Children's Right to Play and Recreation in Urban Areas

October 15, 2018
INFO: Arbor day is the last Friday in April in both Canada and the USA.
Maple Leaf day (only in Canada) falls on the last Wednesday in September, during National Forest Week.

Children's Right to Play and Recreation in Urban Areas
From: Peter Prakke

What better day, than Arbor Day, to bring the spotlight on children and trees? The advantages to children, from being outdoors, are many as they get fresh air and exercise, as well as nurturing a sense of wonder about the environment around them. Often, however, this outdoor experience is not pleasant and in some cases even not possible, due to allergies and asthma.

On Arbor Day it is tradition for the community leadership, the Mayor, to plant a tree with the children of a local school.

What I propose is that, in line with the Child's Right to Play and Recreation, under UNICEF's Convention on the Rights of the Child, Mayors select allergy-friendly trees, according to the OPALS® scale. In this way, we ensure that the trees, and the areas in which they are planted, are able to be enjoyed by the broadest number of constituents of all ages.

OPALS® is the plant allergy scale that measures the allergen potential of all landscaping plants, based on a numeric scale where 1 = allergy friendly and 10 = high allergen potential and to be avoided, with the goal of promoting the health of children and the general population. Allergy-friendly trees are often the female of the tree species, which collects pollen resulting in cleaner air and which has the added benefit of providing for the food-chain through seeds and fruits. The pollen-producing male trees are more likely to trigger asthmatic and allergic reactions to their pollen. The effects of high pollen counts are most common in urban areas, where not only are there fewer female trees to capture the pollen, but the abundance of concrete and asphalt serve to preserve and circulate the pollen across larger areas, negatively impacting larger numbers of people.

To expand the number of areas where people can engage comfortably with nature, and recognising that it is also common for community service organisations to plant trees in a designated park or urban area on Arbor Day, I would suggest that schools use the annual opportunity to plant at least one allergy-friendly tree. Community-based organisations such as Rotary, Lions, 4H, Boy/Girl Scouts, as well as religious centers and horticultural societies are others who could be encouraged to procure and plant at least one or two allergy friendly trees in designated locations.

In this way, pollen is increasingly kept under control and more people are ultimately able to enjoy time in nature.


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