Magazine article Parks & Recreation

From the Director's Chair

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

From the Director's Chair

Article excerpt

Particularly in the health and wellness space, many objectives are shared among park and recreation departments and their public health counterparts. Active lifestyles, exposure to natural environments and strong community connections all contribute to an overall climate of health--as it happens, all are also available through local parks and recreation, often with little or no financial barrier for entry. Savvy directors recognize the opportunities for collaboration between their agencies and public health providers and actively work to cultivate these connections for the betterment of their constituents, especially those in traditionally underserved populations. This month, we reached out to Jesus Aguirre, superintendent at Seattle Parks and Recreation in Washington state; Jack Kardys, director of Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department in Florida; and Douglas R. Kupper, director of the Oklahoma City Department of Parks and Recreation to ask the following question: What initiatives at your agency have shown the greatest success in addressing health inequities in your community? Below are their observations:

Jesus Aguire

At Seattle Parks and Recreation (SPR) we support healthy people, healthy environments and strong communities, with a special focus on ensuring access to our neediest and historically under-represented residents. This year, we are embarking on an exciting new program designed to get people up and moving. Our "Get Moving" initiative focuses on people from communities of color, immigrant communities, people with disabilities and folks from our LGBTQ community, especially youth and seniors, in communities where people are disproportionately affected by health disparities.

With funding from our newly created Seattle Park District, SPR provides grants to local nonprofits, small businesses and community groups that offer innovative and culturally relevant events and projects designed to get people involved in community sports, active recreation and physical fitness activities. Our goal is to reach 1,000 new participants this year.

SPR reached out widely in target communities and awarded grants to 14 projects for our initial year. Funded initiatives include an intergenerational program focusing on African-American fathers and sons; a training program by a Latino leadership development group to help youth become coaches; a cultural dance program by an organization that supports the Lao community, especially youth, with scholarships and activities that preserve their culture; and an African Diaspora dance classes by an organization that invests in young women of color as future leaders through mentoring and programs that equip them with confidence and resiliency.

Jack Kardys

Perhaps the important initiative that has served as the blueprint for health equity in Miami-Dade County is the Parks and Open Space Master Plan, unanimously adopted in 2008 by the Board of County Commissioners. During the past eight years, not only have all 35 municipalities, the school board, three state parks and two national parks in Miami-Dade adopted its principles--equity, access, seamlessness, sustainability, multiple benefits and beauty--but they also recognized that a great park system is much more than ballfields and summer programs. Rather, it is a system of great parks, public spaces, natural and cultural areas connected by great greenways, trails, blueways and complete streets that serve as safe, linear parks. …

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