Open space and parks provide a wide range of benefits to the residents of Alameda. Parks and natural open space areas can be used for recreation; wetlands, wildlife habitat; community gardens, biking and walking, and simply observing nature at its best. They also offer aesthetic benefits to surrounding residents and to commercial property. In rapidly growing urban areas, preserved land can offer relief from congestion and other negative effects of development.
We don't have to look very far to view and understand the values of parks and open space in Alameda. Simply observing children, adults and seniors playing, walking and relaxing in our many parks points to the fact that parks offer wellness to our residents, where inappropriate development offers congestion and frustration. In fact, the California Park and Recreation Society, of which Alameda's Recreation and Park Department is a member, has established a branding message of "Parks Make Life Better," which is being used by a great many cities throughout California. The Friends of the Parks Foundation supports this message and every effort to protect open space on our island.
The following is a list of benefits that our parks and open spaces provide. The next time you hear that someone wants to develop and build on open space, keep these items in mind, and ask yourself if housing developments, for example, can offer the same benefits to a broad base of Alameda residents.
Play: The biggest benefit of parks is a safe, outdoor play space for our children today and as they grow. Recreation provides positive alternatives that reduce crime and mischief. It promotes the arts, increases social connections and provides lifelong appreciation for property and nature.
Nature: Speaking of nature, open space and parks provide access to the serenity and inspiration of nature. They help to preserve and protect the historic, natural and cultural resources in our community. From the very beginning of Alameda's development, city leaders understood the value of parks and open space, and built a program to make sure they were available to everyone.
Exercise: Our parks and open space allow everyone to exercise at their own pace. We all have a wealth of options and locations in which to exercise. The long-term wellness of our community is based on this level of availability. The new outdoor exercise equipment at Lincoln Park and Washington Park enhance these options. Both were financed by the Friends of the Parks Foundation.
Positive Spaces: Alameda parks allow for visitors to walk, run and crawl on the many acres of grass and open space. Just having fun is easy in all of our neighborhood parks. Each park supports neighborhoods and enhances the neighbors' world.
Gathering Places: Parks are a wonderful environment to meet friends and family. Picnics, movies, walking, biking, jogging and more. Parks truly connect people. We must all do our very best to protect these environments. Keeping them clean and safe is everyone's responsibility.
Enrichment: Parks enrich our community. They add value to our residential and our business properties. Less development of open space is actually of great value to our community. We will all experience this fact as we develop the Jean Sweeney Open Space Park. We will also experience it with other areas that are currently being viewed for development, but should not be.
Parks and open space are areas where each of us can truly make a difference in our outdoor environment. We can contribute by picking up cups and paper wrappers, and disposing of them. We can make sure that we throw soda cans and plastic bottles in trash containers. We can utilize the parks for birthday parties and family gatherings; yet clean the area so that it's as nice when you leave, as when you arrived. For parks to truly make life better, we all have to participate.
Support our parks. Help existing parks survive and flourish, as you support future parks and open space. Donate to the Friends of the Parks Foundation, for example. You can do that by visiting www.alamedaparks.org. Your involvement will help everyone.
You can support the Friends of the Parks Foundation as well, by playing in the annual "Play for the Parks" golf tournament on Wednesday, Sept. 25. The afternoon and dinner will be about having fun and about supporting the foundation's efforts to promote, protect and support recreation and park activities and community wellness in Alameda. The foundation is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. Registration forms are available at www.alamedaparks.org or on Facebook.
Bill Delaney is the board president for the Friends of the Parks Foundation and a member of the Alameda Recreation and Park Commission. If you have any questions or comments, please send Bill a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.