Playgrounds as an Indicator for Quality of Life

It’s with great anticipation that I await the re-opening of Lafayette Park.

Everytime I walk by, I peer through the wired gates to see how progress is going.

I check on the outside for any newly posted signs, just in case the deadline is pushed back.

It’s now early June and I have been waiting for the parks’ re-opening for over a year. I was incredibly bummed out when it did close because it is just two blocks from where I live, and Rachel was hitting her crawling stages.

But now that she’s full on walking, and occasionally running, we need the space, the outdoors, and the exposure to other kids playing.

This past weekend, I explored two new parks with Rachel: Rossi and Mountain Lake.

Both had cute, small playgrounds with swings. Mountain Lake had, as you would expect, a full-on lake with ample trees. Both had a wide expanse of green.

I began to think of some anecdotes that support the notion that a location’s quality of life can be measured by the density and quality of parks. Typically this would mean suburbs get the upper hand (I would imagine), but, regardless, it seems worth noting.

The first was a story I had heard about Governor Jerry Brown (not the current Governor Jerry Brown, but Brown 1.0 — and not his father, but him). Apparently he read a study which suggested that urban centers, like Los Angeles, would benefit its youths much more if there were more greenery. I don’t remember what the specific correlation was, but the conclusion was more is better.

As a result, he created a jobs program where unemployed youths would help build more parks. A stroke of genius: traditional government stimulus spending, tempered with small scale investments (a small urban park versus, say, a money-sucking tunnel or train or dam), with forward thinking environmentalism (both the green, save the trees, kind, and social fabric kind).

I wish I knew more about it.

The second comes from the book (which I started but didn’t finish) “The Power Broker” which is about Robert Moses who by paying attention to small, bureaucratic details, ultimately changed the face of New York by creating a huge public parks system. In his case, he really needed to stand up for an unpopular position which could be seen as anti-business and anti-growth.

But the result has made the state and New York City a memorable place and more livable place.