When I was a kid I practically lived outside. Thankfully, we couldn’t afford cable or video games until I was in high school. So naturally I spent more time running around outside than on the couch. My mom had a big central Denton backyard with great climbing trees and creeks nearby to explore. My dad lived on the edge of town, where houses gave way to pastures, farms and deep post oak groves. We kids hopped fences, evaded bulls, shot BB guns, and generally got into all kinds of outdoor mischief. Don’t get me started reminiscing about camping with the Boy Scouts—I’m sure there’s a whole book there.
Today’s world is very different. More kids today grow up in apartments, or in houses built much closer together with smaller yards. New houses don’t have trees big enough for climbing, and creeks are conveniently diverted into concrete drainage channels. Many parents don’t feel safe sending their kids outside to play without tight supervision.
This is more than unfortunate—it’s a public health crisis on low boil. Studies show that children learn better with regular physical, outdoor activity. Even the simple act of walking builds connections in the brain and helps maintain good circulation and pulmonary function. Even minutes a day outside create much needed Vitamin D in the body. Our health suffers without these things, because our bodies were designed to work better in a natural environment.
You can see why parks and green space are a priority for me on the City Council. I see providing these as a core function of City government, right along with streets and public safety. Denton has hundreds of acres of parks, urban forests, and greenbelts. We have miles of trails, a number of fishing lakes, and many acres of good, mature trees. We have the Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center, a 2900 acre preserve, and more play grounds than you can shake a stick at. These are places where any resident or visitor can experience the outdoors free of charge. They are also natural preserves, home to abundant wildlife and priceless urban forests.
But we’re not done yet. Our stated goal is a City park within a 10-minute walk of any home in Denton. Earlier this year, we struck a deal for two 50 acre parks and four smaller parks in the Hunter and Cole Ranch developments—a total of 124 acres of green space with many miles of public trails. We also negotiated conservation easements to preserve Pilot Knob and the other environmentally sensitive areas there for all Denton resident to enjoy into perpetuity. We also acquired 71 acres of parkland in the Eastern part of town and have many additional projects in the works.
Most of this we are able to do through negotiation with developers, or using funds that developers are required to pay into our Park Fund. But in addition, in Fall 2019 Denton voters approved a $5 million bond package specifically for parks and open space preservation. Thank you Denton for recognizing the importance of time spent outdoors, and for joining me in preserving natural spaces for generations to come.