Best Practice

Optional for category A, B and C cities

Category C cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of at least one action.

Category B cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of at least two actions.

Category A cities that choose to implement this best practice are recognized upon completion of at least three actions.

Summary

Along with city trees, city parks and trails soften our daily life spent in buildings, satisfying an innate affinity for the natural world. These green and open spaces can be a defining feature of a city, providing civic gathering spaces, venues for exercise and cost-free recreation, and connections to open space beyond city limits. City parks and trails provide many important ecosystem services, including the purification of air, reduction in the urban heat island effect, stormwater management, wildlife habitat, and carbon sequestration. Parks and trails are also economic development tools, increasing property values in their vicinity. For example, a $14 million bonus of 2008 tax revenue from ten GreenStep cities in Hennepin County was attributable to homes located within a half-mile of green space.

And finally, trails can serve important transportation functions, connecting recreational destinations, job centers, retail centers, schools, neighborhoods and points beyond the city.

Greenstep Advisor

Best Practice Advisor Photo
Jenna Fletcher, Program Director, Trust for Public Land: 651-999-5306, Jenna.Fletcher@tpl.org, www.tpl.org/our-work/minnesota

Connection to State Policy

State law enables cities to require private developers to dedicate up to 10% of a development parcel to parkland (or make an equivalent monetary contribution): MN Statute (2007) 462.358.

Benefits

Major Benefit

  • A 2006 economic study conducted by Embrace Open Space quantifies the open space premium for homes adjacent to or near open space (parks and natural areas) in Hennepin County. To understand how/why to work with developers on open space, see The Case for Open Space: Why the Real Estate Industry Should Invest in Parks and Open Spaces (ULI: 2018), which presents four case studies from around the country.
  • Studies have demonstrated that access to parks and trails increases physical activity - the research findings suggest locating playing areas, parks and trails within a 1/4 mile of residential areas - and that direct contact with vegetation or nature leads to increased mental health and psychological development.
  • After the publication of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder in 2005, author Richard Louv and others co-founded the Children & Nature Network to disseminate results from peer-reviewed scientific literature and innovative ideas, evidence-based resources and tools, all in service of creating a future in which all children play, learn and grow with, and benefit from, nature in their everyday lives.
  • The Center for City Park Excellence of The Trust for Public Land researches best practices in park management, what makes city parks successful, and how parks provide economic, ecological, and social value to their users. See also the related City Parks Alliance for case studies of excellent parks and for benefits of urban parks in the economic, public health, environmental, community, and educational dimensions.