Top 7 Benefits of Parks and Recreation
July is Park and Recreation Month. And like we celebrate every other important month or day, it is a delight to recognize the significance of parks and recreation in our daily lives and celebrate it too. In a world of hyper-activity and workload, the role of recreation is more than just enabling a much-needed escape from our daily lives. Recreation is not just going on a long vacation after months of hard work, but should be a part of our daily lives. Recreation and well-being should be the norm! Park and Recreation Month essentially draws attention to the importance of maintaining a healthy, wholesome, and quality life day in and day out. Park and Recreation Month celebrates and promotes the health and well-being of an individual, a community, our economy, and the environment.
What is Park and Recreation Month?
Created by the leading non-profit organization, National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), America has been celebrating July as Park and Recreation Month since 1985. It was the efforts of NRPA that the U.S. House of Representatives in 2009 passed an official resolution for Park and Recreation Month. While promoting summer programming and celebrations, their mission is
"to advance parks, recreation, and conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people."
Towards this goal, parks and recreation professionals worldwide have joined hands to encourage people to spend more time exploring open spaces, local parks, get involved in outdoor recreation and community rec centers.
Why is Parks and Recreation important?
- Health and Individual Benefits
- Family and Community Bonding
- Parks as Spaces for Mentoring Programs
- Encouraging Kids activity
- Helps build safer neighborhoods
- Economic Advancement
- Environmental Benefits
Let’s deep dive into each of these benefits that Parks and Recreation spaces bring into a community and the larger ecosystem.
1. Health and Individual Benefits
Parks and green spaces have panned out to be nothing short of healing spaces for individuals by giving them direct access to natural greenery. Whether you're on a picnic, a brisk walk, or walking your dog, parks and open spaces promote physical activity and improved mental health. With more parks and recreational facilities, we see a perceptible improvement in the community's health at large. According to a study conducted by American Public Health Association, 75% of adults believe that only parks and recreation can address America's obesity crisis. Parks also provide opportunities for fitness, especially for low-income families who could probably not afford a gym or pool membership!
As per CDC reports, promoting and renovating open places like parks for physical activity has seen a rise of 25 percent in residents who exercise at least thrice a week. Another study mentioned that increased utilization of green spaces leads to a 10% decrease in health issues in people.
2. Family and Community Bonding
A substantial body of literature suggests the positive impact of parks and recreation on community building and family bonding. Greater access to green spaces provide a natural outlet for fun activities for families, social connections, and community attachment which otherwise is not very easy to find in an urban culture where people generally live in concrete jungles and mental silos. A 2016 study emphasized the many benefits of parks and green spaces on urban residents. It suggested that in places where more expansive parks were dedicated to communities, more significant impact on a better urban quality of life than park-barren communities.
It is no secret that last year's pandemic has shone a spotlight on the massive significance of family and communal bonding more than anything else. It dramatically pivoted attention towards the need to spend more time with our close ones within shared homes. Lockdowns, 'stay-at-home' orders, and social distancing measures restricted people's movement in closed public spaces leading to isolation and mental stress for many at different points in time.
Therefore the role of services like parks and recreation centers have been elevated now more than ever in uniting people of all ages and abilities while maintaining the public health guidelines intact. With open places to walk, use a baby stroller while walking, run, cycle, exercise, picnic, or pet-walks, parks are the only channels to stay close to nature, engage socially even with the required distancing protocols.
It has been noticed that park visits after the lockdowns have increased by 63 percent providing great spaces to escape and unite with friends and family. Parks are great places to hang out in the community with activities like a concert, a garage sale, or hosting a farmers' market! According to another NRPA study, both the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks Department estimate 30 percent or higher visitation rates at their state parks in 2020 compared to 2019. And this is mostly the trend of park visitation everywhere else. As coming face-to-face with people of the community has become such a beautiful luxury, parks provide the only way to ensure the well-being of families and communities. Let parks be priorities and not perks!
3. Parks as spaces for Mentoring Programs
Public parks and recreation spaces are also strongly connected to reducing juvenile delinquency. An innovative aspect of parks and recreation facilities is the mentoring programs. It is a way to direct attention towards preventing American youth from engaging in harmful behaviors such as using drugs, tending towards violence, etc. Unfortunately, 1 out of 9 young people in the United States reaches the age of 19 without any mentor. It can be looked upon as a pre-emptive measure in channelizing their energy in the right direction. As an NRPA report suggests, youth with a mentor are 55% more likely to enroll in college, 56% less likely to skip school, and 46% less likely to start using drugs than their peers. Parks play a huge role in instilling positive behavior among such youth, boosting their confidence with one-on-one and group mentoring programs. Having easy access to quality mentorship programs and socio-emotional support will help nurture youth going astray and build a better community.
