25 February 2009

Humans in Nature: City Parks

By Vicki Gaia

It seems when we live within steel and cement, we need to a place where we can escape and just breathe. Parks have interesting histories. During major eras, parks have served beyond being pleasure playgrounds.

Every major city has it's city park--a natural landscape for the residents where the traffic noise dims, life slows down and a person can think beyond the mundane daily tasks that takes up one's life. Nature feeds the creative soul of humanity. We cannot live in a world separated from Earth's bountiful nature.

London is amazing for all the green belts scattered throughout the great metropolis. Hyde Park, once Henry VIII's hunting ground, covers 350 acres. On any given day, you see horseback riders, joggers, people picnicking to capture the rare sunshine.

During WWII, statues were replaced by anti-aircraft guns. One could hear the ack-ack fire from the park during the terrifying Blitz. The park transformed in wartime to serve the needs of Londoners besides being a place of escape.

Royal Parks

New York has its Central Park designed by Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux in 1853-1878. A Victorian landmark, it became the prototype of the city park movement that spread throughout Victorian America. Families could stroll along the trees, meadows and waterways, listen to concerts and go boating.

Olmstead believed pleasure parks were necessary, "in a direct remedial way to enable men to better resist the harmful influences of ordinary town life and to recover what they lose from them."

The practical purpose of a city park was to prevent the spreading of infectious diseases, curb alcoholism, promote civic pride and control the 'masses' from getting out of control.

Central Park

Golden Gate Park is one of San Francisco's crown jewels. You have the untamed wild beauty mixed with manicured landscapes dotted with museums, botanical gardens and a Japanese Tea garden. I've spent many afternoons in the park, listening to music, visiting an art exhibit, hiking the trails through Eucalyptus groves.

During the Sixties, it was the 'in place' to hang out. Several famous rock bands played for free. The Human Be-In, billed The Gathering of the Tribes in "a union of love and activism," took place in the park. It was 1967, the Summer of Love. The quintessence SF bands, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead rocked the crowd. Allen Ginsberg sang alone, and Timothy Leary told everyone to "turn on, tune in, and drop out!"

National Golden Gate Recreation Area