Creating Steps to a Healthier You through WalkWorks

Walking—we do it every day. When we want to get somewhere, we walk. Sure, we may incorporate other modes of transportation into our lives, such as driving a car, riding a bike or using public transit, but we start and end every trip by walking.

We also choose our walking speed. When we have to get somewhere quickly, we speed walk. When we take the dog out or want to experience the outdoors, our pace slows. Walking is one of the simplest and easiest forms of physical activity – it’s free and requires no special equipment or athletic skill.

Yet, in 2017, one quarter of Pennsylvania adults indicated participating in no physical activity in the past month, while more than two thirds of adults were overweight or obese. Walking is an important part of our lives and can improve our overall health. Health benefits of walking include helping to control weight, reducing the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes, and enhancing mental well-being.

Why don’t we walk more?

In many locations across Pennsylvania, lack of access to areas where residents can safely walk or bicycle is cited as one of the reasons for poor physical health. Communities and their streets were rarely designed to enable simultaneous, safe access for all users, including pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders. However, streets designed for all modes of transportation, called Complete Streets, make it easier to cross the street, get to school, walk to shops, or bicycle to work and, therefore, are associated with increased physical activity. Complete Streets not only promotes good health and creates health equity, but it can also stimulate the local economy, improve road safety, reduce the amount of air pollution and improve mobility for children and older individuals.

WalkWorks – What is it?

To encourage walking and help more Pennsylvanians meet the national guidelines which call for adults to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity per week, the Pennsylvania Department of Health developed WalkWorks. WalkWorks seeks to encourage communities to support physical activity by promoting active transportation through the implementation of community-based walking routes and the development of plans or policies related to active transportation. Here are two upcoming opportunities to partner with WalkWorks:

WalkWorks affiliate program

Local community-based organizations interested in improving the health status of their communities can apply to become a WalkWorks affiliate. Joining the 89 walking routes in 21 counties across Pennsylvania, selected community-based partners:

• Identify a walking route and points of interests;

• Engage community stakeholders;

• Collaborate with community organizations; and

• Organize a kick-off celebration.

While a specific date to release the affiliate application has not yet been determined, it is expected to be released in August or September. To see if the application has been released, please visit the WalkWorks website.

Marcus Hook walking route, Delaware County

WalkWorks funding for active transportation plans or policies

Municipalities and similar types of local government organizations interested in enhancing active transportation through plans or policies can apply for WalkWorks funding to develop plans or policies that begin to prioritize active transportation. This funding opportunity, which will open on or around August 1, creates or enhances pedestrian and bicycle connections to common community destinations that allow people to recreate, shop, explore or socialize safely and conveniently. To view the application or apply, please visit the WalkWorks website after August 1.

Whether you are a community resident looking for opportunities to increase your physical activity or a local government official looking to improve the walkability and connectivity of your community, WalkWorks has resources, guides and funding opportunities that can help improve the overall health of your community.

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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

Explore Pennsylvania Trails

We’re celebrating trails in September in Pennsylvania!

We’re fortunate to have thousands of miles of trails of all types to hike, ride, and paddle. Just like local parks, they are waiting to be explored at little to no cost.

Trails connect places, are one of the best guides to nature, and more than 75 percent of Pennsylvanians believe that along with parks they are an essential part of our health care system.

PA Top Trail State

Where to Find a Trail

Anyone who wants to visit a trail but is not sure where to go can find 12,000 miles and events listed on the website www.explorePAtrails.com.

The website has recently been refreshed.  Key things to visit on the site now include a Calendar of Events, the Trail of the Year and a Featured Trail.  But the best part is you can search by trail name, your county or zip code, or the type of trail use to find your perfect path.

If your local trail is not on there, you can add it.

Learn more about trail experiences on this short video which is being placed on TV stations throughout the state during the month.

Schuylkill+River+Trail+(1)

Trail Partners

DCNR helps coordinate a 20-member Pennsylvania Trails Advisory Committee that represents many different types of users and stakeholders.  It advises the department of the use of state and federal trail funding.

The committee recently finished its 2017 Trails Report that is a great information source about planning, closing trail gaps to reach a goal of having a trail within 15 minutes of every Pennsylvanian, and lots of accomplishments for the year.

Pursue your trail!

Goodbye to Summer

Special needs pictureIt may be a sad moment for some and a joyful one to others…the end of summer.  For my daughter and I, it’s our favorite time of year.  We can almost smell the leaves.  The acorns have begun to fall from the Oaks and the goldenrod is blooming.

In our profession, summer poses more of a challenge in your personal life to “relax.”  You have pools to manage, camps to organize, Community Day(s), concerts, races, and many other special events.  So, Fall may be just what the doctor ordered.

But as we wish away the madness, think of all the memories that you and your staff have created for the community.  You have created economic stimulus; taught someone to swim; showed a child the difference between a frog and a toad; provided exercise for a senior citizen; encouraged a special needs participant to get up and dance, allowed a grandfather to watch his granddaughter hit her first home run, created laughter between new friends and many, many other memories.

