Transforming parks and outdoor spaces to build communities
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How can outdoor space be used to build vibrant communities? Studies show that an investment into a park, or similar outdoor community space, can be the first step in the rejuvenation of an entire community. A community with shared values and interests and where people are regularly communicating and interacting with one another helps build a healthy community.
There’s good reason for this. In addition to the social benefits in encouraging interaction between members of the community, a well-designed outdoor space encourages people to spend some time in the natural environment and offers time away from the concrete jungle. This has been shown to enhance a person’s sense of well-being. Additionally, an outdoor space can be used to host events and festivals, and become a focal point for the community, with all the economic and cultural benefits that go with it.
A well-designed outdoor space can be used for people doing their morning exercise, as a spot for families to enjoy time together, and, in the event of an emergency, it can be the natural congregating point to which people navigate for safety.
Principles of a good outdoor space design
Simply providing the land and designating it as a public park won’t be enough to encourage people to use it. The most successful parks are those that are actively designed to encourage people to visit and make the most of them.
- Make sure that there are plenty of facilities. A community space should be for everyone, including the less mobile or elderly people, who might need to frequently sit down or make use of access ramps. Be sure that the entire park is accessible, and seats, benches, and tables are spaced out at frequent intervals. Be sure to talk to the experts at Felton Industries, who have helped create many public park space designs, to get some tips on best practice when designing the layout for the space.
- Make sure it’s accessible. Getting the most out of a community space means making sure as many people can get access to it as possible. Having a bus route stop nearby, with a comfortable, covered bus shelter for people to use while they wait for the bus, gives those without cars access to a space they might not otherwise have been able to reach.
- Keep it clean. A public space that is littered and dirty will not be used by many in the community. Even worse, it can become a haven for vermin and other pests, which can start to impact on homes and businesses around the space. Making sure there are sufficient bins around enclosed in bin surrounds for additional visibility and security, are important for keeping public space beautiful for everyone.
Finally, encourage people to use the space! Organising community events is a great way to get many people to use the space and have a positive association with the outdoor area.
The more people that use the community space, and the better designed it is, the greater the returns will be back to the community.