Pocket Parks ‘Good for Our Health’, Have Social Benefits

Citizens can help plant mini green spaces this fall

While taking a stroll in downtown Peterborough, keep an eye underfoot for flowers and foliage poking up where there once was pavement.

In a community-wide effort to greenify the city’s core, GreenUP, partners and citizens will be creating a few new small parks, called pocket parks, this fall as part of the Depave Paradise program.

In partnership with the Downtown Vibrancy Project, GreenUP’s Depave Paradise program has been creating a series of small and large green spaces in downtown Peterborough.

Dawn Pond is energized as she speaks with Electric City Magazine about the many projected benefits of the new green spaces.

“Green public spaces in an urban environment add little injections of nature to our downtown.”

“Generally, I think it’s good for our health,” says Dawn, GreenUP’s downtown vibrancy project and Depave Paradise program co-ordinator.

“Green public spaces in an urban environment add little injections of nature to our downtown.” And nature is good for the soul, she says. There is anecdotal, and likely scientific, evidence about the impact of the great outdoors on mental health, she notes.

Socially, Peterborough’s pocket parks will also have advantages. Citizens can gather with friends, meet for lunch or just interact outside in an environment where they’re not required to make a purchase. Those who work downtown can recharge by spending a few minutes of solitude in nature.

There’s also the engagement opportunity presented by volunteering to depave and/or plant. Participating in the depave portion of the project “builds incredible social connections,” Dawn says.

The planting portion of the project is a great opportunity for families and gardeners to join together “to create a shared memory that will be associated with a vibrant new space in our city,” writes Dawn in a piece she penned for local media.

Obviously, there are environmental advantages of having more flowers and foliage and less asphalt downtown.

Pocket parks and small gardens have the potential to create rich, ecological and community spaces in dense urban centres where large city parks may be few and far between, Dawn notes.

In general, Depave Paradise removes underused areas of pavement and replaces them with green spaces. This increases the permeability of the ground and allows water to naturally trickle through the soil instead of running over the top of hard surfaces. When water can soak through the soil like this, less litter and pollution wash into the water system, Dawn explains.

Research shows the addition of green space to urban spaces reduces the chance of flooding by up to 50 per cent, depending on the size and location of the garden. Even small spaces can help reduce flooding and protect water from pollution, she adds.

There will be a variety of features including a living fence, public seating areas, permeable paving and medicine gardens. “These spaces will inject vibrant and interactive features into areas that are otherwise rather utilitarian or underutilized.”

If you’d like to volunteer to create these pocket parks, e-mail Dawn at dawn.pond@greenup.on.ca for more details.

Learn more about Depave Paradise at greenup.on.ca.

Photo by Yvonne Hollandy.

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