Although the participants in last night’s Atlanta Mayoral Candidate Forum on Greenspace #atl4greenspace failed to use the word “play,” there was one idea that left this play advocate spectacularly encouraged. A few of the candidates mentioned using schoolyards as community greenspace. The mind boggles at all of the benefits that could come from such a cooperative venture (because we all know that left to their own resources, for children, greenspace = play).
For years, those of us in the world of play have touted the partnerships that open up unused school property for community play when school is not in session. Put in place by what are usually called either “joint use” or “shared use” agreements (JUA) these plans have the school providing the land and one or more government entities helping to maintain the property and “outfit” it for community use, often with added resources from foundations. The resulting green schoolyards bring countless benefits to the school and its children and the community as a whole.
You should try bringing up this idea if you want to get everyone in a room shaking their heads NO! in unison. It is fraught with difficulties, but according to the CDC is being done successfully all across the country. “Among the 61.6% of school districts with a formal JUA, more than 80% had an agreement for the use of indoor and outdoor recreation facilities; other uses also were identified. JUAs were more common in urban than rural areas, in large than small school districts, and in the West compared with the Midwest, South, and Northeast.” In New York City they are even considering JUA to increase affordable space for artists to do their work. (What a wonderful way to get that VERY important “A” firmly planted in STEAM.)
Creating green schoolyards open to all is a powerful way to bring equity to the poorer urban areas that are lacking in greenspace and beautiful, playful school grounds. Successful implementation would lead to increased physical activity, community ties, academic performance, and health outcomes, all while reducing crime and toxic stress. As one mayoral candidate (Peter Aman) mentioned, one of the reasons children stay home from school is depression, and being out in nature can help alleviate depression. It just makes sense that greenspace in and around schools would be beneficial to all.
Making this practical idea a reality is simply a matter of political will. Political will is simply a matter of what the people are willing to raise their voices in support of…and vote for. Be sure to ask your candidate if they are in favor of working with Atlanta's schools, and while you're at it, as the schools, too. Atlanta is expected to double or triple its urban population in the next decade or so. We can't allow increased density without the increase in accessible greenspace that keeps our city livable (and don't get me started on the importance of trees and the tree canopy).
All of Atlanta's mayoral candidates on stage at Georgia State University for the Mayoral Candidate Forum on Greenspace (July 13, 2017). #atl4greenspace The event was hosted by 11 environmental groups and moderated by The Saporta Report's Maria Saporta. The event sold out, was moved to a larger venue, and then was immediately sold out again. Yes, greenspace is a very important issue in Atlanta - thank goodness.
The event was presented by: Park Pride, Trees Atlanta, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy in Georgia, Piedmont Park Conservancy, The Georgia Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance & Chattahoochee Riverkeeper
Artists in schools: https://nycfuture.org/research/more-NYC-artists-fewer-studios-schools
Benefits of Shared Use poster: http://www.changelabsolutions.org/sites/default/files/Benefits_of_S...
Equity and Shared Use: http://www.changelabsolutions.org/publications/fair-play
Joint Use Toolkit https://kaboom.org/resources/joint_use
International Schoolgrounds Alliance http://www.internationalschoolgrounds.org
The Saporta Report http://saportareport.com/greenspace-mayoral-forum/