Pennsylvania Park and Recreation Professionals Day is July 19

PRPS_Park&Recreation_ProfessionalsDayIt’s a safe bet we can all agree on the following. That when:

•   you visit a park, it is clean, safe, and ready to use.
•   your family goes swimming, the lifeguards are well-trained and the water quality is optimal.
•   your grandchild visits the playground, you know it is maintained to all safety standards.
•   your loved one with a disability wants to camp, swim, paddle or fish, all facilities are well-marked, well-maintained and easily accessible.
•   you attend a public festival, all safety and security systems are capable and functioning.
•   your elderly parents look for enriching and companionable activities, they can always find them.
•   your children attend day camp, you are certain of their safe and appropriate physical, cognitive and social development.
•   you visit urban woodlands, gardens and greenspaces, the attractive assets are well-cared for and healthy.
•   your teens participate in youth sports, they thrive in the coaching, playing, and growing.
•   you want to bike to the park, grocery store, library or work, you are able to make those connections, free from all hazards.

I believe we can agree that these are all reasonable expectations of our park and recreation facilities and programs. And since they are, it is fitting to credit the park and recreation professionals who provide them.

The third Friday in July is Pennsylvania Park and Recreation Professionals Day. It honors the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide the high quality programs and facilities we desire and expect in our parks and public spaces.

On July 19, we invite all Pennsylvanians to visit a park and enjoy its facilities and services in a tribute to all our park and recreation providers. And just perhaps they’ll mention a little thanks to the programmer, manager, maintainer, landscaper, facilitator, lifeguard, coach, event organizer or caretaker.

If you have a public event on or near Friday, July 19, we encourage you to make it an official Park and Recreation Professionals Day celebration, with special promotions and publicity. Invite your elected officials and allow them to eye-witness and publicly acknowledge your value to the community at large. Download the resources of the promotional toolkit here to assist in your local preparations. 

Park and Recreation Professionals Day is celebrated during National Park and Recreation Month, and is a function of the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society.

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Recreation and Parks’ Internet of Things

How parks and recreation contribute to everything important!

Love ParkHow parks and recreation contribute to everything important!

In the spirit of bringing holistic thinking and collaborative services to solving people problems, this simple list depicts how park and recreation systems contribute to improving personal and community living. By no means is it comprehensive, so please add your suggestions to expand this view!

Health & Wellness
Healthcare Costs
Healthcare Delivery
Medical Recovery & Immune Benefits
Connection to Nature for Human Health
Alleviation of Stress, Depression & AD disorders
Physical Activity & Healthy Lifestyles
Physical, Mental, Emotional Therapy
Mitigate Obesity and Chronic Diseases
Youth & Family Development
Nutrition, Healthy Food Production & Choices
Preventative Treatment for Criminal & Risky Behaviors
Prevention & Response for Opioids & Drug Abuse
Improved Functioning of People with Special Needs
Evidence-based Health Improvement Programs
Tobacco Bans in Public Spaces

Environmental Sustainability
Wildlife Habitat Preservation
Carbon Sequestration
Water Quality & Supply
Wetlands Protection & Riparian Buffers
Biodiversity
Energy Costs & Conservation
Pollution Reduction
Air Quality
Connections to Nature
Brownfields Restoration
Climate Change
Preservation & Conservation
Heat Island Reduction
Natural Resource Management
Stormwater Management
Conservation Best Practices

Social Equity
Community & Neighborhood Engagement
Access to Economic and Socio-cultural Goods
Diversity & Inclusion
Cross-cultural Respect & Interaction
Gentrification
Children & Youth Services
Child Nutrition & Food Distribution
Equal Access to Parks & Recreation Services
Underserved Populations
Health Disparities
Neighborhood Green Spaces
Social Justice & Public Administration
Workforce Development

Economic Stimulation
Destination Tourism
Placemaking & Events
Concessions & Vendors
Connective Trails, Water Trails
Recreational and Cultural Attractions
Business Development & Attraction
Employment & Workforce Development
Recreation & Sports Equipment Sales
Property Values
Zoning & Enterprise Districts
Outdoor Recreation Industry
Growth of the Sharing Economy

