As the city expands, housing developments border Amager Nature Park. With over 3,000 acres, the park is one of the largest close to a metropolis – within biking distance. Grazing cows, horses and sheep keep trees and large plants down. The park includes everything from savannah, dense woods and salt marshes to bird-rich lakes and canals with frogs and snakes. Activities range from biking and walking to finding peace and studying rare plants.

Protecting natural resources

Copenhagen,

Copenhagen is punctuated by plazas and parks of all kinds, ones that provide activities for different ages and interests. Israels Plads square hovers over an underground parking lot, uniting the city and strengthening its urban fabric. Sculptural concrete steps allow people to spend time enjoying the sun or people-watching while water features provide children an opportunity to learn and play. There are also open spaces for small games of sports along with references to the plaza’s past as part of the city’s

Fostering engagement

Copenhagen,

For much of its history, Denmark has been pretty homogeneous and in 2019, 90% the population had Danish ancestry. With immigrant communities growing, Danish policy makers have made many controversial decisions, such as planning to relocate “unwanted” immigrants to an isolated island and red-lining low-income immigrant areas as “ghettos”. Areas with at least 1,000 residents can be marked as ghetto when two of the following descriptions are met: having at least 50% immigrants from non-Western countries, at least 40% unemployment, and at least 2.7% criminal convictions. This label generates stigma against people living in these areas, furthering stereotypes. With one of Copenhagen’s most iconic and most photographed parks located next to the diverse neighborhood of Norrebro, Superkilen Park, the perception of what constitutes a healthy and connected community can change.

Beyond “Ghettos”

Copenhagen,

Denmark joined the World Health Organization Healthy Cities initiative in 1987 and is considered one of the world’s healthiest cities. Most Danes have 37-hour work-weeks and enjoy subsidized childcare services (free for low-income families). Parks like Orsteds park in Copenhagen are easily accessible and offer an opportunity to socialize while exercising and benefiting from access to nature.

Healthy City

Copenhagen,

Responding to the love of soccer among Somalis and Latinos, the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board has created artificial turf fields throughout the city. As Jayne Miller, Superintendent, notes “parks are the great equalizer in any community…. because everyone has access to them….we make sure that our policies and procedures aren’t barriers for people to use our facilities and services.” The Minneapolis Park System is the #1 park system in the US (Minneapolis Retains, 2017).

Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board

Minneapolis, Minnesota


Photo credit: May 2013 Photo by Scott A. Schneider for the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board. 612.670.7116 – sallenschneider@comcast.net

In 2014, Denmark topped the list of OECD countries (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) that invested the most of their wealth in education (7.9%) — followed by Iceland (7.7%) and South Korea (7.6%). As of 2012, 92% of Danish youths were expected to complete their secondary education, compared to the 84% of the OECD average. After graduating from high school, it is common for Danes to take time off their academic career to work and save money and/or travel, prior to choosing whether to attend a university or a technical school. The city’s parks can transform into math teaching spaces, making learning a fun and engaging activity.

Promoting education

Copenhagen,

Edgerton Community Garden is an organic garden located in Edgerton Park. Community gardens are noted for benefits that range from healthy foods to improving social connections. The Edgerton Community Garden was a recent addition to the park and was supported, “with help from staff in our department to kind of navigate the process of…getting whatever approvals were needed for [the garden],” says Brian Lloyd, Senior Planner of Roseville. The park and garden are located near two apartment complexes that have a large population of Karen, Hmong, and Spanish-speaking residents and therefore, all information is provided in four languages. The proximity of the garden to the apartment complexes increase access to fresh and culturally significant food for these populations. The garden plots are typically reserved ahead of time, showing the need for a community garden in this area of Maplewood.

Edgerton Community Garden

Maplewood, Minnesota


Photo credit: https://maplewoodmn.gov/

Mahnomen County is located in northwestern Minnesota in the White Earth Indian Reservation. As of 2016, 46.6% of the population was White and 43.8% was American Indian. Because of the county’s unique location in the reservation, the county has two government authorities, which means that resources such as schools, clinics, and social services are administered by both the county and the tribe who share duties. “There’s always been…a long history of conflict between the county and the tribe, so it’s been difficult in some cases to be able to communicate and work together,” reflects Julie Hanson, Director of Social Services, “but I think we’re making progress on that.” Festivals, such as Wild Rice Days and Pow Wows in parks, have been essential for bringing together the two communities, fostering positive relationships and acting as a bridge to a better understanding of history.

Finding common ground

Mahnomen, Minnesota

Every July, Worthington holds their International Festival, a weekend of international craft artisans, entertainment, and food at the Nobles County Government Center lawn in the downtown city core. Founded in 1993, the festival aims to promote cultural acceptance by reducing fear of the unknown (MISSION). The International Festival highlights the diverse communities in Worthington and helps to foster positive relationships among the many ethnic and racial groups in the city. In 2018, the Festival expanded to include stories of past and recent immigrants through a panel discussion about the economic factors affecting immigrants in the community. And the World Cup Soccer Championship Final was turned into a fundraiser at a local coffee shop to help local immigrant families with legal fees.

International Festival

Worthington, Minnesota


Photo credit: Cheniqua Johnson from Worthington International Festival

The Puppet Wagon is a free program that promotes health and wellness by providing an active way to engage the imaginations of children, from toddlers to elementary school students. Shows are performed throughout the week during the summer and are held in Eagan’s Parks. By hosting the program in a park, the city offers a chance for all residents to participate and play, no matter what age, race, income, or physical ability. In 2014, over 4,000 children attended. Each week has a theme, that ranges from health to science. The “ask a puppet” time and other opportunities encourages audience participation.

Puppet Wagon

Eagan, Minnesota


Photo credit: https://www.cityofeagan.com/puppet-wagon