Additionally, to incentivize participation in low-income neighborhoods, park and recreation professionals ensure that teen programs provide social equity by giving teens long-time earning opportunities. Employing teens in posts such as counselor-in-training or park ranger cadets, junior staff positions, or internships helps develop job skills while making the work fun. Such Out-of-school time (OST) programs have far-reaching benefits in terms of not just physical wellbeing or activity but aim at social equity, diversity, and inclusion. It also helps teens connect with other youth of their age and neighborhood, build self-confidence in the process, and connect with adult mentors, whose guidance they otherwise might have been deprived of. Park and recreation professionals' role in this regard is very significant in creating programs that serve every stratum of society.
4. Encouraging Kids activity
It is but natural that kids love parks and playgrounds and all open spaces to play. Utilizing parks and green spaces during their prime growing years is extremely important for physical growth, communicative and social skills, and an imaginative mind. Many studies have shown that kids who spend time playing outdoors have better motor and cognitive skills, are more physically active, display fewer behavioral problems or fewer signs of ADHD. Parks that have designed play areas with slides, jungle gyms, swings, or monkey bars excite kids of all ages. So, kids start jumping up and down the 'muddy puddles,' just like Peppa Pig!
Building better parks attract kids to visit regularly, which is undoubtedly a huge respite from excessive use of mobile phones and screen time. Parks provide unmatched opportunities for kids to learn a new skill- like riding a bike, skating, etc. Kids also get a chance to mingle with other kids of an adjacent neighborhood, probably set up a lemonade stand during summers, and effectively nurture their interpersonal skills.
5. Helps build safer neighborhoods
Parks are indeed nurturing spaces for communities as they provide shared areas that help create informal interactions between park visitors in a locality. Community parks mean more activity in that neighborhood, more social events, and recreational choices. Such engagements are most productive in nature and create conditions for a safer neighborhood. When people visit parks often, maintenance also becomes a core objective. People even take part in creative aspects of designing public spaces along with keeping them clean. As a study suggests, mayors and public officials often involve the people of their constituencies in the design and planning process of parks and similar resources. Hence, it helps build a sense of active ownership over these public spaces, generally creating security and safety in a neighborhood.
On the contrary, empty spaces, low-lighted areas, and localities with congested housing are considered less safe neighborhoods with more crime rates. Researchers from Austin, Texas, in a study, examined this hypothesis. One of the findings of the study was that areas with less green space had higher crime rates. And other similar studies depict similar results.
6. Economic Advancement
This is one of the direct benefits of having a park in a locality. For a start, parks add value to real estate. As aesthetically pleasing, parks and green spaces attract homebuyers, renters, and even that couple who want a quiet place to enjoy retirement! Therefore parks enhance property values which in turn increases municipal revenues and local tax base. According to a 2016 NRPA report, public parks were responsible for $200 billion in annual economic activity, making parks one of the main drivers of economic growth. Not to forget, parks generated around 1 million jobs in 2013 alone.
Some other facts reveal that residential properties adjacent to parks and green spaces are valued 8 to 20% higher than their park-barren counterparts. Even for commercial offices or business establishments, the rental rates are 7 percent higher when surrounded by greenery and high-quality landscapes.
Another aspect of parks helping in economic growth is how parks drive tourism in an urban environment. Parks are considered as 'living works of art’. Well-maintained parks are an attraction for both tourists and inhabitants. One prominent example is Central Park of New York, a popular tourist attraction and can pay and generate extra revenue from tourism-related activities. A study has shown that the Riverwalk Park in San Antonio, Texas created $425,000 revenues, becoming the city's most popular tourist spot. Similarly, the Centennial Olympic Park has an estimated 1.5 million visitors each year. And the trend goes on!
7. Environmental Benefits
And, of course, parks are not just for people but an integral part of the larger natural ecosystem, a habitat ground for both flora and fauna. It is a natural habitat for the animals that lost homes due to unprecedented urban sprawling. Moreover, parks are literally a city's lungs. When it comes to air pollution, it is only trees and these huge green spaces like parks that can actively cut down pollutants. Trees remove 19 million pounds of air pollution each year, which, if done otherwise by any other company, would cost way more! Hence parks are crucial in sustaining a better environment, clean air, and a right to healthy living.
As we can see, there are myriad benefits that parks and recreation facilities offer. Providing countless benefits to the environment and community, it is no wonder that we celebrate Park and Recreation as a month-long event! The Park and Recreation industry is also gradually evolving with changing times. The way forward is to make parks more inclusive, bring in technology, reimagine features, and add flexible pricing while keeping a close watch on the latest Parks and Recreation Industry Trends to continue the pioneering efforts of park and recreation agencies towards a holistic development.