Infrastructure & Resiliency
Multimodal transportation
Urban Planning
Traffic Mitigation
Caretaking & Maintenance
Gentrification
Trail Access & Connectivity
Stormwater Management
Disaster & Emergency Preparedness
“Clean, Safe & Ready-to-Use”
Streetscapes
Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation
Landscape Architectural Design
Facilities & Resource Management
Technologies & Work Automation
Big Data & Anticipatory Intelligence

People Development
Community Leadership
Teambuilding and Collaborations
Personal Productivity & Creativity
Student Achievement & Engagement
Risk Resilience
Creative Play
Physical, Cognitive, Social & Emotional Development
Experiential & Lifelong Learning

Community Livability
Safety & Crime Mitigation
Placemaking
Historical and Cultural Preservation
Community Engagement
Forums for Public Art, Entertainment & Expression
Children & Youth Services
Safeguard Park Visitors and Recreationists
Public Spaces & Green Infrastructure
Urban Blight Mitigation
Connective Trails
Public-Private Partnerships
Business Development & Attraction
Research, Public Education & Advocacy

Recreation & Leisure
Aquatics & Athletics
Parks and Park Amenities
Arenas and Event Venues
Concessions and Supplies
Healthy Competition
Nature & Environmental Centers
Hunting & Fishing
Active & Passive Leisure Activities
Cultural & Historical Interpretation
Public Assets & Spaces
Community Gardens & Special Use Spaces
Integrated Services across Disciplines & Jurisdictions
Positive Youth, Family & Adult Development
Quality & Enrichment of Life

From Toronto With Love: lessons learned from visiting Toronto’s recreation and community centers

Community involvement in rec centers can flourish, if given the proper attention, time and resources.

Those of us who are concerned with better resident engagement with our neighborhood community recreation centers could learn plenty by visiting Toronto, as I recently have.

As a member of an exploration group participating in Civic Commons Learning Journey: Toronto, I was afforded a first-hand look at the operations of many of Toronto’s public libraries, community housing units – and perhaps most important, its public spaces and community recreation centers.

Our tour took us to all points in Toronto – from its more affluent neighborhoods to its more hard-scrabble, working class areas. What stood out during each stop was that community members and neighbors, by and large, took sincere ownership of their parks and centers. Centers were nearly blight-free, and most parks were fulfilling the promise of being bustling centers of communal activity.

When I asked a center director why the community takes to the center the way it does, I was told that many of the neighbors are immigrants, and have embraced the center not only for its recreational properties, but for the essential programming, including ESL classes and other crucial immigrant services. Most of the services are provided for free, and those participating in the various programs usually donate their own time, effort and other resources to support their center.

The idea that we can turn our local centers into more of a one-stop hub where community members can receive an assortment of services should be a priority as the city embarks on the Rebuild Initiative. 

Another story of communal support unfolded when our group visited Regent Park, a wholly redeveloped neighborhood in downtown Toronto. Developers and community leaders there have gone through great lengths to blur the distinction between the more well off residents and working-class ones. There, a new community center arts bank supports the community’s burgeoning creative arts industry, literally providing an avenue through which Regent Park artists can be properly compensated for their talents.

I believe that this sort of neighborhood involvement can flourish locally, if given the proper attention, time and resources.

For example, during our visit to Dufferin Grove Park in West Toronto, we witnessed public usages that, if scaled properly, could work locally.

Most parks that our group visited housed reconfigured metal shipping containers that housed “Park Cafes.” These cafes sit on recreation center grounds, and are open during the hours the park is open, and provide prepared and cooked foods and snacks to all those who use the park. 

One such cafe sits inside Thorncliffe Park and is operated by the Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee. All of these cafes employ members of the community, and a portion of the proceeds are folded back into the operations of the park.

The implementation of more diverse programming could lead to community engagement while also creating revenue streams for our recreations centers. It’s worth a try. 

Dufferin Grove Park 11
“The Cob,” an open-air cafe situated in the heart of Dufferin Grove Park.
Dufferin Grove Park 9
The play area at Dufferin Grove Park. Note this is mid-morning activity.
Scadding Court Community Centre 10
The skateboard creation program at Scadding Court Community Centre. There, local youth earn certificates in graphic design and screen printing, as they create one-of-a-kind skateboards, which they in turn sell to the local community.

