Why do we have parks?

Why do we have parks? City or national? Have you ever pondered this question? A simple question, I know, but unless you have answer, do you really appreciate our parks – both city and national? Without a conscious appreciation, do you take advantage of your access to public parks?

For varying reasons, we separate a piece of land as a park. We then put it under government control and maintenance. Using their free time, people of varying ages then come and visit these places. At some parks, you explore rural and relatively natural settings. At others you might have a picnic and play ball on the baseball field. Strangers tolerate one another as they cross paths at these public places. Sometimes these strangers make friends with one another, interacting in a friendly manner for the duration of their visits.

Apparently the idea of a “public park” has been around since ancient Greece, and public parks have existed in Europe since the 1200’s. The first public park opened here in the U.S in 1634, in the city of Boston, the Boston Common.

Tigard Greenspace park

In President Roosevelt’s 1937 dedication of Timberline Lodge he said, “I take very great pleasure in dedicating this Lodge, not only as a new adjunct of our National Forests, but also as a place to play for generations of Americans in the days to come.” President Roosevelt seemed to imply adding to the National Forests served two purposes: to merely add to the national parks roster and to create another place for people to play.

Now, how do city parks different from national or state parks? Really, how do they? Somewhere along the way I concluded simply that city parks are for kids, and national parks are for adults and kids with adult supervision. For some reason, city parks generally have less prestige and respect than national forests.

City parks exist under city government control, while national parks under federal government control, but both are still under government control. City parks tend toward smaller landmass than national parks, but it is still land of varying terrain. City parks provide for wildlife sustainability, like squirrels and bunnies. Almost in teamwork with city parks, National parks provide refuge for other wild beasts, like bison and beaver.  If you think about it, people spend way more time enjoying and exploring their city park than they will ever a national park. Thus national parks, because of their size, only seem to provide for greater exploration and a destination experience.

What if we treated every park visit with the same enthusiasm, with no undue over-excitement for one and not the other? What if we appreciated each visit to our neighborhood park as we would a national park? What if took more advantage of our neighborhood parks for relaxation, pleasure and mini-vacations? We just might find city parks as satisfactory as national parks for exploration and enjoyment.

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