Last weekend we took a walk in a park run by the local conservation authority. It was a beautiful summer day and we saw trees and wildflowers and birds of all descriptions and people — many, many people.

We had always thought the conservation authority set aside land for parks for the land’s sake. For the sake of letting trees and wildflowers grow, which then provide habitat for birds and other animals (depending on the size of the park). However, it was brought home to us last weekend that the primary beneficiaries of the park are the people.

There was a huge diversity of age and ethnic backgrounds among the park’s patrons. On the paths there were families like ourselves, some pushing strollers, some on bicycles ranging from racing bikes to tricycles. There were buff bodies whizzing by on in-line skates, people walking dogs from huge hairy hounds to little lap dogs travelling in purses and, yes, in doggie strollers. There were older people walking briskly, strolling along or being pushed in wheelchairs.

The picnic areas were also full of life. There were people taking a break from their bike rides to enjoy a bottle of water and there were huge multi-generational families with cloth tablecloths spread on the picnic tables, who had set up hammocks and canopies and tents, where some folks lounged while others prepared huge meals on charcoal barbecues. Kids wove in and out, chasing balls and dogs and each other. The food prepared ranged from sandwiches, to hamburgers and hotdogs, to exotic-smelling kebabs and other delicacies depending on the tastes of the picnickers.

Sometimes the preservation of the environment seems like an abstract idea. Saving habitat we have never seen to protect animals we have never seen; curtailing chemicals that we can’t see. However, the observation of the activities in the park show that preserving green spaces directly benefits us all.

In Canada we are lucky enough to have unspoiled green spaces that are open to all and we as a society love them and take full advantage of them.

While some people, depending on their income level and where they live, can enjoy a day outside in their own yards, others do not have that luxury. This is where parks come in. Preserving these parks is crucial to the health and wellbeing of those who depend on them for their days outdoors.

Picnicking under a tree on a beautiful summer day should be a right for all humans.

– Sophia Dore is an environmental scientist with Conestoga-Rovers & Associates. Andrew Laursen is an assistant professor at Ryerson University;

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