Why you should call your local elected officials before July 2, 2018

Blue Mountain

In 1993, the General Assembly, by a combined vote total of 244 to 3, established the Pennsylvania Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund (Key 93 or Keystone Fund) with a dedicated funding source of 15 percent of the state’s Realty Transfer Tax. The realty transfer tax is collected at a rate of 2 percent on the value of real estate when a property changes ownership (with some exceptions.) The buyer and seller each pay half of the tax with the state government ultimately receiving half of the total tax revenue. Following the General Assembly vote, 67 percent of Pennsylvania citizens voted to supplement the Keystone’s permanent funding stream with a one-time infusion of $50 million in bond revenues.

On July 2, 2018, the Keystone Fund will be celebrating 25 years of success.

Twenty-five years of funding has provided Penn’s Woods with more than 2,400 community park developmental projects, 117,000 acres of preserved open space and has leveraged $3.13 in direct local investments in our parks, trails and open space for each dollar of Keystone Funding.

The Trust for Public Land conducted an economic analysis of the return on Pennsylvania’s investment in land and water conservation through the Keystone Recreation, Park, and Conservation Fund and found that every $1 invested in land conservation returned $7 in natural goods and services to the Pennsylvania economy.

Brush Creek Trail Ribbon Cutting

Keystone Funding provides to the residents of Pennsylvania:

1.  Recreation (including state parks, trails, scenic rivers, historic and museum facilities, libraries and PA State Universities)
Pennsylvania outdoor recreation generates $21.5 billion in spending, $1.6 billion in tax revenue, 219,000 jobs, and $7.2 billion in wages and salaries. Visitors to state parks spend $859 million annually at local businesses contributing to a total economic impact of $1.15 billion and 12,630 jobs in a variety of industries and businesses in the state.

2. Open Space
Protected open space in southeastern Pennsylvania provides a value of $10.9 million in water quality enhancement services and $318 million in air pollution removal services annually and adds $16.3 billion to the value of homes and generates $240 million in additional annual property and transfer tax revenues. Studies of 15 Pennsylvania communities found that open space and working farms and forest require only $0.18 in services for every $1 generated in tax revenue while residential land requires $1.26 for every $1 generated.

3. Quality of Life
Quality of life is one of the most important factors skilled workers consider when choosing where to live and work. Conserved lands contribute to a high quality of life by providing opportunities for outdoor recreation, improving air and water quality, and maintaining the character of communities.

The Keystone Fund has leveraged $205 million in matching funds from private sources and $116 from local sources for conservation. That is, every $1 of Keystone funding was matched by $2.16 in additional contributions!

Many of your future projects could rely on this funding! Educating legislators about the Keystone Fund is very important as most legislators have changed since 1993. We need to continue to enhance legislative support. Take a minute to communicate the importance of maintaining this dedicated funding source for the future of Pennsylvania Parks and Recreation. Pick up the phone, stop by their office, drop them an email or personal letter….YOU decide which avenue of communication with your local officials would be the most effective in your corner of the “Woods.” Take a minute to reach out to them before July 2nd.

For additional fact sheets, reports and surveys, talking points, sample letters to legislators and other resources visit: https://keystonefund.org/25th-anniversary-toolkit/

#KeystoneFund25    #KeystoneFund

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Showcase your parks in 2018 – become a NRPA Park Champion!

In 2017, East and West Goshen Townships celebrated two-hundred years of blissful divorce with a Bicentennial Celebration on June 3rd. The event included a three-scene play based on historical documents, two stages of music, Ben Franklin (this is Pennsylvania after all…), an amazing fireworks display – even a pistol duel! That’s right, Ken Lehr and I faced off to finally see, after two hundred years, which was the better Township! In the end, we both stayed on our feet, but the crowd of 3,500 loved every minute!

While perusing the NRPA website last March, I came across their Park Champion initiative. Park Champion events highlight the positive impacts of park and recreation events within a community and specifically advocate to federally elected officials. I immediately emailed Jayni Rasmussen, NRPA’s Advocacy and Outreach Manager, to get the scoop! The initiative is very turnkey and user-friendly. Park Champion logos are available, template letters you can mail to federal officials are easily downloadable, and NRPA is more than willing to knock on your official’s doors down in Washington.

