Apr 11, 2016
In Praise of Parks
It's no secret that neighborhoods flush with parks make for better communities.
Time and again, it's been proven that access to parks and open-air green space are pivotal components to sound urban planning. Here in Hawai'i, where we're blessed with one of the most desirable and hospitable climates on the planet, having access to open areas and parks should be a no-brainer, but too many of our neighborhoods fail to take advantage of our idyllic surroundings. City living shouldn't mean a life marked by towers, concrete, glass, and steel. Through proper planning, residential urban neighborhoods can also be surrounded by the best of nature.
Here at Ward Village, we've placed a premium on providing access to an array of both small and large parks, ensuring that access to nature is easy and always within walking distance. Situated around nearly every bend you'll find an enclave of people working out, relaxing, or even doing yoga. At Kolowalu Park, located on the edge of Ward Village, children and parents often gather around the playground equipment to talk story and let their kids burn off some energy. And at the nearby parks that dot Kewalo Harbor, you can practically set your watch by the regularity that families and couples routinely gather to simply walk the waterfront and enjoy the sunset. While the smaller parks are convenient, let's not forget that Ala Moana Beach park, one of Honolulu's premier gathering places, located directly across the street from Ward Village. And of course, there's Central Plaza, complete with four acres of lush, open space connecting Kewalo Harbor to the forthcoming Honolulu rail stop.
"Central Plaza is an unique opportunity to remove the pavement from nearly four acres of our property and turn it into a thriving open space. In addition to bringing the natural environment into Ward Village, it will be the center of activities for park programming and outdoor shopping and dining," said Ward Village's Race Randle. "Imagine a beautifully designed, well-maintained and secure park space with landscaping and water features, surrounded by great shopping and dining. It'll become a destination for local residents, visitors, and community members to recreate, shop and dine."
At a fundamental level, researchers have proven that both communities and individuals thrive when they have easy access to parks. Not only are communities developed around green space physically healthier, but the mental state of their residents is also improved. In short, people who live near and utilize public parks are happier people.
In a joint study conducted by the UK's University of Exeter Medical School and The European Centre for Environment and Human Health, researchers examined the lives of more than 10,000 Brits for 17 years as they moved across the country. The results confirmed what we all intrinsically know: the more time we spend outside in parks and other green spaces, the better we feel. "In this study, we examined people's mental well being and how close they lived to different types of green space—parks, forests, and so on—and basically what we found was that in years when they lived closest to parks and woodlands, their mental health was higher than in the years when they lived in more urban areas with built-up environments," said Dr. Mathew White.
As a new chapter in Honolulu unfolds and Ward Village continues to take shape, residents here will remain privy to some of the most gorgeous and easily accessible parks in the city, giving them every opportunity to work, play, and live in an environment that's both conducive to city life, yet simultaneously praises and nature. This is the future of the world's major cities, where metropolitan hubs are no longer marked by skyscrapers alone, but rather are centered around an appreciation of trees, green fields and the simply unparalleled beauty of Mother Nature.
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