We know that connecting with nature is essential for our mental and physical health. The recent pandemic made that clear. Creating accessible parks and wilderness areas is more than just considering how a wheelchair user might navigate the terrain. Different people have different ways of connecting with nature that is meaningful for them.
Age, cultural background, socioeconomic status and disability are all considered in the report’s practical considerations. The focus is on the accessibility of external spaces because the overall focus is on access to nature.
The report covers detail on the usual elements such as:
- Easy to navigate website with relevant access information
- Lighting around key facilities
- Toilets that can accommodate mobility scooters and wheelchairs, and relief areas for dogs
- Signage and maps of walks and paths
Parking, transport and toilets have more detail along with paths and routes.
Paths and routes
Footway treatments are especially important as well as providing multiple paths so that visitors can choose the most suitable one. In the UK the Fieldfare Trust has a guide for different types and specifications for footpaths in different locations. They cover everything from peri-urban to wilderness. Disabled Ramblers have three categories of paths that they use to describe routes and paths.
The report goes into more detail about path surfaces, widths, gradients and accessible gates. Benches, shelters, bridges, boardwalks and viewing platforms are covered as well.
Connecting with nature
This section of the report covers the diverse range of visitors and how they best connect with nature. The section of age, covers the different needs of children, adolescents and older adults. Little is known why certain ethnic minority groups are less likely to use green spaces. However, they are more likely to use them in groups rather than alone. People with lower incomes visit green spaces less often and more needs to be done to change this.
Lack of access to transport to green space is a key barrier for people with disability. Physical barriers are also a problem but the way that service people treat them is another downside to visiting nature.
The report ends with a list of recommendations covering all the issues discussed earlier in the document. The title of the report is, Nature Connectivity and Accessibility. A report for the National Trust.
Children like it green
A Danish study used satellite data to show a link between growing up near green space and issues with mental health in adulthood. They found that children under 10 years who had greater access to green space may grow up to be happier adults. The FastCo article goes on to say that data was correlated between the child’s proximity to green space during childhood and that same person’s mental health later in life. The more green space they had access to, the less likely they were to have mental health issues later.
The FastCo article is titled, “Kids surrounded by greenery may grow up to be happier adults“. Researchers at Aahus University carried out the research. Their paper is titled, Being surrounded by green space in childhood may improve mental health of adults.