Green Space: A Scarce Social Resource?

by Jonah Steer on October 6, 2016 - 8:23pm

To begin this post, I must answer a question that most readers will have. Is green space a resource?

I argue that green space is indeed a resource. While it is different than harvesting lumber from forests or drawing oil up to the surface, green space offers economic opportunities as well. Jobs to design and manage these spaces exist. Parks offer space for impromptu markets and events. Even more so than economic benefits, green space offers health and social benefits by creating a public outdoor space to congregate, relax, exercise, and socialize.

This article from Toronto’s paper, The Star, identifies how we’re currently seeing a shortage of this resource within and around the city. More accurately, there is a shortage of access to it: green space is not easily reached by everyone in Toronto. It’s available in concentrated areas (Pelley, 2015) but other areas are barren and coated in pavement.

This same issue plagues many other cites: green space is not always available to those who need it. What makes the discussion of green space interesting is that it is not like other resources which can be packed up and transported to another location for consumption. Enjoying a park happens in-situ through the activities that take place within it. This is why Pelley and her interviewee, Kanishka Goonewardena, hope to see a better distribution of green space in Toronto.

Pelley (2015) offers the following threee solutions for bringing green space into challenging areas:

Linear parks – These parks take on a narrow yet long shape to link communities and provide opportunities for pathways and recreation in the corridors they establish (Pelley, 2015). These are also very popular in landscape design today: notably, parks like the Highline in New York take on this shape.

Tower renewal – This initiative looks specifically at high-rise communities and aims to create useable parks that offer opportunities for community use, like farmers’ markets (Pelley, 2015).

Laneway revitalization – Back lanes that wind throughout urban areas can offer a great expansion to pedestrian space. Pelley (2015) identifies that these spaces can link streetscapes and provide new opportunities for vehicle-free, up-and-coming public park space.

As a student of Landscape Architecture, Geography, and Environmental Conservation, I think it’s great that these underused spaces are becoming purposeful. However, these solutions align with current “trends” in park design. It’s crucial to think about the longevity of such important spaces before implementing them – just as we must consider how we plan long-term for the use of other resources. This long-term planning is an important concept in resource management.

I’m also concerned that much of the green space proposed by these solutions will end up in the areas that already have parks. The wealth of a neighbourhood is a major factor in determining the resources it receives. Poorer neighbourhoods, just like poorer nations and importers, may not be able to purchase what is needed for their people. Like any other resource, we must remember that parks have costs. Indeed, the optimism of this article is concerning. Is it this easy to implement more green space? What long-term costs are associated with new parks?

Committees are needed to answer these questions and others fairly. We must view green space as a public resource, and commit to understanding the complexities of resource use.



Pelley, L. (2015). Toronto striving for green spaces in a growing city. The Star. Retrieved from: