4 Essential Services Offered by Your Local Park

Local parks go well beyond just being places to enjoy nature. While this is an important service that they provide, local parks offer other essential services that many may not realize which is why they’re so crucial to our communities.

Mental Health Support

This year has shown everyone how important parks and maintained outdoor spaces are when it comes to mental health. Being stuck at home took a toll on the collective mental health of our country, but parks provided a safe outlet for people to connect with nature and get active. Being urged to stay away from others and indoor spaces left people with the wonderful opportunity to get outside. All year, people have opted to simply take walks around their neighborhoods or head to local parks to learn, explore, and get active. Without these resources, we would’ve seen an even deeper dive in the collective mental health of our country. Even during normal times, people can use parks to connect with nature and themselves and reduce stress.

Education

Studies have shown that children learn better when they have access to parks. Whether it’s a local community park or a national park, kids have better focus, attention, and knowledge retention when they’re allowed to get outside. Research has also shown that when kids have access to untamed nature, they discover more. Community parks with simple walking trails through forested areas where they can explore and discover can benefit a child’s development.

Tourism

Tourism is an essential part of many communities. Even the smallest dots on the map have something to offer out-of-towners. Parks can contribute to tourism dollars through sports, festivals, and other gatherings that draw out-of-town visitors. By having usable, maintained, public outdoor spaces, communities can benefit from increased revenue through tourism. It’s likely that visitors will spend money at other area businesses when they’re in town to visit a park – for whatever the reason might be.

Recreation

Perhaps one of the most immediately recognizable essential services that parks provide is a space for outdoor recreation. Local parks offer a safe, maintained space for community members of all ages to get outside and get active. Whether going for a simple stroll or engaging in sport, area parks are crucial in recreation. Many parks offer playgrounds, sports fields, walking trails, and more so that everyone can enjoy time outside.

Both community members and parks and recreation professionals can help to foster relationships with local leaders to promote and maintain local parks as they truly do offer essential services. To find out more about how you can get involved with your local parks, check out our resources and if you are a park maintenance professional looking for tips and tricks to strengthen your park maintenance routines, check out the Pennsylvania Park Maintenance Institute.

Holiday Happenings to Catch at PA Parks

Even though the holiday season will look a little different this year, that doesn’t mean you can’t get a healthy dose of cheer right here in Pennsylvania. You may not be traveling far and wide to see relatives, but you and your family can experience the magic of the holiday season by checking out these local holiday happenings at PA’s parks.

Presque Isle Lights

From December 5 to January 3, experience Presque Isle State Park like you’ve never seen it! This holiday season Pennsylvania’s only “seashore” will be awash in holiday glow with a light show for all to enjoy. Notable points like the Presque Isle Lighthouse, Public Safety building, Perry Monument, beach area, and more will be showered in holiday lights for all to enjoy. As you drive through the park, you can tune into 95.5FM to enjoy holiday tunes. You can even grab a warm drink at the Lake Erie Speedway Hot Chocolate Pit Stop.

Holiday Light Spectacular at Nay Aug Park

If you’re near Scranton, head to Nay Aug Park for a holiday light spectacular you can enjoy from your own vehicle or on foot. From now until January 7, experience more than 100 light displays coupled with festive music, some synced together, as you drive or stroll through the park. This light show is free and open to the public though donations are always appreciated. Sip on hot cocoa and munch on doughnuts as you enjoy the holiday spirit. On weekends take the opportunity to visit with Santa or hop on a hayride or horse-drawn carriage ride as your mode of transportation through the park.

Holiday Lights on the Lake

More than a million lights illuminate the more than 50 acres of Lakemont Park in Altoona. For more than 20 years, this seasonal favorite has been welcoming community members to drive through the park and enjoy the season with family and friends. During your visit, stop at Santa’s Gift Shop to meet the big man himself or pick up some last-minute gifts or treats most of which are made locally. On Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays stop by the Alto Model Train Display and see it decked out for the holidays.

