Column: Community parks benefit health and economy

Director’s Notes by Paul Demenok

The Area C Parks Plan was developed after a substantial community consultation process.

The Plan notes, “Blind Bay has a need for more parkland and improved amenities for children, youth, families and seniors alike. The existing parkland is small and fragmented, and there is not an outdoor space that can accommodate community gatherings and events.”

With this in mind, let’s look at the benefits of a community park. A web search on this reveals an extensive list, including benefits to health, the local economy, real estate values, environment, community vibrancy, social and cultural benefits.

Active park users have higher perceived health status, fewer doctor visits, lower blood pressure, decreased body mass index and lower cortisol. Studies show a park can significantly reduce stress levels, and encourages people to be more physically active. Park playgrounds provide multi-sensory experiences aiding in childhood skills and social development. And parks provide opportunities for parents and children to bond in a physical way that TV’s or cell phones cannot.

Numerous studies show community parks increase local real estate values from five per cent to 20 per cent over time. So, for a $400,000 home, a conservative estimate is that its value will appreciate by $20,000 or more.

Parks, trails and playgrounds are among the top five most important community amenities affecting decisions to relocate. With events like Canada Day and Music in the Bay, we see local businesses thriving both on-site and within the community at-large. As crowds are attracted to an event, we see more tourism-related expenditures, and more people are attracted to the South Shuswap as a place to live.

It has been noted that a $1 investment in a national park produces more than $10 in value to the local economy.

A 2017 study showed that parks and greenways play an important role in reducing rates of violent, disorderly and property crime. Environmentally, parks protect and conserve biodiversity. They help keep air and water clean and counteract effects of pollution and other climate change impacts.

It has been said, “Parks are a tangible reflection of the quality of life in a community. Parks and recreation services are often cited as one of the most important factors in surveys of how liveable communities are. Parks have a value to a community that transcend the amount of dollars invested or the revenues gained from fees. Parks provide a sense of public pride and cohesion to every community.”

It’s my belief that a community park will significantly enhance our quality of life, physical well-being, sense of community and local economy. Crowds at Canada Day and Music on the Bay attest to this, and these undeniable benefits will last for generations.

Recognizing the benefits of a park, Jack and Terry Barker wisely declined a written offer from a group wishing to build higher density residences on Centennial Field. They sold this property to the CSRD for a significantly lower price, with the condition that this land remain as parkland in perpetuity.

If Centennial Field is approved, there will be another community consultation process regarding its development. The scope of this process will include development of waterfront land across Blind Bay Road in front of Centennial Field; so, consider the opportunities to do something very special here.

Most, if not all of costs for parkland development, will come from various grants. The consultation process will be another opportunity for you to provide your ideas and suggestions as to the park amenities you would like to see. With further improvements and amenities added this property, the return on investment to this community is going to be multiplied many-fold.

In my opinion, the benefits to this community far outweigh the costs.

-Paul Demenok is the Area C Director for the Columbia Shuswap Regional District

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