behavior · brain · community · health · mental health · Nature

Vermont Physicians Will be Prescribing Day Passes to State Parks – Champlain Valley News

Healthcare providers already recommend this in Japan and Korea, so glad to see it getting picked up in North America too.

Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine writes a prescription for exercise for a patient at Northwestern Medical Center. Photo: Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports

This summer, Vermont physicians will be prescribing active play in Vermont State Parks to promote healthy lifestyles and prevent chronic health issues.

The Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports along with the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation gave doctors free day passes to state parks to give to patients.

These “prescriptions” follow the principles of Exercise in Medicine (EiM), a global health initiative to promote physical activity.

In some ways this is just a promotion for Vermont’s state parks, but so what?! In an era when we are taking less vacation, park budgets are being slashed and use is being restricted in other ways, including parks potentially being shut down permanently, this is a great way to encourage people to get out into nature and just breathe fresh air, stretch their bodies, and move!

“Studies have demonstrated that outdoor exercise is associated with increased energy and revitalization and decreased depression and tension,” said Dr. Elisabeth Fontaine, a physician at Northwestern Medical Center and a member of the VT Governor’s Council.

“The sun also helps to create through your skin Vitamin D3, which is important for bone health and metabolic function,” Dr. Fontaine continued.

In addition to handing out state park pass prescriptions, the VT Governor’s Council is also encouraging doctors to talk with patients about the importance of exercise.

“The Park Prescription program is a perfect way to highlight the connection between outdoor recreation and personal health. Spending time outdoors, connecting with nature and being active all help keep us strong in both body and spirit,” said Director of Vermont State Parks Craig Whipple.

“And state parks offer the ideal settings for valuable outdoor time,” Whipple added.

For more information, visit

children · community · design · play

El Alto, Bolivia Has a Public Park That Moves Around the City – CityLab

This is a great example of how easy it is to create playful spaces, especially temporary ones, which can in many ways add to the fun.

Also a good reminder that PARKing Day is happening in the US next week!

The mobile park on parade in El Alto this summer. (Megan Hoffman)

Working in the harsh sunlight, they set about disassembling the carts. The shell of the bee became a series of green mounds, while the elephant trunk revealed itself as a slide.

In a matter of minutes a playground was born, and the sounds of children playing rippled across the plaza.

By most urban timelines, El Alto itself is a pop-up construction of sorts. The grid that spreads across the barren altiplano was a tiny informal settlement, perched above La Paz, in the early 1950s. Following its establishment as an independent municipality in 1985, its population jumped, by 54 percent from 2000 to 2010 alone. El Alto now has more than 1 million people, approximately 75 percent of whom identify as members of the indigenous Aymara people. (In Bolivia overall, 25 percent of the population is indigenous.) It has even given rise to a bold new architecture, evidence of Bolivia’s recent economic boom.

In this dense city, driven by commerce at all scales, streets, sidewalks, and communal spaces are often transformed into informal markets, where vendors and minibuses compete for real estate. While this competition brings vitality, it requires novel methods of occupying urban space for play.

The pop-up playground aims to do just that. Over three summers, the International Design Clinic (IDC), a “guerrilla design” collective, has collaborated with Teatro Trono to design and build a pair of mutable, movable playspaces that will help the organization expand its activism into El Alto’s public space. The areas currently designated for children in El Alto are scant and often ill-maintained.

Headed by Scott Shall, an architecture professor at Lawrence Technological University near Detroit, the IDC works closely with groups already embedded within communities, lending its own design expertise to support what they do well. “We try to contribute to and intersect their work for a strategic moment, but we always have an exit plan,” says Shall. “We aren’t permanent, they are.”

More from the Source: El Alto, Bolivia Has a Public Park That Moves Around the City – CityLab

community · culture · happiness · music · play

Seattle’s Pianos in the Parks program encourages park discovery through music

Ah summer, which in Seattle brings out swimmers, cyclists, picnickers… and pianos!

It’s music to our ears: the pianos are back. After a successful first campaign, Pianos in the Parks will be returning for a second season on July 16. The month-long program will add to additional pianos to the roster this year, totaling 22 pianos in Puget Sound-area locations. Seattle Parks and Recreation will host 11 pianos in public parks.

The program, led by Laird Norton Wealth Management, is designed to encourage the discovery of parks through music and art by placing one-of-a-kind, artist-designed upright and grand pianos in parks and public spaces across King County including Seattle, Bellevue, Kirkland, Mercer Island and Sea-Tac, for free public use and music exploration.

