Grant Park Health Park… ever heard of it?
You soon will.
So - let’s talk about health. We could start with the health of a city. Cities are made up of dynamic systems, all operating under paradigms and timeframes, all in a constant state of change and geared towards improving life in that place, say, Chicago. Some of these systems include transportation, food, water, economics, politics, and most importantly for this discussion, health systems.
Nearly two centuries ago, before Chicago was even incorporated and before most of these systems were fully construed, prospecting Chicagoans had the foresight to value the seemingly mundane. In 1836, commissioners declared what is now a space exceeding 300 acres as public ground, to remain vacant of buildings. Their promise remains, such that today Grant Park is a gem in the peripheral heart of Chicago.
The natural systems this beautiful park nurtures and houses might seem negligible to some, but open space and parks in dense urban environments add a certain vitality and healthfulness to the whole. Pristine, no. Cultivated, yes. Yet, a park can provide a reprieve to those dwelling in the midst of the hustle and bustle, the endless entertainment and expansive buildings. A place for the natural to be remembered and ecosystems to be protected, adding to health of the city and yes, to the health of its inhabitants!
Like cities, our bodies are made up of systems - systems that must be nurtured to flourish. Grant Park has the innate ability to soothe our respiratory system with fresh air off the lake, liven up our neurons with some unfiltered sunlight on our faces, ensure us a space to freely move our bodies, and awaken our souls by way of soft grass under our feet.
A recent article (Hartig & Kahn, 2016) in Science magazine discusses the longstanding conclusion by psychologists and public health officials that parks and natural spaces in cities are beneficial for people – to the extent that these features should be mainstay in any urban setting. Lowered stress levels, reduced mental health issues, augmented attention frames, and reduced blood pressure are just some of the known perks city-dwellers in particular can expect when they spend time in natural settings.
All of these benefits are available by simply being in these spaces. If we really want to boost the benefits for our minds and bodies, that time would ideally be spent partaking in physical activity.
For the last couple years, VibeUP has been working with the Grant Park Conservancy and Chicago Park District, among other supporters, to incorporate an outdoor movement-focused mini-park into Grant Park. The Health Park would be located in the southwest corner of Michigan Ave and Roosevelt, and the programming would be run through the Grant Park Conservancy.
With space and amenities for yoga, meditation, calisthenics, parkour, art, and social events, this publicly available, all-inclusive, free for everyone space is meant to promote movement and mindfulness as a way to combat obesity, chronic diseases, and mental health issues for Chicagoans and visitors alike. The Health Park would provide not only a space, but also reason for people to gather - #community.
Grant Park Health Park would be good for us and our human health systems, just like it would be good for Chicago as an urban system. The healthier its residents and visitors, the healthier the city.
That’s why we’re asking you to take a minute to sign THIS PETITION to make the Grant Park Health Park a reality.
Our team is hoping for 5,000 signatures and we are well on our way! More information about the campaign and project can be found within the link.
To summarize, we’re looking to start programming this summer with a “Sunday sunrise series” with weekly yoga and fitness classes and community social events, as well as daily “open park” activities like calisthenics and parkour, to help bring awareness and momentum to the project.
2019 could see the completion of construction and programming launch, turning a vacant cement lot currently in Grant Park into a vibrant arboretum, natural area, and health-promoting active space.
We appreciate your support. We’ll see you outside!
-Madelin Petz, VibeUP Editor