The Significance of Parks

To both Andrew Jackson Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted, there is a mutual agreeance in the benefit of public parks and it’s ability to “beat down artificial barriers”. Both public space extraordinaire’s like to harp on the social integration that public parks initiate. Olmsted goes to the point of actual facts that confirm the importance of establishing areas that present “opportunities of relief.

The primary functions for parks are to create some form of “health and virtue” for all mankind. Olmsted quotes a local physician with whom he discussed the healing benefits of parks:

“Where I formerly ordered patients of a certain class to give up their business altogether and go out of town, I now often advise simply moderation and prescribe a ride in the Park before going to their offices, and again a drive with their families before dinner. By simply adopting this course as a habit, men who have been breaking down frequently recover tone rapidly, and are able to retain an active and controlling influence in an important business, from which they would have otherwise been forced to retire. I direct school-girls, under certain circumstances, to be taken wholly, or in part, from their studies, and sent to spend several hours a day rambling on foot in the Park”

The park becomes a place of vitality and youthfulness. You will be purified by the very nature, trees, plants, etc, and avoid the harshness that stems from consistently staying inside.

Parks build the community by creating a space that is for everyone. Recently we have been reading about the effects of sprawl in neighborhoods. They tend to have a segregated aura about them, preventing different people from interacting with others that may not be of the same social status or have the same income as them.  Traditional spaces, along with their public parks create a diversified group of people, who will understand how to intermingle with each other. They’re not only available for “royal enjoyment”.

Downing and Olmsted’s dedication to improve the likelihood of man and provide them with a centralized place that induces equality can still be seen today. This year I’m taking “Journalistic Insight in the Community” which involves me visiting various areas of Macon. First hand, I have been able to experience the “common enjoyment of public grounds” but also the idea that “the center of population to the midst of the park” is still quite far. There is still more work to be done, especially in educating people about the importance of public parks and how beneficial it is towards a community. Today, the ideals of Frederick Olmsted and Andrew Downing can be seen amongst traditional neighborhoods that integrate mix use and the preservation of the community.


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