Open spaces mean different things to different people – a place to play organized sports or throw a Frisbee, a place to enjoy a fun playground, or a place to sit and watch the water. Some people use open spaces for exercise, but many more use them to socialize with friends and neighbours.
Sociable open spaces that appeal to lots of different people are safer, and make the community more resistant to crime and other social problems by helping people make a connection with their community, and by building community pride. Residents of towns with attractive, welcoming public spaces are happier and healthier, and open spaces that focus on sociability are the most successful at drawing in a wide range of people. As it turns out, the most attractive thing about an open space is other people - people come where people are!
While “open spaces” include parks, our definition of open space also includes sidewalks, trails, streets, parking lots, plazas, parks, outdoor recreation facilities, brooks, backyards, the LaHave River and all kinds of other open spaces.
For example, consider a streetscape. The roadway provides vehicle access to a place, but the other elements of the streetscape play many different open space roles. Street trees, landscape strips and rain gardens provide wildlife habitat and slow down storm water run-off, ease heat island effects, and make the pedestrian environment more attractive and comfortable. Benches and bump-outs provide places for rest and socializing, and wide sidewalks create an inviting atmosphere for strolling, window shopping and casual meet-ups with friends. Bike lanes provide a place for recreation and physical activity, and attractive storefronts create interest and draw visitors to the street.
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