People look to Chicago parks as health risks rise

Thousands of Chicago residents walked through the warm spring air over Easter weekend, but the air wasn’t doing them any favors.

According to a new report published earlier this month, Chicago had 151 dirty air days last year. Seventy of those days also had elevated smog levels.

Many Chicagoans say they escape the pollution of the city at public parks.

“I try walk through some greenery every now and then,” said Nora Drew, a freshman at DePaul, as she walked along the sidewalk to Oz Park on Webster. “I don’t think I could live somewhere without any parks.”


Parks are often seen as an escape from urban harms such as air pollution. “Chicago-018” by Jesse Rapczak licensed under CC by 2.0.

She said living near a park makes her feel healthier.

“Being close to Oz Park, it makes me get out and move around a bit more,” she said.

Mayor Emmanuel appears to agree. His office announced a $26 million investment to repair aging park facilities earlier in April.

“I think investing in parks is a win-win,” said Drew. “It helps us stay healthy, and it gets us to go out and do something with ourselves.”

Beyond the Air

For South and West side residents, health problems extend beyond air pollution.


A Sinai Urban Health survey found that South and West siders have high rates of obesity, diabetes, asthma, and more.

CHIObesity has become a serious health risk in many neighborhoods in Chicago. Statistics found on Chicago’s Data Portal.

Though many health factors in these areas require complicated and long-term fixes beyond public green space, many parks in the South and West sides are scheduled for improvement with the new investment. Among the parks on the list for repair are Archer Park, Austin Town Hall Park, Columbus Park, Douglas Park, Dvorak Park, Fosco Park, Hamilton Park, and Harrison Park.

Are parks a possible solution to Chicago’s health problems? Contact me by email at or on twitter @silber_depaul



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