Common areas require special attention in the fun department. The most enjoyable, well-used parks and playgrounds are designed with people in mind. Once you have a space that people can enjoy, these spaces provide many opportunities for other benefits. In fact, parks and playgrounds are among the best opportunities for sustainable practices. Below, we explore these opportunities and highlight some of our favourites.
Natural playgrounds provide families an alternative to traditional playground structures. Within the spectrum of natural playgrounds, there are many choices. A natural design could be as simple as incorporating appropriate tree species, preserving existing trees, and incorporating natural areas where families can learn and interact with nature.
Playgrounds built with natural materials add to the feeling of playing in nature. Playground structure can be built with logs – smoothed and safe for little hands. Water features add fun and sensory experiences for hot days. Slides built into hills incorporate play into the existing landscape and add to the fun.
Many early educators have focused on play spaces with nature in mind. Open space encourages imaginative play, and children often need very little substance to allow their imaginations to run wild. If imaginative play is a focus, a good start to a natural playground would include fallen tree trunks, buried tree stumps, small boulders, and other natural objects that can be explored safely. Slices of tree trunks laid out in a line or in patterns can turn into hours of play for high-energy toddlers.
The more wildlife habitat a park provides, the more people can interact and experience with nature. Preserving existing natural areas during construction is a great place to start. Designated landscaped habitat areas are another great option. Geoscape can assist in plant species selection for specific wildlife. You may be surprised at how easy it is to attract goldfinches and other fascinating, eye-catching species by selecting the right plants.
Many GTA residents are passionate about bird watching. Information like The Birds of Toronto documents past habitats and provides inspiration for habitat restoration in parks and other open space areas. At least 31 bird species are at risk for extinction in Ontario, and habitat restoration can go a long way in protecting these species. Parks can incorporate prairies, forests, and wetlands to restore habitat for specific species. These features can also provide stormwater treatment, which leads us to another favourite park amenity.
Stormwater behind the Scenes
Stormwater management can be easily integrated into parks space. Cities in need of extra space for stormwater management often turn to parks for stormwater retrofits. A detention basin can double as a soccer field, and rain gardens can be incorporated into landscaped areas.
Parks offer many opportunities to educate the public on stormwater management and sustainable practices. Signage along trails explain all the benefits of rain gardens and encourage the public to consider building their own. Smart gardening, rainwater harvesting, composting, and other practices can be demonstrated as well.
Attractive parks can increase the value of surrounding property. Espey and Owasu-Edusei (2001) found that property values can increase as much as 11 percent when small, attractive parks with playgrounds are located within 600 feet of houses. Greenway trails in British Columbia resulted in an almost 7 percent increase in property value for adjacent homes according to Hobden, Laughton and Morgan (2004).
Generally, studies have shown that urban greening can increase property values (Madison and Kovari 2013). Sustainable practices, including green stormwater infrastructure and environmental restoration, provide more opportunities for greening and can result in a net increase in property values compared to more conventional alternatives, like detention ponds.
Sustainable playscapes have many benefits, and the best ones are built efficiently, on-time, and with the highest quality and safety. Geoscape takes pride in our commitment to quality and sustainability in the design and construction of trails, playground structures, open spaces and parks. Check out our Parks and Playground page for more information.