Luis Diez: New Director of World Urban Parks OrganizationBy Fernando Mares | Fri, 09/09/2022 - 12:56
For the first time in history, a Mexican will be appointed as Director of the World Urban Parks Organization. Luis Diez will focus on the development of parks in the Latin American region aiming at making them more relevant in the creation of urban public policies and business opportunities.
Diez stated that during his terms as director, he will focus on attracting attention to urban parks since people have trivialized the importance of these spaces as a result of a lack of vision from the government, civil society and companies. “Over the last three decades, we have trivialized parks because, most of the time, people perceive them as a space where there is just a bench, a tree and a seesaw,” Diez pointed out.
According to Diez, parks are more than recreational spaces as they impact everyday economy by generating savings for inhabitants, companies and the government. Parks raise property value: a home located near the Chapultepec Forest in Mexico City, for example, can be worth US$250,000 while a similar home far from the park could reach a value of US$190,000.
Parks generate savings in mental and physical health-related services, as well, which according to OECD’s estimations, represent over 5.3 percent of the country’s GDP. “Spending 120 minutes outdoors every week improves people’s wellbeing,” Diez said in an interview with Nature.
Business generation and improvement in infrastructure are other advantages of having parks in urban areas. Diez highlighted the presence of commercial stands inside of Chapultepec that sell their products to the 5 million visitors that come every year. Regarding infrastructure, parks provide green areas that collect rainwater and return it to the ground, which results in savings in construction and maintenance works. “We live in hyper waterproofed cities, which are like mirrors that do not catch water because they are full of asphalt and concrete,” Diez added. According to the US National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) the urban park industry generates profits of over US$150 billion in the US. Diez associates their success to the country’s education system, which offers degrees in parks and recreation.
Another challenge to face is rotation as municipal administrations last for three years, which makes it complicated to follow up projects. Diez said that under his leadership, the organization will offer training and professionalization through certifications and consultancy in the development of long-term projects.