The benefits to local Pennsylvania Parks and Recreation Departments are enumerable. In my opinion, one thing that Pennsylvania Park & Recreation Departments struggle with, because we are Township and not County driven, is “playing with the big boys” across the country. By attaching the Park Champion logo to our Bicentennial Celebration – our event was seen in a higher esteem by our local Township Board of Supervisors and community. We received additional local publicity and fundraising support as well.

Another chief benefit of hosting a Park Champion event is something for the greater good. State officials in Harrisburg had a difficult time with the 2017 budget – and in most budgetary conversations monies we typically rely on came up on the chopping block. I know my community is desperately trying to renovate and rehabilitate our park spaces, but need those state monies to move forward. At our Bicentennial Celebration, we had our U.S. Representative, both State Senators and our State Representative – all of whom came simply because we were a Park Champion. They each joined me on stage and made wonderful remarks about the impact of parks here in West Chester. I had an opportunity to talk with each one, and subtly made my case that folks at the event, 3,500 (20% of my residents), truly valued parks and needed them to be updated. Politically speaking, my goal was to show elected officials that they needed me, Ken and our Parks and Recreation Departments as assets. Partnering with NRPA as a Park Champion helped us deliver on this goal.

Park Champion events can be small or large, ongoing events or something brand new. Logistically speaking, it’s best to align a Park Champion event with the congressional calendar, giving your federal officials no reason not to come!

For those that couldn’t make the PRPS Fall Membership meeting, Jayni Rasmussen was our guest speaker. It was clearly evident she is passionate about helping municipal departments advocate and highlight what makes them awesome! I spoke with her afterwards, and she summed up the Park Champion initiative best, “As park and recreation professionals, you already know that your work is essential in making your community healthier, happier, and more economically vibrant. But with so much public funding on the chopping block, it’s critical that you demonstrate to your members of Congress the importance of investing in local parks and recreation. Emails and phone calls are great, but there’s really nothing like experiencing a local park or recreation facility in person. That’s the idea behind NRPA’s Park Champion initiative – empowering park and recreation professionals and community advocates to show elected officials the importance of parks and recreation first-hand by inviting them to events, project openings, groundbreakings, program kick-offs, and more.  You’re already equipped with unbeatable advocacy assets: your parks, recreation centers, and community-focused programs. Now, it’s time to join the hundreds of Park Champions across the country and in Pennsylvania, and take advantage of the tools, resources, and network of support that NRPA offers to members and non-members alike through this initiative. Together as Park Champions, we can fight for the future of parks and recreation by bringing Capitol Hill to a park near you.”

While the snow is still on the ground and you are busy planning a wonderful 2018 – I encourage everyone to visit the Park Champion website and get going!

2017-EG Bicentennial-0038
NRPA Park Champion events – bringing local, state and federal officials together                       (L-R) US Rep. R. Costello, State Rep. C. Comitta and East Goshen Chairman M. Shane

Main Street Rising: bringing together park and recreation users from urban(ish) areas

Point_State_Park_in_Fall

Thinking of parkland in Pennsylvania evokes images of lush forests and rolling mountains. We think of the often breathtaking 300,000 acres of state parks, bearing names like Promised Land, Bald Eagle, and Worlds End.

And for the state with a namesake derived from Penn’s Woods, perhaps one of our Commonwealth’s greatest assets is access to parkland, even in our densest cities. From the winding trails of Fairmount Park in Philadelphia to the shores of Presque Isle in Erie, Pennsylvania’s cities also have an abundance of beautiful spaces—ensuring green space is within reach of nearly every Pennsylvanian.

Our urban parks and recreation systems aren’t without their unique challenges. Beyond passive use recreation, we use these spaces to celebrate, to protest, to dance, and to compete. It’s these spaces that are very backbone of our cities—and investment in these spaces is as critical as ever.

