Recreation and Parks’ Internet of Things

How parks and recreation contribute to everything important!

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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

Staying true to the public role of parks and recreation

Our challenge is to serve everyone regardless of the ability to pay.

youth soccerThere’s nothing wrong with people paying to use certain park facilities or participate in various recreation programs. The problem with fees and charges centers on our profession’s over-reliance on them. There’s no longer much, if any, differentiation between what are essential services that should be available at no or low cost and what opportunities should break-even or even generate revenue.

A great example of this is the current state of youth sports in Pennsylvania and across the country.

No one would argue that every boy and girl should have the opportunity to play youth sports. Unfortunately, that’s not a reality for many families.

Why? If your dad and mom don’t have money, it’s likely you won’t play. Gone are the days of youth sports being a low-cost activity that all families can afford. That is even more apparent in our urban communities. In our cities, the gap between the “haves” and “have-nots” is quickly widening.

To me, youth sports is one of the essential services of our parks and recreation profession.

There is tons of research on the links between children’s physical activity and school success, healthy weight, and becoming an active adult. With positive youth sports experiences, children develop confidence and skills they need to succeed in life. Participation should be a right, not a privilege for only those who can pay.

In many Pennsylvania communities, parent-run organizations are the providers of youth sports programs. Because of that, many park and recreation departments have a bit of a hands-off attitude – one of “they’re providing the program so we don’t need to get involved.” The challenge, however, is our public role – our charge to serve everyone regardless of the ability to pay.

As professionals, we should be focusing our efforts on strengthening local youth recreation leagues and helping to lower costs so that all children can participate. Keeping close-to-home youth sports programs strong is even more important today, with the proliferation of expensive travel teams that shut out lower income families.

What do you say?