The end of April brought exciting news about progress on Decarsky Park, a future park south of the Park Hill neighborhood along south Rock Road. The city council chose a contractor, and the Decarsky Foundation pledged funds for an agility course at the dog park. This newest gem in Derby’s crown of parks is moving closer to reality, and I am excited about what it will offer our community.
But, thinking about the ball fields, sidewalks, parking lots, dog park, and landscaping made me realize that although Derby has grown its outdoor recreational facilities, every new recent project has been planned and manicured. Sparsely planted shrubs and trees, eye-catching sculpted concrete, interesting play equipment for children. These are absolutely great things. I’m not complaining – we are very lucky. It just makes me wonder: where is the green space in all this development? Where are the wild, natural areas? The public space that has a dirt trail instead of a poured concrete path, where you can walk under the trees and catch glimpses of wildlife?
When I travel, these more naturalistic green areas are my favorite places to walk. Especially when nestled in a city, they feel like a special escape. There is a place for planned parks but people are wired to enjoy natural beauty. There are a host of benefits to more natural park areas, from physical benefits from walking uneven terrain, to stress reduction and improved sleep from the close proximity to trees and other native plants. More green spaces also present benefits to the city, like water-quality improvement.
I’ve heard others wonder the same thing. To be honest, I don’t know the reason why this kind of space doesn’t exist in Derby. Perhaps it’s land availability. Or, perhaps our native plants are undervalued. You’re never going to feel like you’re hiking in Colorado here, but we have trees, bushes, grasses, and flowers that offer their own outdoor beauty. Heck, you don’t even need trees for a beautiful hike – the Tallgrass National Prairie Preserve near Cottonwood Falls is an example of beautiful hiking in the Kansas prairie. For that matter, the nearby state parks are also great. But, most people can’t regularly drive 45 minutes to experience the natural beauty of Cheney State Park, El Dorado State Park, Lake Afton.
As beautiful as our city parks are, it’s time for spaces that are a little more wild, a little more free, and a little more green. As Derby embarks on Vision Derby 2040 and invites us to imagine our city’s development in 20 years, I say let’s make it a greener city. After all, what is more green than Derby?