Green Spaces

Easy access to nearby, welcoming green space helps keep us mentally and physically healthy, and even helps us to live longer. Green spaces include:

  • Public spaces such as parks, conservation areas, greenways, trails, urban and rural forests, street trees, community gardens, school grounds, shorelines and ravines; and
  • Private and institutional spaces and infrastructure such as gardens, green roofs, green walls, cemeteries, golf courses, and other outdoor spaces.

Social Value

Green spaces are social spaces where we can get to know our neighbours and build a sense of community. They can become community hubs where people of different ages, backgrounds, and abilities can come together. They also create job opportunities,

Food-based initiatives such as farmers markets, community gardens or bake ovens are inviting for a wide diversity of community members: everybody loves good food!

Parks help prevent flooding and cool us in the summer

Parks and green spaces help keep the air clean, make our cities cooler in warmer months, preserve essential natural ecosystems, and absorb stormwater runoff that causes flooding. They are also natural habitats for all sorts of species.

Heat in urban areas

Graph showing an urban heat island profile
Urban heat island effects created when cities become warmer than neighbouring rural areas because pavements, roofs, buildings and other infrastructure remove sources of shade and retain heat. (Image Credit: Wikipedia, Public Domain)

Community Example: Park People

  • Park People is a national advocacy
  • All larger cities have a parks and recreation department
  • Many cities have a community gardening network.
  • NGO’s advocate for community gardens, pollinator gardens, tree planting and bringing green space to dense urban environments. There is sure to be an organization near you that has plenty of great ideas, or would love to hear yours.
  • Canada’s federal Liberal party says that if re elected it will plant 2 billion trees to combat climate change.

Park People has seen that parks now form a critical backbone of community infrastructure, strengthening our resilience during COVID-19.

Parks are places:

  • where we grow our own food,
  • where we let anxieties melt away on a nature walk,
  • where we create social support networks, and even
  • where we may find shelter during a trying time.
WexPOPS, Credit: Park People

A small Toronto community park

“It’s a striking example of how small pin-pricks of nature in an otherwise sea of pavement— even in temporary spaces— can help support biodiversity and threatened species.” Brendan Stewart, project team member

The largest vegetative areas of cities are private and public lawns.

Science tells us that biodiverse ecosystems are our best defense to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. In Canada, biodiversity is highest on indigenous-managed lands.

Who’s Responsible

  1. Public advocates for green space (neighbourhood social networks) 
  2. Nonprofits and community groups (either lead or support the advocacy)
  3. Political and business support (as much support as possible to take to city council)
  4. City council (makes the final decision)
  5. City parks department (implement the project)

The people who live furthest from welcoming green space need it the most.

Even fairly small increases in green space density benefits vulnerable groups.

Improved mental healthConnect with local groups who advocate for and create green spaces
Improved physical health – places to relax and cool off in summer. Places to walk year round.Identify your closest cooling systems – neighbourhood green canopies
Stronger neighbourhoodsTend to local, small, neglected green spaces

People living on low income, racialized groups, older adults, and children have been found to experience the most benefits from nearby green space. Children’s health is shown to be particularly positively impacted when well-maintained parks with playgrounds are close to their homes.

What CREW does

CREW volunteers have created a pollinator garden in their St. James Town, Toronto neighbourhood.

CREW volunteers are planning to reclaim a forest park from the garbage strewn section of ravine that borders their neighbourhood.

Sign from the St. James Town pollinator garden
The pollinator garden sign
Volunteers at the St James Town pollinator garden
CREW volunteers


Park People is a national Canadian organization:

From Park People – The Canadian City Parks Report 2020 (PDF): This has park profiles for 20 Canadian Cities along with lots of great ideas for community engagement!

From the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, a professional organization – academic and other resources.

Treehugger: Even the Smallest Urban Green Spaces Can Have a Big Impact on Mental Health

Report from David Suzuki Foundation: The impact of green space on heat and air pollution in urban communities.