Access to Nature Builds Community Resilience

Lauren Belle, a sustainability specialist with the Maryland-National Capital Parks and Planning Commission, calls herself a “relentless optimist.” As a disaster preparedness expert, her work focuses on how to build community resilience primarily through regenerative infrastructure such as public parks.

Lauren presented some of her work at our latest Regenerative Leadership Community gathering, calling in from Prince George’s County, Maryland. Regeneration is a key pillar of the parks and recreation field, she said, and she is currently studying the intersections of EcoHealth and public health.

Lauren helped us understand different kinds of disasters, including natural disasters (i.e., a hurricane), prolonged disasters (i.e., a pandemic) and compounded disasters (i.e., a hurricane during a pandemic). Acknowledging that climate change will create more frequent and more intense disasters, Lauren taps into her relentless optimism and gets to work finding and implementing solutions. 

The United States spends a relatively high amount on disaster cleanups and a relatively low amount on infrastructure investments compared to other countries, Lauren noted. But nature—and specifically accessible parks—can help reverse that trend. The single easiest way to build resilience among people who are at higher risk during disasters is to provide access to nature, Lauren said.

Our Regenerative Leadership Community brainstormed some of the ways we’ve seen parks and nature be reprioritized in recent years. The resurgence of local parks during the pandemic has renewed demands for accessible green space. Grant programs across the country are encouraging homeowners to grow native and diverse plants instead of lawns. In several states, a push for new recreation and entertainment options are being centered in and around lakes, rivers and other natural features. The key is to build infrastructure with dual benefits, Lauren said.

In the same spirit of Lauren’s relentless optimism, our Regenerative Leadership Community is committed to making positive changes to improve the future. This includes making small tweaks in our personal lives as well as influencing wider, necessary systems change. To join our Regenerative Leadership Community and participate in free monthly discussions on thought-provoking questions around regenerative practices, visit

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