CEPAE a Tool for Change: How to Create Active Living in Community Recreation Centers through Standards for Environmental Design and Evaluation

By Hawkins, Barbara; Voreis, Jennifer et al. | Parks & Recreation, March 2007 | Go to article overview

CEPAE a Tool for Change: How to Create Active Living in Community Recreation Centers through Standards for Environmental Design and Evaluation


Hawkins, Barbara, Voreis, Jennifer, Hill, Julie, Myllykangas, Susan, Spangler, Kathy, Parks & Recreation


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The push to create communities that promote active living is stronger than ever, with park and recreation departments poised to take a lead role. But how do departments know they are actually delivering and influencing positive health outcomes? One such way is to use a system called Comprehensive Evaluation to Promote Active Engagement (CEPAE), which is a new tool and training package used to assess community recreation facilities.

"The assessment tool with training workshop was an 'eye opener' for our department," says Jennifer Voreis from Indianapolis Parks and Recreation whose agency tested the tool. "We found that small improvements could have a significant impact on our facilities to make them friendlier and inviting to all ages."

CEPAE is founded upon the principle that a healthy, long and happy life is more than just a physically active life; it is one in which the individual maintains an active lifestyle in all areas based on a holistic view of health. The program was developed to evaluate recreation facility environments in terms of promoting active living for all people based on this view of health with regard to age, race/ethnicity, gender and barriers to active living.

There are three components of CEPAE--assessment protocols and tools, training program for qualified assessors and reporting guidelines--that are designed to help professionals change and create environments that encourage people to make choices to engage in active living.

The science behind CEPAE is based on population trends that are changing neighborhoods, communities and cities all across the United States. By now, most recreation professionals are aware of dramatic changes in the nation's population in terms of age distribution. One-fifth of the U.S. population is over age 55, and this number will continue to increase into the future.

The implications of population aging are significant for recreation service and facility design. Population aging, or the steady proportionate increase of adults and older adults, will continue to impact the nation throughout the 21st century. The recreation profession will continually be confronted with the need to make changes in its agency's vision, mission and service delivery in order to be responsive to changes in the service constituency.

CEPAE is designed to be responsive to this changing demographic profile in terms of the age of target participant groups. The CEPAE evaluation tool, if implemented by a trained assessor, can provide important information to community planners, recreation administrators and facility designers on how to revitalize existing recreation facilities to effectively promote active living for a changing clientele that includes participants from early childhood through aging and aged adults.

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In the summer of 2005, CEPAE was field-tested by Indy Parks and Recreation in Indianapolis, Ind. Under the leadership of Voreis, an extensive field test was completed that involved four facilities in the Indy Parks and Recreation system (Douglass, Riverside, Krannert and Washington Park) and the participation of seven administrative staff members. The team underwent an extensive training session in preparation for the instrument field test.

The initial assessment established several items that needed improvement or emphasis at very little cost to the agency. Of course, there were other items that would require capital improvements to promote active engagement in a space.

The Douglass Park and Family Center near the city's east side has a long history of community involvement. The property has an outdoor pool, nine-hole golf course, ball diamonds, newly renovated football field, an outdoor basketball court, tennis courts, a family center and a playground. The evaluation found that although the facility lacked new amenities, its cultural heritage and sense of community was strong. …

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