Could it be that the pandemic spurs our city to look for ways to nurture, and create, green space for its people? History tells us so.
Throughout the 1800s, recurring cholera outbreaks, which were blamed on noxious air, left a lasting mark not only in terms of death tolls but inspiring urban design concepts such as expansive green space and parks that transformed New York and other major cities throughout the world.
Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted advocated for the healing powers of parks, which he thought could act like urban lungs as “outlets for foul air and inlets for pure air.”
Olmsted believed in the importance of open spaces to allow people to access fresh air and sunlight. Planning for Central Park, which would be designed by Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, began soon after New York’s second cholera outbreak.
Thanks to the success of that project, Olmsted went on to design more than 100 public parks and recreation grounds including those in Boston, Buffalo, Chicago and Detroit.
When cholera roared through Europe, international cities followed the same path. An admirer of the parks and garden squares of London, the nephew of Emperor Napoleon III sought to remake Paris into the “City of Light” in the wake of the pandemic, building parks and erecting fountains, bringing fresh air into the urban grid.
From tree-lined boulevards to expansive open space, 19th-century cholera pandemics shaped some of the world’s most celebrated urban landscapes.
How will the COVID-19 pandemic impact southern Colorado?
While recovery of the public, private and non-profit sectors is a top priority, let us not forget that which has provided light in darkness. Nature.
Together, through drought, wildfire, flood and now, disease, our community has remained resilient. Let this moment remind us that land too is essential to our identity, economy, health and well-being.
Rebecca Jewett is the CEO of Palmer Land Trust. Palmer Land Trust is committed to protecting southern Colorado's lands for present and future generations.