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Nature & Health: URBAN GREEN SPACE

These indicators track the state of the natural urban environment,which is also linked to human health. How much green space is therein a community?


Do its residents enjoy clean air?

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Why this Indicator is Important

Urban green space includes parks (which may have playgrounds or other infrastructure), as well as less managed natural spaces such as riverbanks and urban forests. Urban greenspace has a variety of climate, environmental, and social benefits. It can help provide cleaner air (reducing air pollution caused by fossil fuels), habitat for wildlife, and recreational opportunities that increase mental and physical health.1 Green space provides shade and cooling, which can help reduce the urban heat island effect (the tendency for larger cities to generate a warmer microclimate, leading to negative health effects as well as higher emissions from air conditioning use).2 Green space can also increase climate resiliency by protecting against heat waves and absorbing water runoff during flooding.3 Cities across Canada have become less and lessgreen since 2001.4 Green space is threatened by urban expansion and infill development—but municipalities can prioritize brownfield development (on previously developed, unused land) as a way to promote urban density while still protecting green space.5 In addition, due to decadesof exclusionary zoning, and unequal investment and development, communities of colour and of lower socioeconomic status disproportionately lack accessible green spaces.6

Data Availability and Accessibility: 3/3

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NCL data on the urban green space (and urban agriculture in the Food chapter), is drawn from the 2022 Canadian City Parks Report, by Park People (a Canadian charitable organization).7 The 2022 report includes a variety of data from 30 diverse Canadian cities. Park People gather data through questionnaires to park staff, as well as expert interviews and a public survey. We follow Park People’s definition of parks and green space, which is all actively managed and natural parkland, as well as other public green spaces that are owned, leased, or under a management agreement by the municipality. Check out the 2022 report to see further policy recommendations for how municipalities can improve green space management!

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Note(s): Data are from 2022. The source of data is the Canadian City Parks Report, by Park People.

Winning Municipality

With 9.7 hectares of natural area per thousand people and 21.6 hectares of parkland per thousand people, the winner is Fredericton, New Brunswick. It is unsurprising that a medium sized city leads in green space—medium and small cities tend to have more green space compared to larger cities.8 Enhancing green space, ecosystem corridors and tree canopy on public and private properties is an action item in the city’s Climate Adaptation Plan.9 In addition, Fredericton is collaborating with a University of New Brunswick professor to measure the age of hemlock trees, estimated to be 500 years old, in Odell Park.10 The research will also investigate the effects of climate change on the trees to allow the city to better protect them moving forward. Also, for the first time, this year Fredericton took part in No Mow May, suspending mowing on over 60 municipal properties, or roughly 25% of the land normally mowed, to provide pollinator-friendly habitats.11

International Highlight

Cheonggye Freeway, in Seoul, Korea, is a reminder that past harmful practices are reversible and redeemable. In 1968, the Cheonggye elevated freeway was built during Korea’s rapid urbanization. Three decades later, the government realized that the freeway was contributing to worsened congestion and record-breaking noise levels. To solve these issues, the freeway was demolished and replaced by a green corridor and rediscovered water way. The removal of the freeway did not only create ecological benefits, such as an average temperature drop of 3.3 degrees Celsius, but it also had positive impacts on Seoul’s economic and social sectors. Indeed, the project boosted Seoul’s tourism and it created a safe space for citizens to enjoy the outdoors.12


8. Statistics Canada, “Urban greenness, 2011, 2015 and 2019.” August 17, 2021. Accessed December 2022.

9. City of Fredericton,“Climate Change Adaptation Plan.” Accessed December 2022