Greening nearby and inside residential development improves the environment, making it more pleasant to enjoy time outside, especially during warm summer days. Shared green spaces enjoyed by surrounding community members contribute significantly to mental and physical health, they cool down the urban heat island, and filter dirty water and help storm water run-off recharge natural ground water levels instead of running off into the pipe network.
Neighbourhood’s value greening
Interestingly there is a direct correlation between property value and the natural beauty of the neighbourhood. Understanding this a key reason why Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) donates fruit trees to low-cost housing developments to encourage residents to tend and plant more trees. When considering what plants contribute to a healthy environment, understanding seasonal temperatures and maintenance is key, and so indigenous species Celtis Africana (white stinkwood) and Olea europaea subsp. africana (wild olive) make for beautiful choices.
Tree canopies, maintained landscapes, water-sensitive urban design and growth in property values are interlinked. So, in large state-funded housing projects there is a strong requirement for planting space for the ecological effects which enable residents’ comfort, health, efficiency, security, beauty and the joy of having a place to call home.
Sites have the opportunity to be modelled after natural systems to maximise the ecosystem services landscapes can provide. Vegetation can cool the area by shading streets and breathing out water vapour, filter water, restore soil to support healthy vegetation, filter nonpoint source water pollution, slow stormwater run-off, and prevent soil from entering into the pipe network.
Healthy body, healthy mind
Studies show that people respond to healthy and attractive environments through better mental and emotional health, reduced stress responses, higher mental functioning and productivity, community cohesion and resilience, and increased safety and security.
Ecological designs that sustain natural, water-wise planting increases the beauty and aesthetic appeal of the site and this contributes to overcoming hesitation expressed by some communities when considering affordable housing.
JCPZ welcomes residents who want to roll up their sleeves and make a difference to their local parks through litter picking, weeding, flowerbed maintenance, grass rehabilitation and beautification. For more formal contributions, consider adopting a park, joining area community forums and partnering with JCPZ to maintain local parks.
Working towards effective solutions
Partnerships: Working in partnership with organisations and residents helps users and other central role players work towards beautiful parks.
Be flexible: Even excellent designs may not meet the needs of the site or municipal codes, this may require working directly with the local municipality to come up with a creative solution that meets the original needs as well as that of the site and zoning codes.
A better project will result in one that is more functional and accepted.
Include volunteers: Engaging the local community in the installation process will help educate the community in what is being done as well as gain support for the project. Volunteers, especially any local master gardeners, can also be a good way to help keep an eye on maintenance issues on the site.