All 22 previously owned pianos are procured, repaired, tuned, transported and maintained by Classic Pianos; and are painted by student, alumni and faculty artists of Gage Academy of Art.

The specific parks and public spaces which will host the pianos through Aug. 16 will be announced at a public kick-off celebration from noon to 1:30pm on Thursday, July 16 at Lake Union Park – See more at:
The specific parks and public spaces which will host the pianos through Aug. 16 will be announced at a public kick-off celebration from noon to 1:30pm on Thursday, July 16 at Lake Union Park (860 Terry Avenue North) near the park’s model boat pond in downtown Seattle. At the celebration, local artists who painted the pianos will unveil their works of art – followed by a musical performance in which all 22 instruments will be played by local pianists. Also participating in the event are a number of musicians, city and county officials, and program partners. Following the unveiling, the public will have an opportunity to view all 22 pianos, meet the artists and be treated to additional musical performances. – See more at:

via Pianos in the Parks encourage park discovery through music.

There will be a public “opening” of the pianos from noon to 1:30pm on Thursday, July 16 at Lake Union Park (860 Terry Avenue North) near the park’s model boat pond in downtown Seattle.

The pianos will welcome park-goers in their respective locations thru Aug. 16. During this time, people of all skill levels and musical persuasions are urged to enter a Pianos in the Parks video contest for a chance to perform as part of the Seattle Center’s Concerts at the Mural presented by KEXP 90.3 FM on Friday, Aug. 21. Entrants simply need to upload a video of their performance using one of the participating pianos to the Pianos in the Parks website, beginning July 16.

Find a piano, take a picture or video of yourself with it, and share with the world!

from noon to 1:30pm on Thursday, July 16 at Lake Union Park (860 Terry Avenue North) near the park’s model boat pond in downtown Seattle – See more at:
community · culture · environment · happiness

Seattle Department of Transportation: Seattle Parklet Program & Streatery Pilot Program

Way to go Seattle!

After a successful year-and-a-half long pilot, we’re excited to announce that the Parklet Program is now a permanent program! This means that Seattle businesses and community groups have even more opportunities to enhance our streets with public spaces.

As part of this launch, we’re also rolling out a brand-new approach to activating our streets: the Streateries Pilot Program. What’s a “streatery” you ask? Streateries combine the best features of a parklet and a sidewalk café by allowing a restaurant, café, or bar to use a parking space to create outdoor seating for their customers during business hours (like a café) and for the public during non-business hours (like a parklet).

there is still time to sign up your company if you’re interested via Seattle Department of Transportation: Seattle Parklet Program & Streatery Pilot Program.

I look forward to seeing lots of little Parklets spring up around the city as we start to emerge from the winter wet and dark.

community · creativity · music

Seattle Places Pianos in its Parks for the Summer

Happy Monday. If I ever needed a pick-me-up it is this week, so what’s better than a little music – outdoors – for free – via crowdsourced pianos.


Piano placed in Volunteer Park, Seattle.
Piano placed in Volunteer Park, Seattle.

Seattle and the Great Northwest are known for their natural beauty. And there is no greater place to enjoy nature locally, than within the hundreds of Seattle and King County parks and open spaces. Regardless of where we live, work or play, parks are great economic equalizers – providing us all with venues for relaxation, exercise, recreation and entertainment. Seattle and King County is also known as a place where music and the visual and performing arts all thrive.

In the Pianos in the Parks public-private partnership, some of the region’s leading music and arts organizations have come together to encourage us all to discover our parks. It all starts with an alluring piano. And not just any old piano – these pianos have been donated, restored and tuned by Classic Pianos and dynamically designed by the students, faculty and friends of Gage Academy of Art. With partners like Seattle Symphony, KEXP, and City of Music who knows who you’ll find tickling the ivories of one of these pianos? From baseball to dog parks, concerts to picnics – we all now have another reason to DISCOVER OUR PARKS: the PIANO. ENJOY!

via About Pianos in the Parks » Pianos in the Parks.

Other cities have done this or similar projects before, so it is great to see this sort of project come to Seattle.

Find a piano near you!

community · creativity · environment · play

Introducing Park-A-Park: Vancouver’s Recently Launched Mobile Parklet | Spacing Vancouver

Have you ever wandered into a neighborhood or parking lot and thought, “Wow, this space could use a nice mini-park, or even a bench.” Well, here you go!