That’s why in 2017 PRPS ramped up the Pennsylvania Urban Alliance for Parks & Recreation—our collective effort to recognize the needs faced by park and recreation system in denser regions of the Commonwealth. Already, dozens of municipalities are joining our movement, and we’re looking to keep the progress going!

Whether you live in a small village with a town square or a burgeoning metropolis with a network of parks and recreation facilities—the Urban Alliance is looking to grow our voices throughout Pennsylvania.  Urban Alliance members assist in advocacy, programming, and event planning to strengthen this critical network and share best practices across the state. Just last month, Urban Alliance members came together in Allentown and Pittsburgh to discuss our collective challenges—and discuss potential solution sets moving forward.

But for this work to reach maximum impact, we need voices from across the Commonwealth. To find out more about the Urban Alliance—or to consider getting involved, visit our website at goodforpa.com/urban/ and let’s work together to ensure the spirit of Penn’s Woods lives on for years to come.

 

50 ways parks and recreation pay out everyday!

Investment in these diverse community assets always produces a high return—with profitable benefits for all.

11174648 - multi-ethnic group of people outdoors.

Today’s recreation and parks are not your momma’s playground program! They are multifaceted physical and socioeconomic systems that daily deliver the foundational needs and essential human services of our modern existence. It’s not just fun and games anymore!

So much of what constitutes the appeal and livability of our communities is our direct connection to our public spaces and our natural and cultural assets. Their facilities and features build a strong and resilient infrastructure. Their recreational opportunities bolster our wellness and life satisfaction. Together, our park and recreation systems contribute expansively to a healthy economy, environment and society in at least 50 tangible ways—here hyperlinked to corroborating research and authenticating documentation.

  1. facilitate physical activity and healthy lifestyles
  2. advance social equity and access
  3. preserve and sustain environmental quality
  4. connect people to nature for human health benefits
  5. facilitate positive youth and family development
  6. reduce carbon footprints and pollution
  7. nurture physical, mental, emotional therapy
  8. promote healthy food production and choices
  9. create popular public spaces through green infrastructure
  10. preserve wildlife habitat and connective corridors
  11. administer preventative treatment for drug abuse, and criminal and risky behaviors
  12. reduce stormwater management costs
  13. fortify tourism and economic development
  14. improve physical, cognitive, social and emotion functioning of people with special needs
  15. foster creative play
  16. mitigate urban blight and brownfields
  17. stimulate business viability and diversity
  18. reduce heat island effects and energy costs
  19. buffer extremes of flood and drought
  20. foster community engagement
  21. develop athletic skills and healthy competition
  22. preserve and enhance biodiversity
  23. facilitate and promote public-private partnerships
  24. strengthen motor and cognitive skills in young children
  25. build experiential learning, team cooperation and leadership
  26. rejuvenate mental clarity and alleviate stress and attention deficit disorders
  27. safeguard park visitors and recreation participants
  28. foster risk resilience and independent mobility skills in children
  29. enhance property values
  30. facilitate meaningful leisure experiences contributing to quality of life
  31. provide teen mentoring, workforce preparation, and vocational training
  32. boost student performance and educational attainment
  33. administer child nutrition and food distribution programs
  34. create multimodal transportation alternatives and reduce traffic congestion
  35. reduce healthcare costs
  36. rejuvenate employee productivity and stimulate creativity
  37. provide forums for public art, entertainment and expression
  38. expedite medical recovery and boost immune systems
  39. foster diversity and cross-cultural cooperation
  40. reduce crime and increase community safety
  41. enable access to economic and socio-cultural goods
  42. improve air quality
  43. promote and regenerate community resilience, cohesion, and vibrancy
  44. generate $140 billion in economic activity and support 1 million jobs
  45. preserve and interpret historical and cultural resources
  46. reduce taxes
  47. stimulate recreation-related equipment and supplies sales
  48. mitigate youth crime and deviant juvenile behaviors
  49. establish a sense of place and belonging
  50. serve as civic repositories of social capital and community wellbeing

(Please contribute additional ways, references and resources!)

Park and recreation systems are the attractive masterpieces of our most vibrant cities and communities. It’s there we connect nature and neighborhoods for our individual, social, environmental, and economic well-being. Investment in these diverse community assets always produces a high return—with profitable benefits for all.