There is so much fun to be had at Pennsylvania parks no matter the season. Whether you’re driving through enchanting holiday light displays or simply barreling down a snowy hill on a sled, enjoying time outside is important year-round. Be sure to check out what the parks near you have to offer this holiday and winter season.

3 Economic Benefits of Parks

The benefits of local parks go well beyond simply providing a safe, outdoor environment for community members to enjoy. Not only do these maintained green spaces allow all members of the community free use of the grounds, parks have notable economic benefits as well. Here are three ways parks can benefit the community in which they lie economically.

Property Values

Dedicated green space adds to overall property values in an area. A survey by the National Association of Realtors noted that 50 percent of people would be willing to pay about 10 percent more for a home situated near a park or protected green space. This shows to be especially true in Pennsylvania. Across the state, municipalities with dedicated parks have higher than average housing values. A study of the 13-mile Three Rivers Park in Pittsburgh showed that the values of properties along it jumped by nearly 60 percent compared to the 32 percent increase in the rest of the city. With increased property values come increased tax revenues as well.

Increased Tourism

One of the most notable economic benefits of parks is increased tourism. Even smaller community parks can bring those from out of the area into it through organized sports and the like. In fact, the economic return on ball fields is one of the most unexpected. Often teams and their families will treat tournaments as vacations and plan an entire trip around the specific park they’ll be playing in which provides far-reaching economic benefits to the community.

Long-distance trails often pass through community or state parks which can bring in tourism from those traversing the larger trail. Local parks are also often the home base to any number of festivals, gatherings, and celebrations bringing people from different areas together and incentivizing them to spend money in the area.

Desirable Places to Live

Parks make places more desirable to live. By providing affordable opportunities for recreation and learning as well as offering a safe space to refresh your body and mind, the accessibility of parks draws people to the communities that maintain and promote them. Nearly 65 percent of people noted that parks would seriously influence their decision to move into a community in a study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders. Additionally, businesses are more likely to move into areas that will foster a positive relationship with their employees. The ability to retain employees is tightly linked to their ability to provide an office space with perks like nearby green space. All of this is directly tied to the economic landscape of any community.

Parks play a crucial role in nearly every aspect of our lives including the economy. Visiting, protecting, and supporting your local parks can help maintain them and improve your overall community. To learn more about the benefits of parks, sign up for our newsletter.

PA Parks Near Me: How to Plan Your Next Park Trip

With everyone staying closer to home, exploring parks near you can be the perfect quick getaway. Whether you’re simply visiting a new community park nearby or taking the weekend to do some exploring a little farther from home, there are lots of options when it comes to beautiful parks in Pennsylvania. If you’re interested in getting away to reset your mind and spirit from all the happenings this year, here are some tips to help you plan your next park trip.

Lodging

Check out popular lodging near the park you want to visit as you’ll need a proper home base to return to after all your exploring. Depending on your travel timeline, you may be able to score a great deal for colder weather in some of Pennsylvania’s spots where people visit more commonly during warmer weather. Keep in mind there are a lot of great vacation homes on Airbnb that may be available during your intended stay. Or, if you can be flexible in your travel, look for weekday deals!

Prepare for the Season

There are so many wonderful Pennsylvania parks to visit during fall and winter, but you want to make sure you’re prepared for what nature might throw at you. When you hit the trail, dress in layers so that you can adjust accordingly while you’re on your trek. Hitting the slopes? Bring appropriate cold-weather gear like boots and insulated coats. Just heading out for a casual hike? Be sure to pack clothing that will prepare you in case you should get stuck or lost.

Plan Your Route

Heading out across the state to a new park? Make it a photo-worthy trip! Plan your route to hit some scenic spots along the way. The most beautiful route may not always be the quickest so consider how much time you’re willing to spend checking out some more of Pennsylvania’s stunning landscape.

Bring Supplies

Make sure to pack anything you might need to both get you to where you’re going and serve you when you’re there. Save on food by either packing your own or making a plan to buy some when you arrive at your desired destination. Don’t forget your favorite road snacks and sustenance for the trails!

