States. The Chicago Park District's
more than 600 parks offer thousands of sports and physical activities as well as
cultural and environmental programs for youth, adults, and seniors. The Chicago
Park District is also responsible for 2 world-class conservatories, 28 indoor pools,
50 outdoor pools, and 26 miles of lakefront including 23 swimming beaches plus one
inland beach. From canoeing to soccer fields to arts and crafts, there is never
a shortage of activities to participate in Chicago's parks. The Chicago Park District
today still remains the leading provider of green space and recreation in the United
Background information for the article was provided by the Hamilton Conservation
Authority, the City of Montreal, the City of New York, and the Chicago Park District.