Did you know that July is National Park and Recreation Month in the United States? The nonprofit National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) created the day in 1985 to further its mission of advancing public parks and recreation opportunities.
For me, it is one of those occasions where I really have come full circle. I grew up across the street from a local park and wound up living across from that same park. I even worked for the department that supported it for a number of years, and met my husband while working in park services there.
Throughout my life, public parks have always been there. I am ashamed to say that I have taken for granted that they will always be there. And, I don’t think that I am alone in this thinking. But, like anything worth keeping, we should all take time to appreciate and support our public park and recreation facilities.
The NRPA points out the many benefits of parks and recreation including preserving wildlife and plant habitats, conserving natural resources, allowing both children and adults to get healthy and connect to the outdoors in addition to supporting local economies, creating jobs, and raising property values. And, they provide safe and constructive activities for youth and decrease crime.
They also stress that parks are vital to the recreational habits of Americans, which are key elements of health and wellness. That’s why this year’s theme of “Rock Your Park” is focused on raising awareness of this and getting people interested in visiting, supporting, and preserving this critical resource.
Here are the NRPA’s suggestions for doing this and for celebrating National Park and Recreation Month:
1. Take the “Five in July Park Pledge.” There are five weekends in July 2011. Create a healthy weekend habit by getting out to a park, trail, playground, swimming pool, natural area, or other public space every weekend and make your personal commitment to get outdoors by signing the Pledge.
2. Enter the “Rock Your Park” Flash Mob Contest via You Tube. All you have to do is gather a group and go to any local park or recreation facility and “show the power of parks” in Flash Mob form through music, dance, exercise, hiking, chanting, aerobics, or biking. The only catch is that the official 2011 Rock your Park poster has to be visible for at least 5 seconds.
3. Get moving outside and achieve the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award (PALA). The NRPA is a President’s Challenge Advocate and is promoting the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award program in support of the “Let’s Move” initiative. For those looking to extend their physical activity commitment, the PALA can be earned by taking part in 60 minutes of physical activity for kids (30 minutes for adults), five days a week for six weeks.
4. In 2010, the NRPA established America’s Backyard to “encourage citizens to support and protect the nation’s parks and recreation areas and draw attention to the powerful role that parks and recreation play in the lives of every individual.” Make a donation to America’s Backyard to support their efforts to protect public parks and recreation across the country.
5. Volunteer at a local park or recreation facility. There are a wide variety of volunteer opportunities available ranging from youth sports coaching to helping clean up and restore natural habitats. Contact your local agency to find out how to get involved.