Consider Your Crew

Who are you bringing along on your adventure? Will you be traveling solo or bringing the entire family? Who you’re with may dictate what types of activities you’ll plan on your trip. Little ones may not be up for strenuous hikes and older family members may want to simply take in the scenery without much effort. Plan activities that will make everyone you’re traveling with happy so you can all make lasting memories together!

Be Safe

Safety has become second nature due to the ever-present threat of COVID-19. No matter what incredible park you’re preparing to explore, be sure that you pack masks, hand sanitizer, and any other safety equipment or accessories that might come in handy. Be smart about where you stop on your route and how you interact with others at your destination. Maintain social distance and wear a mask if you can’t. Additionally, understand the terrain you’re going to be working with and keep a close eye on the weather forecast. Storms can creep up quickly and turn an otherwise exciting adventure into a dangerous one. Don’t assume you’ll have cell service in the park and be smart.

Whether you’re hitting the rapids at Ohiopyle State Park or stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park, be sure to get out and see what beautiful Pennsylvania has to offer!

3 Fun Park Activities for Kids During Quarantine

It has been proven time and again that local parks are beneficial for the wellness of community members of all ages. Community parks are geared towards providing fun, safe places for anyone to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors. Even during a pandemic, community members can take advantage of their local parks. Studies show that children who spend more time outside are more likely to engage in higher levels of physical activity than those who do not. Parks provide the perfect place for children to get active outdoors! Here are the top three park activities for kids little and big.

Playgrounds

Did you know that children who live within a mile of a park with a playground are five times more likely to be a healthy weight? Many community parks offer comprehensive playgrounds with options for a variety of ages. Starting in the toddler years, children can explore local playgrounds and build a foundation of fitness through play. Playgrounds offer a host of developmental benefits for young children. From gaining self-confidence to increased creativity and imagination, playing on the playground is essential to growth.

Trails

Whether it’s a simple, paved walking path or a nature hike through the woods, trails of all kinds are great places for kids to explore and get active. Parks offer a sense of adventure and discovery for people of all ages but especially children. Taking a walk down a nature trail opens up a world of wonder full of wildlife! If your local park has a paved walking path, your children can get active on their favorite mode of transport whether it’s a bike, scooter, rollerblades, or anything in between. Just a 20-minute walk in nature can increase focus and reduce stress in people of all ages.

Sports

Most community parks offer some sort of sports area, whether it’s a basketball hoop or a tennis court. Grab a ball and play a round of H-O-R-S-E with your little ones, kick a soccer ball around, or show them how to practice their swing on the tennis court. Learning how to play a sport sets children up for a lifetime of wellness. Children who play sports are eight times more likely to be active by age 24 than those who don’t. Participation in sports also improves cognitive abilities and reduces risky behavior as children age. Getting started at your local park is an easy and accessible way to set kids on a path toward physical and mental well being.

Local parks offer a wide range of benefits for every community member especially during a time when our other outlets for mental and physical wellness may be limited or closed. Support your local parks by visiting, advocating for, and participating in programs year-round!


SOURCES:
NRPA Parks and Healthy Kids
Aspen Institute Project Place Benefits of Physical Activity

3 Lessons Kids Can Learn at Parks

There’s no denying that parks offer a multitude of benefits for children and adults alike. Visiting your local park can reduce stress, increase your physical and mental health, and provide a beautiful place to learn about nature. Research has shown that connecting with nature is also beneficial for educating children both inside and outside the classroom. Something as simple as having trees visible outside a classroom window has been proven to improve attention and test scores. Children can benefit from being outside from a very young age and building a relationship with nature is key in their overall development. Taking advantage of local parks in your community is the perfect way to foster your child’s relationship with the outdoors and enhance their education.

