It was beyond disheartening to witness what occurred this past August in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Va. From the Nazi flags being carried about to the loss of a young woman’s life, the best of the U.S. was not on display Aug. 11-12.
That most of these events transpired in a public park is also saddening. Routinely, park systems across our nation bring together people from all walks of life — those of different financial circumstances, races, cultures and so on. Through events, programming and simply the act of providing public access, parks broaden our appreciation for others and different cultures. With their public access, yearlong events and programming, park systems encourage us to step outside our own immediate circles while also reconnecting with nature and simply enjoying life.
Parks and rec employees go a long way to ensure their parks and programming are inclusive. With free and low-cost programing, children who might not have been given a lot of resources in life have safe places to spend their free time while receiving leadership that can shape their lives in addition to creating a network of friends. Some parks directors have gotten very creative when approaching that mission.
In her parks and rec themed article this month, Catey Traylor highlights Louisville, Ky., Parks and Recreation Director Seve Ghose’s out-of-the-box idea to reach youth in his community: converting a decommissioned fire truck into a mobile playground. It’s a concept Ghose has brought to the three other cities he has worked for before landing in Kentucky. The concept has been well received by the children who are excited to see the fire truck pull up to the different sites and has definitely made an impact on the community as a whole.
While children get a large amount of enjoyment out of parks, adults do as well. In fact a National Recreation and Park Association survey found “the typical American spends five hours per week on outdoor play, which includes exercising, participating in organized sports, playing with kids at a playground, taking a walk in a neighborhood or local park, or taking a swim.”
Seniors, in particular, benefit from parks, with most parks departments offering exercise classes and other programming for them — allowing seniors to age healthy. In a survey of 524 parks departments, NRPA found 91 percent of the agencies offer exercise classes to older adults while 76 percent offer one or more evidence-based programs for older adults.
Parks and their programming build and promote community. There is no doubt about that, and it’s something we need more of at this moment.
However, while the beginning of August failed to show our best side, as I write this, the end of August is showing the U.S. at its finest. Across Texas, community members are reaching out to neighbors and strangers alike in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey — all differences far away, leaving only humanity.
Our thoughts are with those impacted by the disaster in addition to the first responders, military personnel and volunteers who are working around the clock, particularly as they mourn the loss of one of their own, Houston police officer Sgt. Steve Perez. In a series of Tweets, Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner noted Perez’s dedication to the task ahead, with him having told his wife before leaving home: “I’ve got work to do.”
We here at The Municipal wish Texas godspeed in its recovery efforts in the months to come.