In honor of National Park and Recreation Month, and upcoming Pennsylvania Park and Recreation Professionals Day, we’re focusing on ways the entire community can support and promote the enjoyment of parks in Pennsylvania and beyond.
Oftentimes, parks and recreation professionals are met with the idea that parks are not high up on the priority list for many local and state leaders. However, the current pandemic has shone a brilliant light on just how important local parks are for the community for myriad reasons. During the current situation, parks are being recognized for their benefits to mental and physical well-being in addition to being affordable spaces for the community to gather responsibly. Simply put, parks are essential to the quality and enrichment of people’s lives. So how can city leaders help sustain and promote their local parks most effectively?
Listen to Your Constituents
If you’re an elected leader, it’s your responsibility to listen to and act on behalf of your constituents. A recent study proved that 92% of Americans say that their community benefits from local parks. In addition, 83% noted that they personally benefit from their local parks and four out of five agree that local parks are worth the tax dollars spent on them. Even the majority of people who don’t use their local parks say that they benefit the community. With the majority of the community in support of parks, local leaders, both elected and appointed, have a duty to protect, preserve, and promote the greenspaces in their jurisdiction.
It might sound simple, but get outside and use the parks in your community. The majority of local leaders note taking advantage of parks in their area just like the rest of the community. When you get out and experience what your local parks have to offer, you’re more likely to understand their importance and continue to advocate for supporting them.
Educate Yourself and Your Colleagues
Parks are more than just a pretty place for people to connect with nature. They serve the greater community in unique and interesting ways. Often, city leaders aren’t aware of all of the benefits that parks bring to a community. Beyond the enrichment of lives and contribution to mental and physical health, parks also employ a significant number of citizens. Parks also entice businesses to select new locations nearby because they prioritize quality-of-life amenities in their location decisions. Well-maintained local parks also result in increased property values, which, in turn, enhance local tax revenue. Parks are important to any municipality’s bottom line and way of life. Educating yourself and your colleagues about the true importance of parks is a wonderful way to support the cause.
Partner With Parks and Recreation Professionals
Parks and Recreation professionals offer the unique ability to share expertise across many disciplines and jurisdictions in order to bring more comprehensive solutions to community issues. As a city leader, partnering with them can provide a rich knowledge base on not only parks, but also on how other systems can benefit and work with them. Parks and recreation departments as a whole contribute to a wide range of services, including health and wellness, environmental sustainability, social equality and neighborhood engagement, and much more. Working together with parks and recreation professionals can help you understand what’s needed for a variety of causes and how your leadership can benefit the overall community.
Advocate for Funding
Perhaps the most impactful thing that city leaders can do to support local parks is advocate for funding. Studies have shown that parks and recreation departments experience the most drastic cuts during a fiscal deficit scenario, but on the opposite end of the spectrum, they experience the biggest increase during a surplus. Parks play such an important role community-wide and are intertwined with areas that tend to receive more attention. By advocating for parks and recreation funding, leaders can increase the effectiveness of the funding of other crucial services.
Together, parks and recreation departments and staff can work with city leaders and officials to preserve and promote the benefits of the beautiful parks throughout the state and country.