A Connection with Nature

Being a kid today looks a lot different than it did just 30 years ago. The majority of time is spent indoors and behind screens, even more so now that virtual school has become a necessity. Making time for your children to get outdoors and away from screens is crucial to development and education. Studies show that kids who play outside are more creative, less aggressive, and have a better attention span than those that do not. It’s recommended that children are allowed at least an hour a day of outside playtime to benefit their development. Children who spend time outdoors and in parks also develop a deeper respect for the environment that lasts well into adulthood. Connecting with nature, whether that’s in the front yard or at a local park, is an important part of daily life!

Local History

History is learned through more than textbooks. A variety of parks throughout the state and country are founded on historic grounds. Gettysburg National Military Park is at the site of the historic battle of the same name fought during the Civil War. It is home to several monuments that tell the story of this historic space. Even smaller, lesser-known parks like Rolling Hill Park in Gladwyne can feature the ruins of buildings that once stood where preserved nature now exists. At Rolling Hill Park you’ll find the remnants of stone structures that housed millworkers at the turn of the century. Getting out into these parks and seeing history firsthand is incomparable to classroom learning.

Real-World Science

Science is all about cause and effect. What better way to experiment with these principles than in nature? Children use cause and effect from a very young age to learn about the world around them. Nature is filled with ample opportunities to explore, reason, investigate, and discover new and exciting things about how things work. Things like dropping pine cones into a babbling brook to understand physics or digging in the dirt to discover a variety of rocks offer real-time, real-world science for young learners.

Parks are important for a variety of reasons, but assisting in the education and development of our children might be at the top of the list. Supporting your local parks and recreation department and advocating for community parks is one way you can help keep these spaces accessible to and maintained for everyone in your area.


SOURCES:
National Wildlife Federation – Connecting Kids and Nature

4 Most Scenic Spots – Right in Your Nearby Park!

To some, one of the best parts of getting out to Pennsylvania’s parks is capturing the magic of nature to post on the ‘gram. Luckily, our state’s beautiful parks have tons of share-worthy spots to snap while you’re out and about exploring! National Photography Day is August 19th, so what better time to highlight where you can get the best shots in any of Pennsylvania’s parks? From the mountains and valleys of Worlds End State Park to the refreshing riverside of the Delaware Water Gap, there are so many spots to capture and post for all your followers to enjoy!

Water Features

A charming water feature is always an excellent spot for a picture. Whether the park you’re visiting has a historic fountain, a babbling brook, or a raging waterfall, find a safe place to capture the majesty. Many of Pennsylvania’s parks feature beautiful waterfalls due to our lush landscape and bountiful rivers and streams. The best time to capture waterfalls is in the spring when the snowmelt is complete and water levels are higher, which makes for more powerful falls. Delaware Water Gap is home to the state’s largest waterfall, Raymondskill Falls. This three-tiered waterfall is just a few feet shorter than Niagara Falls and easily accessible by a .3-mile trail.

Open Spaces

Wide-open spaces make for some of the most stunning photographs. Pennsylvania’s parks offer a variety of terrain, but open spaces are some of the most breathtaking. Even smaller, local parks offer beautiful vistas that seem to reach out into the great unknown but are practically right outside your door. Sweeping open spaces with singular trees or a far-off treeline are great spots for sunsets or sunrises. They’re also ideal for photographers to bring their subjects for a session on sunny days!

High Points

Perhaps nothing is more rewarding than hiking up a mountain and capturing the view from the top. Why else would so many people do it? Pennsylvania is home to the Allegheny Mountains, the Pocono Mountains, as well as part of the Appalachian Mountains. There are numerous high points to discover in the Keystone State with the highest of them being Mount Davis standing at 3,213 feet in the southern part of Pennsylvania. Many high points do require a bit of work to get to, but the payoff is always worth it especially on a clear day!

Lush Landscape

Because Pennsylvania is in the Northeast where we get to enjoy all four seasons, there’s no limit to lush landscapes throughout the state. Spring gifts us with beautiful blooms both native and cultivated while fall sets our forests ablaze with stunning colors – all of which are perfectly Instagrammable. Instead of taking your next profile pic against a backdrop of fake flowers at your local crafts store, head to your local park to discover its natural beauty. As an example, the Malcolm Gross Rose Garden in Allentown is home to a variety of roses and other species that bloom during June and July. Another gem is Raccoon Creek State Park where more than 500 native species of plants blossom!

