We often talk about getting away from it all or heading out to the woods. We emphasize raw nature and the importance of communing with it. We focus on the splendor available to us here in the States and, when we think generally of the parks, we envision something remote and out of the way. But there’s plenty of natural beauty to take in, whether you’re in rural Colorado or a bustling California metropolis. Here are a few urban parks we shouldn’t take for granted.
Warner Parks–Nashville, TNGreen, open spaces are necessary for the health of a city and its inhabitants. This point is well understood in Nashville where the beautiful Warner Parks serve this purpose for the nearly one million visitors they host annually. Edwin and Percy Warner Parks offer many ways for Nashvillians to get outdoors, including golf courses, hiking, and equestrian trails as well as a handsome, natural space for a picnic or escape from the urban hustle of the Music City.
Central Park–New York City, NY
Central Park is a familiar urban park to most of us, whether one happens to reside in New York City or not. With over 37 million visitors annually, the park harbors Strawberry Fields, Pale Male the red-tailed hawk, a zoo with snow leopards, horse-drawn carriage rides, and activities as extensive and diverse as New York is itself. But it’s also a very cultivated natural space with over 25,000 trees and miles of walking, biking, and jogging paths—as well as paths that lead to pretzels. The original plan, dreamed up by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, has been largely maintained since 1857, despite some periods of neglect, and adapted to the realities of serving as the primary green space on the island of Manhattan.
LeFleur’s Bluff State Park–Jackson, MSHow often does one get to go camping in the heart of a city? At LeFleur’s Bluff State Park—a 305-acre gem located right in the thick of Jackson, Mississippi—you can do just that. Or you can check out the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science if you’re not too busy unwinding with a fishing rod, supervise your kids while they enjoy the 16,000 square foot Kid Zone Playground, try your hand at the disc golf course, launch a kayak when the weather’s right, or enjoy any of the numerous nature trails the park offers. The multi-functionality and proximity to nature in this park makes it an asset to Jackson, and certainly a destination for visitors to the city.
Topanga State Park–Los Angeles, CATopanga State Park is made up of 11,000 rugged, wild, gorgeous, and minimally-developed acres—all located within the city of Los Angeles. It offers well over 30 miles of trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders along with backpacking and traditional campsites, many spots with picnicking opportunities and scenic mountain views, and a general escape from the metropolitan airs of L.A.—a city notorious for its smog, gridlock, and sprawl. And while the city is implementing its plan to reduce the environmental issues that plague its populace, Topanga State Park continues to prove to be a necessary open area for city dwellers.
Cities in the United States are built upon industry and hustle, and urban parks give the people who live in cities an opportunity to revel in the benefits of nature and open space, even if most of what surrounds them is man-made. Urban parks, like all of the great and protected natural spaces we enjoy, are entirely relevant and important no matter where we live.