The Importance of Open Spaces in a City

June 20, 2019

Maritime Center | Norwalk TomorrowMany of us like the great outdoors – fresh air, sunshine, a place to walk or a quiet place to relax. But people who live in cities may not always be able to get outdoors as often as they would like. However, there are outdoor spaces in cities that can give us the same feelings of being out in nature such as parks, playing fields, small public spaces, even green roofs. That’s a good thing for many reasons, as we take a look below.

Environmental Benefits

It’s been proven that trees improve air quality by adding oxygen and removing pollutants. In addition, green spaces with less pavement have a cooling effect, reducing city temperatures in the summer. Not only does this cool down humid summers, but saves energy costs to cool buildings. A 2013 study found that rooftops with grass and plants beats asphalt and gravel roofs as they help cool the building while providing a more aesthetically pleasing place for tenants to visit.

Another environmental benefit to open space, particularly green space, is help with stormwater runoff. Unpaved ground absorbs water, aiding in water collection during storms and helping to prevent flooding.


Open space such as parks, walking trails, playgrounds and fields are great areas for recreation. These spaces encourage people to walk and exercise by providing places for physical activities – whether organized or spontaneous. This is especially important for city residents who cannot afford gym memberships or exercise classes.

Mental Health

Exercise has great mental and physical health benefits. Open spaces also boost a sense of well being by providing calm places to stop and think without the city noise and hustle, bustle. This helps reduce stress by providing a respite from the city.

Community Benefits

Open spaces are areas for recreation, but they can also be social spaces for people to gather, meet, play, and talk. Open space can be used for cultural purposes, for social events or to engage in recreational activities with one another. These places cause people to interact with others in the community, whether via an organized event or activity or just because they are places where people gather. This benefits adults and children by providing a sense of community as people get to know others in their neighborhood.

Urban green spaces are good for the environment, facilitate physical exercise and better mental health for city residents, and help create a sense of community in a city. The Norwalk Citywide Plan (Plan of Conservation and Development) notes that the City has a network of parks, natural open spaces, and waterfront offering residents many opportunities for recreational and nature experiences. The plan envisions the creation of an Open Space Committee to develop a Parks, Open Space, Trails, and Recreation System Plan, giving direction for and priority to the City’s open spaces, such as, completing the Norwalk River Valley Trail. This new plan would also identify opportunities in areas of Norwalk where this is little open space to ensure that all residents can walk or bike to a park or green space.

Read More of the Citywide Plan

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