Let’s assume a proactive stance for placemaking. Together, we can turn around losses from the pandemic and transform the narrative by actively conserving and investing in the green spaces that make Fort Worth unique and sustain our planet. 

Gina Alexander
Gina Alexander, TCU

We all see the effects of population growth and the shrinking of natural habitat throughout the city and surrounding metroplex. As of 2020, Fort Worth was losing up to 2,800 acres of natural prairie per year. Earlier this year, real estate developers forecast the opportunity to absorb 20,000 more acres over the next 15 to 20 years

The planet is changing rapidly, and we feel it firsthand in the urban heat island effects reported throughout our metroplex for over 20 years. Most of us recognize these warning signs as symptoms of ailing planetary health, but we may not fully comprehend how these symptoms ultimately influence our own health, manifesting in the form of heat-related deaths and casualties from extreme weather events. Long-term impacts include physical and mental health burdens that limit our quality of life and vitality.

Vicki Brooks
Vicki Brooks, TCU

What are some action steps to mitigate the loss of natural habitat, supporting the health of the planet while reinforcing the mental and physical health benefits of engaging with nature? The Fort Worth Climate Safe Neighborhood Coalition, formed in May 2022, is answering this question. 

The coalition consists of Southside community members, leaders, and agency partners, groups who understand the impact of historical redlining and divestment and are committed to changing the environment to create biodiverse green spaces. The coalition’s strategic goal is to increase equitable access to safe, sustainable green space, advance tree equity and extend environmental knowledge throughout Fort Worth. We seek to design and implement sustainable strategies to support climate health, including nature-based solutions that effectively cool the planet

Tammie Williams
Tammie Williams, TCU

We are convinced that health professionals and advocates have a pivotal role to play in activating nature-based solutions to climate change. As the most trusted profession for two decades and counting, nurses have the opportunity to share evidence supporting climate health promotion and action. As educators, we have the unique privilege and responsibility of preparing current and future generations of nurses, nurse practitioners, and interprofessional healthcare teams.

Background: Equitable park investment

In the fall of 2019, TCU nursing colleagues began an initiative to prescribe nature with the first prescribing event at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge. Within months, we experienced the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rates of park visitation increased dramatically, but not everyone had easy access to nature and green space. We shifted our focus from solely prescribing nature to building the infrastructure for equitable access to nature and created a research agenda to translate the documented benefits of nature to action through public health advocacy.

In August 2021, TCU Nursing formalized an affiliation agreement with the Fort Worth Park and Recreation Department, with emphasis on park auditing and equitable evaluation of access to nature and green space for everyone in our city. During the fall, we built a partnership with the Kids Environmental Education Network Group and the Historic Southside Neighborhood Association. We collaborated with KEEN to submit a proposal to the People, Parks, and Power National Initiative for Green Space, Health Equity, and Racial Justice, a joint effort by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. 

Although this proposal did not advance to the next round of review, our team was selected for the Community Health Organizing Fellowship offered by the Cambridge Health Alliance Center for Health Equity Education and Advocacy. As the only team from the South, we learned from community organizers and were inspired by the commitments from the other teams of healthcare professionals across the nation who completed this fellowship with us. 

The Fort Worth Climate Safe Neighborhood Coalition emerged in May, and our early advocacy efforts are focused on Glenwood Park. Dedicated in 1927, this 37-acre park is a gem that is less than 6 miles from TCU campus and has deep need for community investment to address longstanding problems. We removed almost nine tons of trash from Glenwood Park on Oct. 29. 

Spring 2023: Earth Day 

In the spring, the coalition will focus on Earth Day in Glenwood Park. We will have on-site mobile health units (TCU and Tarrant County Public Health) as well as booths on-site for community resources, voter registration, getting input from community members on Glenwood Park improvements and providing education on the value of biodiverse, climate resilient nature and green space for the community to enjoy.

Ultimately, we aim to co-develop a master plan for Glenwood Park with the Southside community and park users. Long-term, this work could be included in a bond package for approval by the city and voters.

In summary, nature-based solutions have bipartisan support, which means we can all agree on preserving and restoring natural spaces to save the planet. Our metroplex is a microcosm, considering the global impacts of urbanization, but we still have time to act. Let’s keep advocating for equitable access to parks, and continue to vote with our feet by joining grassroots efforts like the Coalition. Let’s also continue to vote in favor of policy that will support open space conservation, as we did on May 7, when we voted to increase funds for the city to purchase open space for conservation. Our nature-based climate assets in Fort Worth are evident in our biodiverse Cross Timbers and Prairies ecoregion. Conserving open spaces will create the conditions for improved carbon uptake and storage, thereby improving our air and water quality. 

Additional links:

Cross Timbers Master Naturalists

Fort Worth Open Space Conservation Program – Planning and GIS (tplgis.org)

Nurses Climate Challenge

Nurses Drawdown

Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments

Gina Alexander, PhD, MPH, MSN, RN, is an associate professor in the Harris College of Nursing and Health Sciences at Texas Christian University.

Vicki Brooks, DNP, APRN, FNP- BC, FAANP, is an assistant professor of professional practice at Texas Christian University.

Tammie S. Williams, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, CNE, is an assistant professor of professional practice at Texas Christian University, where she also serves as the clinical coordinator for Adult Health with Alterations 1 at Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences.

Please email Gina Alexander, Vicki Brooks  or Tammie Williams to indicate your interest in partnering with us for climate safe neighborhoods.  We look forward to working with you! https://www.rxplore.org 

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