After spending 14 days living across the street from Atlanta’s mega 200-acre Piedmont Park, I have an even greater appreciation for the value of urban parks. Twitter is full of urbanists bantering about the value of parks and trees on the quality of the air we breathe, as well as on mental health and well. But seeing is believing.
For some, the urban concrete and asphalt jungle can be depressing, especially for those living in condos with no front or back yards – some don’t even have a balcony. The medical community has coined the term “nature deficit disorder” to describe people living in cities who suffer depression because of their lack of contact with nature.
Studies have shown that when humans are in large parks, their walking slows to a stroll and are more likely to take time to sit, relax, soak in the sun and watch the world go by. Personally, I find people are friendlier when they are in a park than on at street or plaza.
I experienced all of the above living next to Piedmont Park where literally thousands of people walked, biked and jogged along the tree-canopied pathways in my front yard from sunrise to sunset.
Link: Parks Improve Mental Health and Quality of Life
I thought Calgary was an active city but compared to Atlanta, we seem just average. I have never seen so many joggers and walkers – perhaps it was just Spring Fever. I was so impressed I almost went jogging myself.
Two Dog Parks!
And don’t get me started about the dog walking. I used to think River Park in Altadore was the best dog park in North America, until I saw Piedmont Park. It is just one huge dog park. Not only are there two off leash, fenced-in dog parks - one for larger dogs (with an agility course) and one for smaller dogs - but in reality, the entire park is an off-leash dog park (despite lots of signs saying otherwise) and nobody seems to mind.
Park / Art Park / Playground
Piedmont Park also offers huge playing fields, lots of funky art, historic monuments, meandering trails, a pub (which servers $1 beer if it is raining) and a quirky playground design by world-renowned artist Isamu Noguchi.
Who could ask for anything more?
It is no wonder there are several major condos going up in Atlanta’s Midtown district next to Piedmont Park as city dwellers clamour to try to be closer to nature.
Park-oriented development (POD) is also happening in Calgary. There is Qualex-Landmark’s Park Point next to Central Memorial Park (Beltline) and Birchwood Properties’ Ezra on Riley Park (Hillhurst), Anthem’s Water Front and Concord Pacific’s, Concord project next to Prince’s Island and all the East Village condo projects with their proximity to St. Patrick’s Island.
And in Calgary’s suburbs, Fish Creek Exchange by Graywood Developments and Sanderson Ridge near Fish Creek Park are two POD examples.
While the City of Calgary is focused on creating or enhancing 24 different “main streets” across Calgary, I couldn’t help but wonder if we shouldn’t be spending more time identifying how to capitalize on our 5,000+ parks and 850 km of pathways as catalysts for creating quality urban living opportunities across the city.
Hot Travel tip
If you are in Atlanta on a Saturday, don't miss the Saturday morning Piedmont Park free tours compliments of the Piedmont Park Conservatory. They are about 90 minutes long - very entertaining and very informative. Link: Piedmont Park Tours
Note: An edited version of this blog was published in the May 2018 issue of Condo Living Magazine.