A colorful banner pasted alongside the bin’s rough exterior cheerfully announces ‘Park-A-Park’, the mobile parklet that launched on Vancouver’s Commercial Drive at the tail end of July. The bin reaches just over three feet high, its inner walls are ringed with wooden bench seating, and planters and tables mingle inside to offer a charming, yet functional environment. The unit is capped by a shade-providing umbrella, and one end of the bin lies open, like a drawbridge, coyly beckoning passersby to enter.

A partnership between Emily Carr University of Art + Design and local Urban Interventionist Julien Thomas, Park-A-Park has been designed to transform an industrial disposal bin into an aesthetic mobile park that can be transported, parked, and enjoyed throughout the city. The unit is a component of Emily Carr’s chART project and aims to support public art and community engagement through creativity and innovation.

more via Introducing Park-A-Park: Vancouver’s Recently Launched Mobile Parklet | Spacing Vancouver.

For more information, you can also visit:

This is reminiscent of PARK(ing) Days in the U.S. where people take over parking spaces in cities and turn them into mini-parks.

Where have you seen mini-parks, or think there should be one? Leave your ideas in the comments below.

community · creativity · environment · music

Want to support music? Support green space and parks!

OK, maybe that’s overstating it a bit, but that’s the headline/thesis that Grist Editor Jess Zimmerman proposes in his short article about Seattle rapper Macklemore, and I gotta admit I like his thinking…

In this video for the Nature Conservancy, rapper Macklemore explains how municipal green space in his home city of Seattle influenced his career: He and his friends didn’t want to kick it at their parents’ houses, so they went and freestyled in parks. (Side note: Do people really still say “kick it,” or is Macklemore even older than I am?) We knew, of course, that Macklemore was into creative reuse, but who knew he had so many ideas about urban infrastructure?

The moral here is clear: Want more rappers? Make more parks. It’s just science.

I also love the fact that a hip hop artist is “kicking it” with the Nature Conservancy.

Do you know of any other artists who got their start playing in parks, beaches, or other urban green spaces? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

architecture · community · environment · Nature

It makes sense since several studies have found nature in general to be calming and correlates with an increase in concentration.


What many landscape architects and designers know intuitively is increasingly becoming proven scientifically. In fact, more and more exciting research appears showing the cognitive and mental health benefits of being out in nature — in places like parks, or even just meandering down leafy streets. According to The New York Times, a new study from Scotland shows that “brain fatigue” can be eased by simply walking a half-mile through a park.

In The New York Times’ Well blog, Gretchen Reynolds writes that “scientists have known for some time that the human brain’s ability to stay calm and focused is limited and can be overwhelmed by the constant noise and hectic, jangling demands of city living, sometimes resulting in a condition informally known as brain fatigue.”

Green spaces help alleviate brain fatigue because they are “calming” and require “less of our so-called directed mental attention than busy, urban streets…

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architecture · community · design · environment · play

Superkilen: Global Mash-up of a Park

Using parks and other playful spaces to improve urban neighborhoods and the residents’ lives…


The nearly mile-long Superkilen park in Denmark is a bold attempt to create a new identity for an “ethnically diverse and socially challenged” neighborhood in Copenhagen, Denmark. An in-depth community outreach process organized by the city has led to a place like no other, with a sequence of plazas that honor different ethnics groups living in the area. Designed by Bjarke Ingels’ firm, BIG, landscape architecture firm, Topotek 1, and artists’ group, Superflex, the massive project also accomplished a lot with a little budget: at just $34 per square foot, the landscape “packs a lot of bang for the buck.” The project, which has recently been all over the design press, also just took home the AIA Institute Honor Award for urban and regional design and an annual design award from Architect Magazine in the “play” category.

The AIA jury, which included Ellen Dunham Jones, author of Retrofitting Suburbia

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environment · health · Nature

Indeed! Fascinating findings and I like how they’re being applied.


“Parks are a part of our healthcare system,” said Dr. Daphne Miller, a professor of family and community medicine, University of California, San Francisco, at the Greater & Greener: Reimagining Parks for 21st Century Cities, a conference in New York City. She said these green spaces are crucial to solving hypertension, anxiety, depression, diabetes — “the diseases of indoor living.” The more someone spends outdoors, the less likely they are to suffer from mental or physical disorders. But she said parks officials and the medical profession still needs more data to take aim at the many “naysayers on the other side” who don’t believe in what every landscape architect values.

Lucky for all of us, a few scientists are doing innovative research, trying to capture that data. In a separate panel on healthcare and parks, Dr. Deborah Cohen, senior natural scientist at RAND, and Sarah Messiah, a…

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