Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Public Recreation: Not Just Fun and Games

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Public Recreation: Not Just Fun and Games

Article excerpt

The past few years have not been kind to public recreation programs. In Missouri and throughout the nation, local budget cutters have slashed funds for parks and recreation. Voters have rejected funding for existing programs and development of new ones. One beleaguered park director once explained the budget process to me, "Recreation programs are always the first to go."

Public recreation programs remain vulnerable because too many of us misunderstand their enduring value. When municipal budgets appear tight, "recreation" may evoke images of mere fun and games, a luxury we can live without. As a volunteer parks and recreation department coach since 1968, I see different images.

For 27 years, I have seen public recreation programs touch the entire community. Public recreation provides athletic, cultural and social opportunities for senior citizens who might otherwise lack ready avenues for daily fulfillment in their retirement years. Public recreation provides activities that help integrate physically and mentally disabled citizens into society's mainstream.

Public recreation enables any adult to enjoy the sheer pleasure of play as an invigorating respite from the stresses of the workaday world.

Perhaps most important in today's sometimes unsettled times, however, public recreation serves children of all ages and economic backgrounds, including children shut out of public and private school athletic programs. If a youngster manages to make the varsity or junior varsity squad, he or she may compete in a school sport. Even many of these selected youngsters warm the bench while the talented few get the lion's share of the playing time. A child who cannot make the varsity or JV at all watches from the stands. With studies demonstrating that fewer Ame rican children than ever before get sufficient physical exercise, athletic programs that exclude most children leave a disturbing void. …

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