Open space, outdoor options vital for health and well-being – WithersRavenel

Open space, outdoor options vital for health and well-being

Open space, outdoor options vital for health and well-being

As WithersRavenel designers and planners meet with clients in 2020, two questions come up frequently: Where can we add outdoor gathering space? And where can we preserve open space?

COVID-19 continues to affect our ability to safely gather indoors in groups. With that in mind, the importance of the great outdoors grows, and that’s not lost on North Carolina residents.

“Parks are fuller than they’ve ever been,” WithersRavenel Director of Parks and Recreation Brian Starkey, PLA, ASLA said. “Greenway trails look like Interstate 40. People are using these spaces to interact with friends and family.”

These changing realities have communities and private developers searching for ways to increase outdoor options for the public. And while some folks are just coming around to the benefits of open space, landscape architects have been on board for much longer.

“As landscape architects, we understand the value of outdoor gathering space,” WithersRavenel Director of Public Planning Meredith Gruber, PLA, AICP said. “Well-designed outdoor space adds to the quality of life.”

While utilizing outdoor space provides both physical and mental health benefits, there also can be an economic return for communities, Starkey said.

“The health perspective is obvious,” he said. “But it is also part of the identity of the community. We get it, developers get it. It’s important to have good access to open space.”

Starkey and Gruber believe the changes in priorities have accelerated due to COVID-19, but likely reflect a permanent shift. Whether it is room for outdoor dining, places to meet, trails and greenways to walk on, or a residential community design with open space, the future is outside.

Wondering how your community can make better use of the great outdoors? Talk to WithersRavenel’s professionals about it. Contact Brian Starkey at (919) 238-0305 or or Meredith Gruber at (919) 238-0431 or