By Lynn Pacifico

We live within a dynamic energetic grid. Natural parts of this grid are nourishing like solar energy, which we are familiar with, and negative ions from nature, which we are just now learning to appreciate.

Humans, as part of nature, are also bioelectric, designed to have an energetic inter-relationship with the earth. The earth’s nourishing energies, absorbed through breathing, eating, drinking, and being in nature, are part of a feedback loop within the earth’s ecosystem.

As studies prove that being in nature enhances our vital life force and helps heal stress, insomnia, inflammation, pain, and other ailments, parks are more than grass and gardens, especially parks in districts with very little nature—like ours. With all the neighborhood’s new residences, the lack of natural areas is critical, as was witnessed during the pandemic’s shutdown.

Also, the Connected Kids report data shows that in 2014, children spent six hours a day in screen-time. Since the pandemic this has increased dramatically. Today’s children, living in their devices, are completely divorced from the natural world. City kids are affected the most as they are rarely around trees or real grass. At the same time, we are witnessing a spike in nature deficiency syndrome, including attention deficit disorders.

The simple solution: let children get dirty. Playing outside in natural areas helps children (and us) become stronger, smarter, more resilient, and creative. This does not happen on plastic grass that insulates us from the earth. Nature cannot be made with plastic.

Climbing is an important stage in the development of children’s motor skills, upper body strength, coordination, and problem solving. Physical activity outdoors is even more important now that many schools no longer have gym classes. For a child, climbing a tree is creative adventure. Free play in nature spurs a child to discover their imagination’s unique and grounded creative self. 

But it is hard to find a truly natural area in the overly manicured neighborhood ours has become. Also, in our gloriously developed West Village, far from our history of being a down-to-earth “village,” most residents now live in the sky.

I watched four girls playing. Each took turns climbing up the base of a metal lamp post. That a child climbing a tree is a ticket-able offense is a sign of how far we have strayed from what is natural and how to support child development in the healthiest way.

Climbing a tree in a natural play area has more benefits than climbing a jungle gym. Children could be nourished and healed by the earth’s vital life force in a “play garden” by using more natural surfaces and environs. If trees can be cut to discourage climbing, they can also be chosen and shaped to provide safe climbing. Doctors are beginning to prescribe nature. Providing clean grass and dirt (and mud) for getting dirty would be a step in the right direction.

The West Village has one last opportunity to create more park space. Just as Washington Square was made into a wonderful park by closing off lower Fifth Avenue, if the western half of Clarkson Street was turned into parkland, along with the water tunnel site, adding them to the footprint of JJ Walker Park just north of Clarkson Street, there would be enough land for a children’s garden as well as a multi-use field like the one we used to enjoy at this park. 

Considering that the Tony Dapolito Recreation Center across the street is being reassessed for its renovation, and there is a school right next door to this site and people are always complaining about not having school grounds/yards/fields, there should be a moratorium on building on/destroying any open space that could be used for a park until we figure out how to make the most of what is left of the Village. We need more park space here—more of mother nature’s life-giving energy grid, especially for children. 

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