Every day, in communities across the country, the people of parks and recreation are providing essential services and making their communities better places to live, work, and play. With July designated as Parks and Recreation Month, I wanted to take a moment to recognize this small group of dedicated government employees that are the heartbeat of our communities. After serving in this industry for over 20 years, I have seen firsthand what it takes to deliver an enjoyable experience for park users and value their efforts.
When you ask people where they would most like to live, many times that location is near a park, natural area, or recreation space. There's a reason for that: parks enhance the quality of life in a community. This is a concept I learned many years ago from my college professor, a renowned expert in the field, Dr. John Crompton.
NRPA Fast Facts: Celebrating Parks and Recreation Month
- Parks and rec professionals are on the front lines in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, homelessness, substance use disorder, the obesity epidemic, and other chronic health issues.
- Increased access to places for physical activity led to a 26% increase in people exercising 3+ times per week.
- Children that have easy access to a playground are 5x more likely to have a healthy weight.
- A park with 1 acre of trees absorbs the carbon dioxide produced by driving a car 11,000 miles.
- 83% of adults agree that visiting local parks is essential for their mental and physical well-being during the pandemic.
- In many cases, homes near park land are valued more than other properties. These home values are directly attributed to the condition and maintenance of the adjacent parks. Skilled workers with certifications—such as playground inspectors, licensed irrigators, and pesticide applicators—work every day to provide exceptional parks and great recreation opportunities.
Jobs in this industry can often be thankless and underappreciated. As a former district supervisor, I saw this daily. My staff spent countless hours mowing grass, cleaning litter, and repairing anything and everything possible. Whether it be sweating out the dog days of summer marking a ball field, providing ice melt for sidewalks in the winter, or 12 hours on your feet for a July 4th fireworks show, you can depend on these public servants to help keep your residents safe and community looking great.
For community members, the long-term quality of life benefits of parks are unmistakable and the memories are unforgettable. The next time you visit a park, trail, recreation center, or special event, take a moment to look for and reflect upon the folks behind the scenes. The putting green was mowed before the sun came up. There are dog bags for your pet. Flowerbeds are free of weeds. Your child learned how to swim. Trees are trimmed. Your family picnicked on Easter. The list goes on and on.
In summary, let’s celebrate these unsung public servants and recognize their part in making the world a better place. On behalf of my colleagues at Cartegraph, we send the staff and employees of parks and recreation a heartfelt thank you for all the work you do to improve the quality of life of our cities, counties, states, and country.