City planners and housing developers often have specific opinions about what makes a great public space. For example, these professionals have plenty of research to show the value of accessibility, comfort, a positive image, flexibility, and the potential for social interaction. These spaces are often created as parks or community rooms.
Many people use these spaces day in and day out. We should all be dedicated to making our communities brighter and cleaner.
Public Spaces in Your Community
Think of successful public spaces in your community. The end goal for the people who create public venues often has to do with improving interactions within one or more segments of the surrounding populace. Some experts have called these areas “hearts of their communities” and point to their ability to draw attention to the community’s cultural identity. How well have your neighboring spaces succeeded at these goals?
Benefits of Social Interaction
Even people who enjoy quiet, “alone” time need some positive interaction with others in their community. Positive social interaction can decrease the risk of depression, have many beneficial impacts on physical health, and improve a person’s ability to learn and grow. Social and professional networks lead to increased prosperity and supportive social communities reduce the cost of stressful living.
This doesn’t mean that everyone in the community needs to participate in large groups or be forced into unwanted social interactions but the opportunity for an individual to greet an acquaintance or take a walk with a friend can do good in many ways. Community spaces may provide room for picnics or somewhere to sit with a friend. They may offer seating for a free computer class geared toward seniors or provide a stage for a toddler dance crew to perform.
Caring for Community Places
Unfortunately, the people visiting these public spaces are often afflicted with a “not-my-responsibility” mentality. That is, members of the community leave behind their trash, abuse equipment, or damage structures. Whether people are letting dogs loose in a park without cleaning up after them or evening class members leave facilities unlocked, there’s an ongoing need to watch out for and responsibly maintain community places.
Giving Back to Your Community
Happily, there are several ways you can care for public spaces in your community. With a “giving-back-to-the-community” attitude, you can quickly recognize opportunities for service.
- Observe areas of need. When you look at how people are using (or abusing) public areas, you’ll quickly recognize opportunities to help, such as picking up trash or hosting a fundraiser to replace broken lights.
- Enlist help from others. It can be frustrating and difficult to make lasting changes when you’re working alone, but if you gather a group of like-minded individuals, you’ll significantly improve your chances of success.
- Create a sense of community. Too many public parks or pools or gardens or community centers are created with just a few people in mind. For true success at making positive changes, the entire neighborhood needs to feel a sense of ownership over the space.
- Start with easy, inexpensive projects. It is possible to put short-term improvements into action within a single summer and realize lasting results. Keep your goal realistic and sketch out a manageable plan of action.
Some public venues, such as Sullivan Community Space, offer facilities and classes for the improvement of the local neighborhoods. You can provide support for these spaces as well by sharing information about classes and programs run through the facility. You can volunteer your time in many capacities or offer financial donations.
Choose Action Today
There are many opportunities to give back to your community and supporting spaces and facilities that also give back to the community can be very satisfying. As you consider the public areas in your community, it’s probably easy to recognize ways you could help maintain and care for those public parks, buildings, gardens, and pools. What are your plans for improving your neighborhood?