Two of Central Florida’s cities, Tampa and Orlando, have made the top 50 in a list of the country’s cities with the most green space per head of population. Research shows that having access to the natural environment has a positive physical and psychological effect on residents and workers, and cities across the region are working hard to protect, maintain and create attractive outdoor spaces that enhance and connect urban communities. A community action plan in Orlando has set ambitious targets for 2040 to preserve open space, while Sarasota County has received awards for its work on protecting natural wildlife environments and recreational parks. Despite many areas in Central Florida experiencing continued growth, developers and new businesses are aware of the benefits of parks, trails and gardens, and are incorporating these valuable green spaces into their plans for further expansion.
Landscaped Walkways Enhance and Connect Communities
A grant from the US Department of Transportation will be used to fund a project to extend a popular riverside walkway that connects neighborhoods in Tampa. To be known as West Riverwalk, the trail will extend to over 12 miles along the bank of the Hillsborough River. Another 9-mile waterside walk runs around the lake in downtown Orlando’s Eola Park, where visitors can also relax in landscaped surroundings. Safe and pleasant walkways through outdoor spaces like these not only integrate nature into the built environment but also help to foster closer communities, and generate economic benefits for local residents and businesses. As well as helping to instill pride in the local community, professional landscaping enhances commercial establishments and housing developments in the region, making them more appealing to investors and prospective buyers.
Outdoor Spaces as a Stage for Culture and Entertainment
A vibrant and walkable community will also be the result of considerable investment in Tampa’s University Area Culture Campus. Over $2 million has been allocated to the creation of the campus, and while the development will focus on offices, outreach centers and affordable housing, it will also include valuable outdoor space for recreation and entertainment. In Lakeland, the Parks and Recreation Department is adding Cultural Arts to its title as it not only celebrates the importance of green spaces but also embraces theversatility of parks and communal outdoor areas. They are used to great effect around the city to showcase the work of artists, and as well as hosting the Annual Florida Outdoor Sculpture Competition, a number of sculptures and murals are on permanent display and add to the attraction of communal spaces.
Balancing Economic Growth with Preserving The Environment
While a supportive government and low corporate taxes continue to attract businesses to the state of Florida, the additional benefits of Pasco County have made it one of the fastest growing counties in theTampa Bay Region and country as a whole. The area offers plenty of undeveloped space close to established communities together with good transport links, and an increasing number of businesses are looking to relocate there. While the County government welcomes the potential economic growth, it is careful to work with businesses and local residents in order to preserve attractive green spaces and protect the natural environment..
Despite continuing urban development and expansion throughout central Florida, city and county planners are ensuring that not only is the natural environment protected but that green spaces in growing towns and cities are celebrated and put to good use. From enhancing the curb appeal of a housing development to providing the setting for outdoor art installations, the cultivation and maintenance of attractive outdoor spaces brings many benefits to the region.