Their New York office opened in 1978. State Director Carter Strickland has been leading the way in building these parks, including remaking 197 school playgrounds across the five boroughs.
“People, especially those who live in crowded cities like New York, need a place to get outside and experience nature,” Strickland said. “All the parks we build have some element of green in them.
“We hope people will graduate to hiking the Appalachian Trail and some other things we work on as well,” he added.
An important benefit of this connection is the ability to de-stress. Strickland said as kids spend more time in front of devices, they become more sedentary. Children exercise more when they’re outdoors, he said, which lends to a healthier lifestyle.
Open spaces are also places where people mix and socialize, which allows kids of different backgrounds and ages to meet and break down stereotypes.
“In this day and age, as Americans become more divided and we have less and less in common, one thing we have in common is enjoying social infrastructure,” Strickland said.
The nonprofit has created 197 green and environmentally sustainable playgrounds since 1996, and will cross the 200 mark by the end of the year. Strickland said they have 15 more in the pipeline in various stages of design and construction.
He noted that there are 1,200 buildings in the school system, and he estimates nearly 500 have courtyards that can be converted.
After school and on weekends, neighbors can also use the playground to play and relax. Nearly 18,000 residents live within a ten-minute walk.
“It makes for a stronger, more resilient school,” he said. “And it’s a neighborhood amenity.”