The neighborhood park, like the public library, may be the last bastion of class equality left in the Bay Area. It’s one of the few community places that’s shared by everyone. In Bernal Heights we’re fortunate enough to have a variety of parks to spend time in. When one feels focused on separation and stress, it’s places like Precita Park, that offers a sense of calm as well as bringing together a mix of people from different backgrounds. Over the next few months, we’ll highlight the local parks in Bernal Heights and interesting findings about how important getting outdoors, spending time in nature and connecting with your neighbors is for your mental and physical health.
When you find yourself spending too much time behind the computer and feeling moody, here are three reasons why a quick walk in Precita Park is a great remedy.
A study from the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, found that participants who walked for ninety minutes in a natural area, rather than the high traffic city streets, showed a decrease in brain activity in a part of the brain linked to a key factor in depression. Researchers then asked, “Is exposure to nature linked to mental health? If so how does being nature affect our moods and emotions?” What seems like common sense to most of us, “Take a walk to get some fresh air when you’re feeling sad” is now becoming a growing body of research focused on people who live in highly dense urban areas. A New York Times article, How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain, explored the questions of how walking in nature can be a relief from brooding and stress.
2) Central community spaces
Parks offer a place to connect with nature and be outdoors. They also serve as a central place for neighbors to congregate and feel a stronger sense of community. A unique feature of Precita Park is the eye-catching bench placed over a dove-shaped tile walkway. As a memorial to two teenagers who were killed in the park in 1996, the bench was built from cedar and the metal of melted guns. The 900 tiles of the walkway were hand painted by community members before being installed. On sunny weekends you might see a bouncy castle for a kids birthday party, as friends and neighbors chat around the jungle gym while kids play.
3. An affordable place to exercise
Having well kept, wide open green spaces with trees and benches helps the attitude and atmosphere in a neighborhood, while also contributing to the air quality and environment. It gives people a place to walk their dogs, connect with nature, and get exercise. The whole neighborhood benefits from the overall general health and well being of more trees, grass and places to run and take walks.
The narrow two acres of Precita Park is a core part of the fabric of the Bernal Heights neighborhood. While enjoying the medicine of being outdoors, remember to try the Precita Park Cafe across the street. Read about it being the place where community and food come together for everyone to enjoy.
Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment: Stanford researchers find mental health prescription: Nature
New York Times: How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain
Precita Park Cafe: 500 Precita Avenue, San Francisco
Jen Baxter is a writer, photographer and San Francisco native. She tells stories encouraging people to be more independent, aware and creative. You can find other interesting articles at JenBaxter.com or follow her on Instagram @JenBaxterSF