Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Sharing the Power of Parks in July: The Ongoing Evolution of Parks and Recreation's Mission through Three Decades and Beyond

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Sharing the Power of Parks in July: The Ongoing Evolution of Parks and Recreation's Mission through Three Decades and Beyond

Article excerpt

Much has changed since 1985. Forget iPhones and GoPros--30 years ago disposable cameras didn't even exist. The rapid development of technology and the means by which we communicate has impacted every facet of our lives including public services.

While technology in many ways has made our lives easier, it has also cluttered them. At work, we're expected to do more, do it faster and do it with fewer resources. Parks and recreation has certainly felt this shift in conjunction with a continued competition for limited public funds. But where there are challenges, there are also opportunities.

As part of celebrating the 30th anniversary of July as Park and Recreation Month, we saw an opportunity to share with the world the ways in which parks and recreation make everyone's lives better. Much like park and recreation agencies balance being "fun makers" with vital service providers, NRPA aims to balance messages about the fun of Park and Recreation Month with the very real impact agencies make in the lives of those they serve.

This July's 1980s-throwback theme lends itself to a lot of fun activities--80s-style aerobics classes, movie nights, pool parties and festivals. These are great ways to have fun and engage with community members who may or may not be familiar with parks and recreation services. Once the headbands and legwarmers come off and the screams and splashing subside, however, what is the lasting effect on those who participated? What was the power behind those park and recreation programs?

It's likely not possible to see how many pounds were lost in the aerobics class or how many new personal connections were made at a festival --at least not without budget for formal surveys. What we do know, however, are national statistics that demonstrate the power parks and recreation has in every community.

To that end and to highlight park and recreation agencies as vital service providers, NRPA created a Power of Parks video illustrating some of the many ways park and recreation agencies contribute to powerful benefits such as healthier people, higher property values and environmental sustainability. This video can be found and shared at www.nrpa.org/ july-power-of-parks.

It is vital for the continued advancement of public parks and recreation that the powerful results of these "fun" programs are shared. Behind that 80s-themed festival is the fact that programming in parks is proven to be an effective means of reducing crime rates. Behind that aerobics class is the fact that access to parks and recreation facilities aids in the control of obesity and helps diminish the risk of disease. The more we can collectively and effectively share the story about the power behind the work we do, the more we raise our field as a whole and demonstrate parks and recreation's value as an essential service.

In many ways, it is fitting that we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Park and Recreation Month with a video about the power of parks and recreation. The same technology that can clutter our day-to-day lives is now the most effective way of reaching community members, elected officials and important stakeholders. The way we consume information has changed a lot since 1985, so while we may be telling much of the same story, the means in which it needs to be told has evolved. …

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