No matter what your vision is, there’s a spot to satisfy it in Pennsylvania’s parks. You don’t have to go very far to get the perfect shot with so many Instagrammable places available! Don’t forget to check our Park Finder to start planning your photoshoot, and tag @goodforpa on Instagram to show us your adventures!

3 Ways to Relax at Your Local Park

During these trying times, it’s likely that you’re looking for ways to relieve some stress and relax. August 15th marks Relaxation Day, and we thought it would be the perfect time to highlight how you can soak up a little zen at your local park! Local parks provide space for you to connect with nature and recharge which is just one reason that they’re so vital to our communities. Taking time to focus on mindfulness and relaxation is crucial to your overall health. Since we’ve all been spending a lot of time at home, getting out into a neutral space, like your local park, can help you focus on being intentional about relaxation and mindfulness. Here are some ways to relax and recharge at your local park.

Yoga

Even if you’ve never practiced yoga, finding a few poses to do at your local park can do wonders for your mental health. The practice of yoga originated in India and leads participants through a variety of movements that aim to increase mobility and mindfulness. These movements are traditionally paired with different breathing patterns to allow oxygen to flow as bountifully as possible during the practice. There are lots of videos (many of them are free!) online that can help you practice yoga wherever you like. Doing yoga at your local park offers you the opportunity to connect your breath and movement with nature which can reduce stress. Simply find a flat, grassy spot to lay down your mat or focus on standing poses that don’t require you to get down on the ground. Breathe deep and enjoy the beauty of nature as you exhale the stress of the day.

Forest Bathing

No, we’re not saying we want you to take a bath at your local park. Forest bathing, otherwise known as shinrin-yoku, is a popular practice in Japan that can help reduce stress and foster a connection with nature. It’s even been shown to reduce blood pressure, lower your heart rate, and reduce stress hormones in your body. It also might be the perfect activity for anyone to participate in at a local park. Forest bathing is simply the process of being mindful of your surroundings in nature. You could go for a walk on a park trail and take time to touch the leaves of the trees you pass by. Close your eyes and listen to the birds singing. Stop and smell the flowers. Take your shoes off and feel how the ground below affects your feet. Is it soft grass? Is it cool dirt? Forest bathing is simply focusing on what is right in front of you in nature and being appreciative and mindful of its existence.

Meditation

Though the art of mediation might seem like an unattainable practice for some, it’s really something that everyone can participate in. Meditating can be as simple as sitting on a park bench and taking some deep breaths. Working on your meditation practice in a natural setting like a local park is perfect for removing distractions. This form of stress relief is accessible to anyone as it doesn’t require skill or any sort of special equipment. You’re simply sitting with yourself and focusing your attention on removing the jumble of thoughts in your mind that may be causing your stress. Meditation can help you focus on the present moment and build stress management skills. Taking a few moments to meditate at your favorite park can be the most relaxing part of your day!

Parks are there to provide a clean, safe environment for community members to connect with nature. Just being outside in a park can reduce stress! Taking it a step further to focus on mindful stress reduction offers a host of benefits to everyone in the community. If you’re interested in exploring your local parks, head to our Park Finder and pick a new spot to visit today!

Celebrating Your Staff on Parks and Recreation Professionals Day

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.

Pennsylvania Park and Recreation Professionals Day, which is celebrated on the third Friday in July every year, was founded to recognize the hard work and dedication that these professionals put into keeping local parks safe, accessible, and enjoyable every single day.

