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IDEAS

Greenbacks for green spaces

A swimmer on a trail at Walden Pond.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/The Boston Globe
Heather Hopp-Bruce

Remember the early days of the pandemic? When, deprived of indoor entertainment, we flocked to Middlesex Fells and the Arnold Arboretum and Walden Pond?

And what did we discover in the process? That our area’s open spaces — like the rotaries that knot our roadways — get overrun and trashed in a hurry.

No surprise, given that Boston has less than a fifth of the green space per capita that cities like Atlanta and Dallas have.

Our Emerald Necklace of parks is, without a doubt, an urban delight. The Boston Common and Public Gardens are al fresco meccas. But not everyone can easily access them. So why not funnel some infrastructure moolah into creating more open spaces?

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To begin with, we could make good on the city’s current Boston Harbor plan, which would revamp Constitution Beach, shore up Wood Island and Belle Isle, and create a more resilient coastline.

While we’re at it, let’s encourage towns north and west of the Charles to clean up and expand their parklands. Providing state funds and incentives for municipalities to create new outdoor spaces could help. Admittedly, preserving wilderness in an increasingly dense urban landscape will take political will — and deep pockets. But there’s more than just entertainment value at stake. Studies have shown that time spent in nature improves our mood, keeps us mentally and physically healthy, and even increases empathy and cooperation.

“We need the tonic of wildness,” to quote Thoreau, “that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.” Surely that’s worth a few bucks.

Erin Almond is the author of the novel “Witches’ Dance” and lives in Arlington with her family.