If there was a charismatic mega-fauna — to borrow a term from conservationists — within city government, it would be the parks and recreation department. While it might not receive giant panda-level funding within city budgets, it is the department most residents connect with on a personal level and actually love.
In fact, the National Recreation and Park Association found in a recent survey Americans’ top summer staycation activities include parks and trails. Its study stated percent of respondents attend a neighborhood festival or event; percent visit a local park; and percent go for a walk or run on the local trail. It’s not surprising; I know my staycations revolve around visits to the local community center’s free gym space, which is operated by the parks department, and my local parks.
People are also willing to volunteer to ensure parks are maintained and cared for — park officials only need to get the word out and cultivate that passion. In September Roseville, Minn., created two small community parks in part due to passionate residents in an underserved part of the city who wanted nearby parks. According to the StarTribune, these residents set up the playground equipment and planted trees, grass and pollinator gardens themselves. Getting the word out can bring incredible things — something highlighted in this issue through the experiences of Bloomington and Carmel, both located in Indiana.
Additionally, we are looking at parks departments that are connecting with constituents in creative ways. Outdoor gyms are popping up all over the nation, and they are no longer con ned to states blessed with warmer climates. These not only promote healthy living, but they also remind people of the opportunities available in their local parks. Events are another method of reminding people. In the Halloween spirit, we will be showing three parks departments that connect with residents and visitors alike through “frightful” events.
On the environmental services side of things, we are spotlighting Spring eld, Mo.’s, integrated plan, which takes into account community priorities while embracing a holistic approach to environmental investments needed to meet federal requirements.
Finally, we will be looking at Lee County, Fla.’s, efforts to clear 1,472 tons of dead fish from its beaches and sea following the perfect storm of a red tide and blue-green algae bloom. Rather than hide in their homes, many community members volunteered to speed along the efforts, joining county workers as they cleaned the beaches.
Volunteers like those who turned out in Lee County are special people — people who value their community so much, they are willing to complete a horrendous, smelly task to better it. Does your community have those kind of people? Very likely yes. It’s just a matter of finding them and making opportunities known.