Urban green spaces are fundamental components of a city's infrastructure. Green spaces enrich the lives of city dwellers in many ways, offering places to watch wildlife, to renew from the stresses of daily life, and to provide many environmental functions (i.e., minimize flooding). Evidence shows that urban green spaces reduce anxiety and stress, even help to lower crime and violence. However, many people only equate green spaces with public parks and other publicly accessible spaces. Citizens forget about green spaces in their own backyards, the street right-of-ways and other public, private and semi-public places. Urban green spaces are all around us and if we look hard enough we will be amazed at what they have to offer.
Unfortunately, many of these hidden green spaces are under threat of disappearing. Individual actions and new development can have dramatic impact on these small, vulnerable areas. Most people do not give it a second thought when a single tree is cut or a small bungalow is converted into few townhomes. But what are the cumulative impacts of these actions? How many people cut down trees each year? How many single-family homes are converted into townhomes or condominiums? Each of these activities can result in the permanent loss of urban green space.
Too often in today’s pro-density context urban green spaces are either afterthoughts or the leftover spaces that cannot be built on. Seattle Audubon supports a vibrant, livable and balanced development pattern, but we believe that focusing only on accommodating growth and density, without complementary attention to green spaces is counterproductive to the goals of a livable city. The current way of planning and accommodating development is overwhelming our system of parks and green spaces. We need to readdress the way development happens in our city to ensure new development truly benefits all citizens of Seattle.
Recognizing the interconnectivity between livability and urban green spaces, the Seattle Audubon Society is undertaking the task of helping citizens gain the resources needed to effectively engage in efforts to protect and promote the health of urban green spaces and livable neighborhoods. We believe an empowered and active grassroots effort is one of the most effective ways to influence positive change. Positive change efforts include individual activities (i.e., gardening for wildlife), neighborhood activities (i.e., park restoration) and activism (i.e., commenting on proposed development).