Blog: Why urban parks matter in creating healthy and liveable cities

By Tanya Davies

It may have been first thing on a Monday morning but the ‘Healthy Parks, Healthy People’ panel were wide awake and keen to talk about town planning, inclusive and accessible parks, connected communities and teaching the young generation.

Tobias Volbert shared his experiences designing urban parks for mobility accessibility and to consider a greater scope of neurodiversity and disability by engaging the seven senses. His track record in making natural places accessible to children with alternative sensory needs was a great start to a varied session.

The next panellist, Dorothy Lim, turned our attention to Singapore, where the National Parks Board are running free 'Sundays @ The Park' with Bollyrobics, Piloxing, Bokwa fitness, Zumba, boot camps and structured and free-play workouts to combat obesity and encourage family and friends to be active together.

Dorothy said location was one of the most important factors in the success of the programme. "Being in a park setting drew people to the programme, and more than 90% of participants said they feel calm there. We hope this will become a typical activity for Singaporean families, and there are plans to expand the programme with partners."

Vance Martin brought the sights and sounds of Boulder, Colorado at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains into the room as he spoke about connecting areas, and managing to live in harmonious proximity with mountain lions. His key goals are for resilience, permeability and connectedness. "Over millennia, cities have been a fortress - a place where we can be protected and surrounded by our own kind. We want to talk about the city as permeable, with connectivity in terms of ecology and people," he said.

Parks Victoria's Fran Horsely spoke on breathing life into urban spaces in the state, where about 25% of kids are overweight and the population is set to boom in the next 30 years. Fran said, "Urban parks are part of the health solution as long we know what motivates people to visit parks - and the barriers. We can't afford to be complacent. We're building 80 new suburbs in Melbourne and good planning is essential."

Search the hashtags #HPHP and #WPCHealth on Twitter to recap on more of the conversations.