Green Places are Healthier Spaces to Walk, Run and Play

Research shows that people who live near green areas are more likely to engage in regular exercise. Indeed, one of the major ways that nature benefits our health is by motivating and facilitating outdoor physical activity. Whether it’s walking a dog, riding a bike, practicing tai chi, or playing Frisbee golf — it’s more enjoyable, and more beneficial to our health, when we exercise outside.


As modern lifestyles have become increasingly sedentary, there has been a sharp rise in obesity and associated chronic diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, stroke, Type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and certain cancers. The good news is that many of these conditions are preventable. Physical activity combats and prevents many chronic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, lowers blood pressure, burns calories, boosts metabolism, and even promotes positive self-esteem. Outdoor exercise also provides significant mental health benefits that indoor exercise does not provide, such as reduced stress and attention restoration. 


So how do we encourage our communities to go outside and get moving? By bringing Mother Nature back into our neighborhoods. Our environment has a huge influence on our exercise behavior. In fact, research shows that environmental interventions, such as establishing bike paths and walkways, are more effective at influencing physical activity rates than interventions based on information or media campaigns. By bringing Mother Nature back into our communities, Tree for All is also making our neighborhoods healthier by providing greener places to walk, run, and play.  

Explore the health benefits of Tree for All.

 

Caption sources

Ellaway, A., S. Macintyre, and X. Bonnefoy. 2005. Graffiti, Greenery, and Obesity in Adults: Secondary Analysis of European Cross Sectional Survey. British Medical Journal 331:611-612.

Takano, T., K. Nakamura, and M. Watanabe. 2002. Urban Residential Environments and Senior Citizens’ Longevity in Mega-City Areas: The Importance of Walkable Green Space. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 56, 12:913–916.

Maas, J., R.A. Verheij, P.P. Groenewegen, S. de Vries, and P. Spreeuwenberg. 2006. Green Space, Urbanity, and Health: How Strong is the Relation? Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 60:587–592.

 

Discovery Day reveals new access to the Tualatin River at Farmington

“We fell in, but the water was warm and we laughed about it.”

“We had a great time and will come back soon.”

“It’s super to have a new paddle launch so close to my home.”

“My legs feel like jelly but I want to do it again.”  

From experienced kayakers who have navigated hundreds of water miles, to first timers who enjoyed the easy ride from the middle seat in a canoe, everyone had a blast at this year’s Discovery Day, which celebrated the opening for the new Farmington Paddle Launch.

Centro Cultural, Clean Water Services, Metro and Tualatin Riverkeepers staff and volunteers were on hand to ensure that all boaters had the right equipment and safety gear to enjoy their ride. Discovery Day, a Riverkeepers event now in its 28th year, is all about the Tualatin River. It’s a day to showcase the river’s beauty and health and to introduce more people to one of our region’s important natural and recreational assets. In fact, kicking off the day’s event was a short program featuring community and elected leaders who shared their vision and the collaborative undertaking that resulted in the Farmington Paddle Launch.  

We learned that over 10,000 native plants were installed by work crews and community-driven programs using the help from volunteers. Lots of invasive weeds were removed so that native habitats will support more birds and wildlife. In the coming decades, partners will continue to work side by side to ensure the site adds ecological, economic and recreational value for Washington County.

The history of the Tualatin River is well known. Fifty years ago, the river was a mere trickle, wetlands were drying up, and wildlife habitat was disappearing. Pollution was so bad that the state imposed a building moratorium. Not anymore. Judging from the smiles on full display as folks were helped out of their boats at the Farmington Paddle Launch dock, the Tualatin River is no longer a place to avoid.

Even newcomer Claudia, who just moved to Tigard from San Francisco, noted the changes by telling her sister, “check out the river, it’s lovely and not a mess anymore.”

An International Exchange

Imagine that you're visiting Englewood Park on a Tuesday morning in June, walking along Fanno Creek as it travels through Tigard.  You see a group of about a dozen people walking together, stopping frequently to talk, consult their iPads, and call attention to the plants and wildlife around them.  You overhear one of them talking about an organization whose main objective is "...the conservation and restoration of [their watershed], for the preservation of the natural ecosystems and their biodiversity, with the inhabitants of the rural communities,"

If you think you've stumbled across a group of Tree For All folks, you're only partly right. On June 6, a handful of Clean Water Services staff had the opportunity to meet with a delegation from the Laja Watershed, in central Mexico. The mission statement quoted above is that of an associated group called Salvemos al Rio Laja. 

Delegation members bring extensive experience in watershed management, GIS, forestry education, and agricultural engineering. They were in Oregon as part of the Willamette-Laja Twinning Project, which creates opportunities for restoration leaders in the two watersheds to learn from each other. 

Englewood Park is one of the longest-established Tree For All sites. CWS restored native vegetation in 2004, and beaver returned about five years later. It proved the perfect site for a long and rich conversation on many topics, including:

  • The remeandering of stream channels as a way to prevent continued degradation;
  • The names of native and introduced plants at the site;
  • Beavers as a keystone species that creates habitat for other species;
  • Funding sources;
  • Community engagement, through community science projects, schools, and planting events;
  • Culturally sensitive ways of planning and framing volunteer activities.

While exploring the eBird app, the group was delighted to discover that they weren't the first Englewood Park visitors from their part of Mexico. It turns out that robins migrate between Guanajuato state and Tigard. Fortunately, restoration advocates are now following the same path--in both directions!

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Visit the Willamette River Initiative Site to read a story and view a presentation about the Willamette-Laja Twinning Project. View the Fanno Creek case study to learn more about Tree For All activities in this area. 

Getting ready for the Farmington Paddle Launch

In the summer of 1958, the Tualatin River was so depleted by the time it reached the community of Farmington that a person could easily straddle it. Look at that location now! The river at that same location is flowing strong enough to host the newest access point on the Tualatin River Water Trail.

On June 24, come to Discovery Day and celebrate this site as a visible symbol of the difference that Tree For All partners are making. The 28th Annual Tualatin Riverkeepers event is combined with the grand opening of Farmington Paddle Launch

Plants and Trees Foster a Safe and Healthy Environment

Plants and trees clean our water, soil, and air — making our environment a safer and healthier place to live. Our health starts with the quality of the air we breathe and the water we drink, so it stands to reason that our health is closely connected to our environment.
 
While trees are often recognized for providing us with oxygen, they don’t get enough credit for also filtering the air we breathe. Trees remove harmful pollutants from the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and fine particulate matter. 
 
When we bring nature back into our neighborhoods, the air we breathe is cleaner and, in turn, our communities are healthier. Reducing air pollution particles has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer, and lung diseases including asthma. In fact, US Forest Service scientists calculate that trees save more than 850 million lives a year and prevent 670,000 incidents of acute respiratory failure. 
 
Trees also clean up pollutants in our soil and water, protecting local water quality. By reducing groundwater runoff and sewage overflow — which can pose serious health hazards — trees provide us with healthier neighborhoods and make it more likely that we’ll get outside and enjoy nature. 

 

Caption Sources

Lovasi, G. S., Quinn, J. W, Neckerman, K. M., Perzanowski, M., Rundle, A, (2008). Children living in areas with more street trees have lower prevalence of asthma. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 62(7), 647-649.

Nowak, D., Hirabayashi, S., Bodine, A., Greenfield, E. 2007. Tree and forest effects on air quality and human health in the United States.

Nowak, D., Hirabayashi, S., Bodine, A., Greenfield, E. 2007. Tree and forest effects on air quality and human health in the United States.