Get Active 2023: The fly

On the most southern part of AP a patch of open grass with 800 ft of space perimeters the Mississippi River. With public bathrooms at the closure of the grassy patch and 10+ trees offering shade along the way, Riverview Park, or “The Fly,” as it’s commonly known is a different world only 30 minutes away from Tulane. Walking here from Tulane, one must go through Audubon Park then cross over train tracks, only to see an open area of green grass along the water. There are 5 baseball fields along with a soccer field and another open grass where kids run with their dogs, throw balls, or play tag. Spending time outdoors is beneficial to one’s mental health; it allows us to connect with others as well as the world around us, provoking feelings of awe and a deep sense of gratitude which, makes us feel happy and want to share these emotions with others.

There is a family with three kids barbecuing hamburgers and hotdogs with chairs sitting in a circle. As defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, a family “is a group of two people or more (one of whom is the householder) related by birth, marriage, or adoption and residing together.” However, there are certain qualities to a family that define one as a good functioning family, such that each family member feels love and support from one another providing a sense of security and belonging for each other. For the family of 5 encircling each other eating their barbecued hamburgers and hotdogs, everyone was laughing and smiling with one another. One of the most important factors that contribute to strong family relationships is spending time together which, creates enjoyable memories. A family provides a sense of connection and comfort with one another, and these connections help develop a strong sense of identify and a feeling of belonging and community.

On a Friday afternoon there were roughly 300 people here. In 2018, New Orleans welcomed 18.51 million visitors, a 4.29 percent increase in visitors compared to the previous year. Riverview Park, or “The Fly,” is referenced over three times as a tourist spot in New Orleans. According to Time Out’s: The best things to do in New Orleans, Audubon Park and the Fly was rated number 22. According to TripAdvisor, The fly was rated #65 of 135 for Outdoor Activities in New Orleans. Also, according to Curbed: 10 places to relax and sit by the water in New Orleans, “The Fly” Butterfly Riverview Park was mentioned as a popular spot. When analyzing why the Fly has become such a popular tourist attraction, a major reason is due to its location and history. It originally got its name due to its resemblance to a butterfly-shaped river constructed in the 1960s. The Fly, as well as Audubon Park, were the grounds for the World Fair in 1884. New Orleans claimed it would be the perfect location to host the World Fair to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the cotton industry since New Orleans was America’s 10th most populous city and the time of the Cotton Centennial, one-third of the world’s cotton passed through its port.

At the fly, groups of boys and girls lay down on bohemian blankets with bottles of rosé wine, and they eat crackers with their cheese board. Kids come to play spike ball, while in the back of the Fly frat boys come to throw around footballs and Frisbees. Throwing a frisbee or a football is an easy activity to do with a friend since they are cheap, costing less than $1 each,  but “The average cost of a disc golf disc is around $13 to $15 dollars. But disc golf discs can cost between $8 dollars and $20 dollars depending on quality of plastic, manufacturer, rarity, dye, type of disc, and whether the model is still being made”, and portable being roughly 8 to 10 inches (20 to 25 cm) in diameter in size. Throwing a football and frisbee has proven to build better relationships and increase social skills, which in turn boosts self-esteem. Sports not only increased agility, motor skills, and strength, but it also helps to create better connections and relationships. People like sports because it provides a sense of belonging, a connection to a wider world.” This connection to the wider world also inspires a different connection, one with endorphins. When exercising, it reduces overall stress and causes a boost in mood. Releasing endorphins also catalyzes connection and bonding, seeing those sports such as throwing a football or frisbee with a friend helps people connect and bond.

College kids come here to escape a hard week of school filled with tests, homework, and papers and just let go of the stress and worry and just enjoy everyone’s company. A study which examined the amount of time the average student spends studying and working, found that “students spend approximately 9.7 hours studying and 16.5 hours working in a typical week,”. Also, according to the National Survey of Student Engagement’s findings, the average student spends about 17 hours each week preparing for classes. Allowing time for oneself to indulge in a social life and create a balance between work-life and social life overall reduces stress and increases happiness levels.

Being in a social setting like the Fly reduces stress in our bodies. According to Simon-Thomas, studies show that when people feel lonelier they have higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.” Being around positive people can influence one’s behavior and overall mood. Being in the presence of happy people can cause someone else to feel happier as well. “Emotional contagion (EC) is the idea that we really can and do “catch” emotions from the people around us” according to Psychologists. EC believed to be the foundation for empathy and social functioning in humans.”

Seven factors that contribute to why open green outdoor spaces boosts mental health include “the feeling of escape and getting away; having space to reflect; physical activity; learning to deal with things; having a purpose; relationships with program leaders; and shared social experiences.” According to Dr. Andrew Lee, “If it’s a social space, where people meet together and chat and go on walks, that kind of social contact and interaction builds social networks,” Lee says. “That’s probably where the real impact is coming from that gives people a sense of wellbeing.”

But the connection doesn’t just have to be with the other fellow humans. Each evening at around 7:00 P.M., The Fly is covered in colors of bright warm yellow and blue. Tulane students come to the fly to watch the sunset go down while enjoying their time on the open green patch. According to Naz Kaya and Helen H. Epps study on Color-Emotion Association, “The color green has a retiring and relaxing effect. Furthermore, light colors such as yellow and blue are associated with positive emotions and that bright colors elicit mainly positive associations.” So, it’s not just the colors of dark green with broad, flat blades filtering over the St. Augustine grass and the bald cypress trees, it’s specially how colors affect emotions providing a relaxing, peaceful, and positive feeling.

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