Communities with green spaces tend to be healthier and that’s part of the reason Galveston ought to invest more in making public spaces accessible to all, a panel of experts said during a recent discussion.

The online panel on June 7 was part of an initiative to look at providing equitable access to parks and green spaces and an ongoing discussion about how to improve parks in Galveston.

High-quality green spaces benefit entire communities, said Sam Collins III, a local historian and co-chairman of the Juneteenth Legacy Project.

“Green spaces make people healthier and happier,” Collins said. “Decades of systemic racism have left people living in areas without access to nature.”

Traditionally, cities didn’t try to spread out access to parks, but that should change, said Guy Hagstette, senior vice president of parks and civic projects at the Kinder Foundation, which focuses on improving green space in Houston.

“We are working to correct 100-plus years of policies, racism and, I think we need to keep in mind, indifference,” Hagstette said.

Some neighborhoods don’t have as many parks or green spaces because developers instead assumed residents would use their home backyards, he said.

Parks create a higher quality of life for people who live near them, said Christine Bryant, executive director of community organization Vision Galveston.

The organization would like to build enough green spaces that everyone in Galveston lives within a five-minute walk from a park, Bryant said.

The group already is working on redeveloping Shield and Jones parks, two neighborhood parks that traditionally have been underused. Shield Park has had a lack of infrastructure and Jones Park chronically floods, Bryant said.

The group is working on developing plans to rebuild both parks.

“We want this to be a place for all of our residents in Galveston,” Bryant said.

It’s important for the public sector to play a role in building more green space, Hagstette said.

“In most of these communities, they’ve been hearing promises for years with only disappointment instead,” Hagstette said.

Communities should make more efforts to make this a reality, he said.