How Urban Parks Are Bringing Nature Close to Home

Civilization is so close and seems so far, and in that toggle is the wonder of an urban park. The built and natural worlds are in proximity, layered and competing for attention from the bikers and hikers and joggers.

This is the urban park of today. Unlike the neatly drawn public spaces of an earlier age, these parks are reclaimed from the discarded parcels of our cities: Stranded patches of woods, abandoned military bases and airports, storm-water systems, rail lines and bridges, places where scraps of land are pieced together like quilts or strung together like beads.

The experimentation is global. Rail parks, many inspired by the success of New York City’s High Line, are now beguiling fixtures in Sydney, Helsinki, and other cities. Singapore is building an artificial rain forest inside Changi Airport. At the edge of Mexico City, an immense park is planned on what remains of Lake Texcoco.

It is clear that urban parks aren’t a substitute for the enormous and often remote parks that protect our most majestic forests and mountains and canyons. They serve a different purpose; the truth is, we need both. With urban parks it isn’t about absolutes but often just about the joy of being outdoors.

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