The great outdoors — in the city

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London becomes the world’s first National Park City.

January 2, 2020

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An international movement has embarked on a mission to create cities where “people and nature are better connected.” The National Park City Foundation (NPCF) is working toward cities “rich with wildlife, where every child and young person benefits from exploring, playing and learning outdoors. Cities where we all enjoy high-quality green spaces.” Sounds like Utopia, eh? It’s not a bunch of lip service. In 2019, the NPCF named London the first National Park City. Half of London’s area is considered “green” (trees, parks and green roofs) or “blue” (rivers, canals and reservoirs).

This designation helps in three key areas:

  1. Connect more people to nature and the outdoor culture, improving health, well-being and social cohesion.
  2. Create more high-quality green and blue space, making London over 50% green (nature) and blue (water), delivering improvements for wildlife, people’s enjoyment and an attractive and sustainable environment for visiting, living and working in.
  3. Promote London’s identity as a National Park City. Help residents and visitors to appreciate its value and potential for a rich cultural life anchored in its outdoor heritage.

The NPCF expects this designation will create a greater diversity of natural wild spaces, improve air quality and the standards of everyday life for residents and visitors. Children and adults will enjoy play, recreational and learning experiences outdoors, with a positive impact on physical and mental health. More planted and green space will reduce flood risk and increase resilience, as well as enhancing its biodiversity. The group expects that London will become more distinctive as a city, attracting more visitors, investment and interesting activities and businesses of all kinds, boosting its economy and its global brand.

A project of this magnitude requires private/public partnerships, money and willing citizens. In London’s case, the mayor earmarked £9m to support National Park City activities and aligned policies to the NPCF, including matching its target of making 50% of London physically green.

As we enter a new decade, cities in the U.S. should use the National Park City principles as a guide to create more celebrated and mandated green spaces. The green industry could be front and center in such a high-profile project. Find out more about NPCF and the London National Park City at