Park and recreation professionals are more than just “those parks people.” They are intertwined with everything that’s important to their communities. Their work goes far beyond just the maintenance and promotion of local parks. They work with transportation, public health, urban planners, landscape architects, environmentalists, local officials and leaders, tourism offices, and much more. Their integrated professionalism offers them the ability to share their expertise across multiple disciplines and jurisdictions in order to bring comprehensive solutions to community problems. They’re the feet on the ground doing life-enriching work for the communities they serve and often their successes and contributions go unsung. That’s why Park and Recreation Professionals Day was created!

With more than 8,000 full- and part-time parks and recreation professionals throughout Pennsylvania, local leaders have the perfect opportunity to celebrate this portion of the workforce on a dedicated day. Good for PA/Good for All has created a simple way to recognize, celebrate, and honor these professionals working tirelessly for our local parks. Though in-person celebrations may not be entirely possible this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still opportunities to recognize the parks and recreation professionals in your community.

Outdoor Celebration

What better way to say thank you to all the parks and recreation professionals than to host an event to celebrate them in the very place they work so hard to support? If you can, put together an event at a local park to say “thank you” to all your parks and recreation staff. Encourage people to be responsible and remain socially distant given the current pandemic. Since family-style dining is a bit risky these days, you can provide individually packaged refreshments. Be sure to let everyone know the details and the precautionary measures to be taken.

Virtual Event

Park and Recreation Professionals Day may look a little different this year, but that doesn’t mean it should be forgotten! If you’re in an area where you can’t get out in the parks with everyone to celebrate, then host a virtual event. Make sure you promote it at local council meetings, online, and within the community so people are able to attend and participate.

Personalized Recognition

Make this a time to personally recognize your staff for their hard work. COVID-19 has tasked a lot of us with additional stressors and procedures and parks and recreation staff are no different. They’ve been taking on roles they haven’t had before like handing out masks, doing security detail, and even handing out food. Recognize them for their dedication even if it’s with a personalized award on paper.

Whatever you’re doing to mark Park and Recreation Professionals Day, make sure people know about it and can join you in your celebration. Make it a big deal because it IS a big deal! Partner with local leaders for local proclamations for the day to get them involved and invite them to your event. Let the public know and bring them in as well. It provides the perfect opportunity to help everyone expand their understanding and appreciation for parks and the professionals who dedicate their time to preserving and protecting them.

How to Get Involved With Your Local Park

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.

It’s no surprise that people in the community love their parks! In fact, 83% of Americans note that they personally benefit from the use of parks in the community. But there are ways to get involved beyond just frequently using your local park. A majority of people understand that parks contribute to conservation efforts, health and wellness, and even social equality but are often at a loss for how they can help to support parks. Here are a few ways that anybody can be a supporter of local parks in your community.

Volunteer

Volunteering with your local parks and recreation department offers additional resources that they may be lacking. One of the biggest challenges in many parks and rec departments is a lack of staffing to accomplish everything they want to do. Volunteering with your local parks can help with conservation efforts and projects, which is one of the pillars of parks. From clearing trails to helping with environmental education to doing research, there are a variety of ways you can use your talents to assist with the preservation and promotion of parks in your area.

Promote It

Something simple that everyone can do is to promote the use of parks in their community. Whether you frequent your local park on a daily basis or just love to take advantage of it every once in a while, let the people in your community know! Word of mouth is powerful for anything and that includes local parks. Host gatherings in your local park and invite neighbors and friends. Meet up with a friend for a walk or hike. Take pictures and share them on social media making sure to use any known hashtags and tagging official accounts. The ways in which you can promote your local park are nearly endless and easy!

Be a Voice

Perhaps one of the most impactful things you can do to support your local parks is to be a voice in community leadership. While most people agree that local parks are crucial to their communities, this is one of the areas that’s often first to lose funding in a budget deficit situation. When community members take it upon themselves to get involved with local leadership, the importance of parks funding can be championed. Talk to local leaders about why parks are essential to your community. Show up to community meetings and speak your support for parks and recreation departments and local parks.

Local parks are an integral part of local communities and community members are crucial in the promotion and preservation of them throughout the state and the country. If you’d like to learn more about how to get involved, contact us!