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.


Park and Recreation’s Big Picture Issues

a starting discussion to improve our industry’s comprehensive benefits.

hikingThe park and recreation profession is a diverse and comprehensive industry that improves personal, social, environmental, and economic health; promotes unifying and comprehensive solutions to societal issues; and advances standards of living wherever its unique contributions are sought and valued.

In preparation for developing a series of statewide issue-based strategic plans, I am enlisting help to articulate the big-picture issues that continue to restrict the industry’s full potential.

These issues, here in draft form, but when objectively presented and referenced, may then serve as a starting point to build political and operational strategies to improve the overall capability of the industry’s delivery of comprehensive benefits.

Please add your suggestions below to clarify or refute these issues or identify others, as well as for supporting references and strategies; or send them by September 30 to herd@prps.org.

1. Universal Value Recognition

A) Most governmental agencies and public service organizations do not readily recognize or identify a positive contributory role within their purview for parks and recreation as a go-to industry to help meet modern social issues (i.e. health, social services, public works, community development, etc.); and B) While the profession is an essential community service and problem-solver, and one of the highest enablers of wellness and life satisfaction, many professionals and volunteers don’t sufficiently engage in their responsibilities to evidence that belief.

2. Effective Business and Leadership Modeling

The traditional business model of park and recreation services is outmoded and ineffectual, as is the paradigm of autocratic leadership in a pluralist society. Many agencies lack the abilities to assimilate best management and leadership practices from nongovernmental applications, and to create publicly responsive and relevant value propositions, a performance-driven organization, sustainable funding, and compelling community leadership.

3. Sufficient and Sustainable Funding

Lack of adequate funding prolongs and exacerbates social inequities, environmental harm, and unsafe and poorly maintained facilities. It stifles economic prospects, innovative solutions, new opportunities, and responsive services, as well as the vocational appeal to new careerists.

4. Industry-wide Integration

The comprehensive park and recreation industry includes many diverse disciplines and related fields, but a lack of full and continual interagency and interdisciplinary awareness, cooperation and integrated services impedes the highest effectiveness and influence of the entire profession.

5. Professional development

Many routes lead into the dynamic industry in a changing society, but many professionals do not actively develop leadership and maintain adequate training in all competencies. Many do not seek further training after their formal educations, keep up with changes and trends in the profession, or sustain their own active learning or self-improvement plans, which effectively and continually diminish their own capabilities and influence.

6. Community Resilience

Cities and communities everywhere are facing unprecedented environmental, social, and economic challenges, which in turn make them more vulnerable to degradation and less able to restore, let alone improve, complex services and systems that meet high livability standards. In its unique central role, the park and recreation profession unites people across social, racial, and economic divides, and can be a catalyst to help communities become more resilient and better adapted to thrive.

7. State and National Leadership

While the National Recreation and Park Association provides leadership in many national issues, it remains a challenge for statewide professional associations to rise to a similar position of influence in state and regional matters. Without establishing the state association as a readily recognized industry leader and trusted change agent, interpreter of societal trends, and advocate of public policy, it cannot achieve its fullest potential in relevant capacity and profound influence for its members, profession and public.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful response!

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