Parks and Recreation Professionals not only provide benefits for the humans on Mother Earth, but also for the many critters that rely on clean water, fresh air, green grass, safe corridors, and plentiful food.  All which allows them to continue to flourish in their natural habitats.

As you take that sigh of relief that another successful summer has come to an end, give yourself, your staff, and dedicated volunteers a pat on the back for making a difference for creatures big and small.

 

In the weeds

In the WeedsOne evening, I was watching one of those cooking competition shows with my wife. One of the contestants was in the midst of a particularly stressful moment in her meal preparation. She was working on five different components to her meal, as the stove top flared up, a mixing bowl was knocked over, and she couldn’t locate the kosher salt. The omnipresent ticking clock was dipping under 3 minutes to go when another contestant asked her how she was doing. Her reply? “I’m in the weeds.”

I don’t believe I had ever heard that phrase, yet I knew exactly what she meant by it. That chest tightening- panic induced cocktail, part dread, part helplessness with a dash of frustration and disappointment, shaken not stirred.

Last fall I found myself in a similar situation. Though not in a cooking competition, I was just drowning under the weight of a smorgasbord of work …multiple projects, deadlines, budget cuts, exasperating decisions that were out of my control, on top of my everyday work/life responsibilities. One small part of those obligations was helping get the word out for the District 2 Fall Social. I was emailing back and forth with a fellow PRPS member about how surprised I was that it was already October and that I needed to get an email out to the District. During that conversation I confessed, “I’m in the weeds.”
His reply, “Well, weed whack yourself out of the tall stuff.”

This got me thinking, what tools do we have at our disposal to help us escape the “tall stuff?” My incomplete, but growing tool shed has accumulated the following:

• Make a list of all the tasks that need done and prioritize them. Don’t let the length of your list intimidate you, just dig in and start chopping away at it. Inaction/ mental paralysis will only compound your problems. Start with a few small things to get the wheels turning. Soon your long list will be a short list. Celebrate that sense of accomplishment, and feel the relief of the weight lifted from you.

• Delegate and/or ask for help. Whether a supervisor or a front line employee, we can all be a little too stubborn, embarrassed or proud to ask for help. Supervisors, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, task someone else from your team and give them a chance to shine. Frontline employees, ask your supervisor for help if you’re lost or need clarification on a task. Depending on the situation, the help doesn’t have to come from your own agency or department. I don’t know how many times I’ve reached out to my fellow local directors to see how they do something, or to pick their brains. PRPS and its member base is a vast resource of experience and knowledge that should be taken advantage of.

• Be honest about the extra dishes you’re adding to your menu. Now, I’m not suggesting you tell your superiors, “No thanks!” when being tasked with a duty. I’m referring to the extras that we all add to our days, whether you’re coaching or a member of a volunteer board, those extra dishes can add up. For example, last year Tim asked if I would help write for the new website during the height of my journey through the weeds. Even though it was a relatively small commitment, I evaluated my situation and had to decline. I feared I would have submitted something subpar and not up to the standards of my fellow bloggers. To his credit, he followed up three more times before I felt that I was in a place ready to add another course to my meal. (i.e. if you’re not enjoying this read, you can blame Tim and his incredible persistence.)

• Lastly, never stop tool shopping. Anyone who’s ever worked on a project, whether it be a home improvement project, or work task, knows that having the right tool is paramount to a more successful finished product. Seminars, workshops, conferences, or a simple brainstorming session with a peer is like a weekend stop at your local hardware store for your brain.  Those are the places to pick up a new skill or sharpen an existing one.

If you ever find yourself in the weeds, it is my hope that some of these tools will assist your journey out. I’m happy to lend mine at anytime and I hope that others with deeper or more varied sheds will share their collections as well.

 

You want me to volunteer for WHAT?

There are two components when it comes to volunteers:  the folks that volunteer and the folks that manage the volunteers.  Both are equally important.

Volunteers do play a vital role in many areas of the Parks and Recreation profession by providing essential work and know-how, which has Moraine Regatta with Smokey the Bearbecome a considerable monetary advantage. Most recreational professionals that have planned projects or events understand that they could not have been successful without the work, knowledge, and time donated by volunteers. Fischer and Schaffer (1993) define volunteering as, “the act of freely helping others without regard to financial and/or materialistic gain.”

There are many things to consider when working with volunteers in your organization: needs assessment, goals and objectives, risk management, training, orientation, placement, supervision, retainment, motivation, and recognition.  Just to name a few….

As some of you are aware, there are certainly times when you are not sure if managing the volunteers is all that it’s cracked up to be.  However, if you create reasonable expectations for an organization and the volunteers, there will be value to be had for you and the volunteer.

The benefits of volunteering as a family are enormous. Volunteering teaches even toddlers and preschoolers about compassion, empathy, tolerance, gratitude, and community responsibility. And children who volunteer are more likely to continue doing so as adults.  I have been volunteering at Moraine State Park for over 24 years, yikes……yes it has been that long. My children have been at my side since they can remember.  Volunteering is part of who they are, and hopefully, the memories and experiences they have gained will encourage them to continue the service as adults.