Columbia Parks and Recreation
Creating Community through People, Parks and Programs
In a 1992 nationwide study conducted at Pennsylvania State University, researchers compiled a listing of the benefits of local recreation and park services as perceived by the American public.
Participants in the study could be divided into two groups: users of local recreation and park services and non-users. Surprisingly, 71% of non-users said they received some benefit from their communities' parks and recreational services.
Benefits identified by non-users were as follows:
Each summer, parks and recreation professionals unlock the gates to community pools, hiring lifeguards and preparing programs. Running aquatic facilities can be hard work, but for residents, summer, especially, marks the beginning of warm days relaxing on the pool deck, pool parties, and swim teams. What is the appeal of these crystal clear waters? Research indicates that there is more participation in aquatic based recreation and sport than any other activity. Why? What does an aquatic facility really mean to a community? In essence, what are the benefits?
"A daughter of an elderly lady in our water exercise class told staff that the class kept her mom alive and active for years. It was the social connections she created with the others that were even more beneficial to her than the physical exercise. She looked forward to coming to the class several times a week to be with her friends.
"For another woman, water exercise class helped her regain her joint mobility in order to go back to her true passion - square dancing! But she kept with the water exercise class too because it was so fun and helpful!
"Participants in the arthritis programs are fanatical about their pool time because the water makes their joints feel so much better.
"As we continue to document and articulate the health benefits of swimming and aquatic exercise, it will only be a matter of time before doctors are prescribing pool visits over pills."
-City of Hillsboro, Oregon, Parks and Recreation
The Wheaton Park District employed 278 individuals
to work at their aquatic facilities in the summer
of 1999. Two hundred and sixty two of them high school
or college age. Seventy-two percent of the staff
or 201 employees were Wheaton residents. Since the
district spent approximately $418,000 on salaries
for aquatic staff last summer and 72% were Wheaton
residents, then approximately $300,960 was returned
to the local economy through salaries.
Few agencies can boast such a contribution to the community.
Superintendent of Recreation
Wheaton Park District
"I have greatly benefited from aquatics throughout
my life. As a
non-athletic person aquatics gave me an opportunity to be active while enjoying myself. Teaching swim lessons has been the most enjoyable. The facial expressions when people finally achieve a skill is unforgettable and in some cases life changing.
"One in particular was a little boy about five
or six years old. While
he did not know how to swim, he had the basic survival techniques. He, his younger brother and his mom who was on crutches with a leg in a cast went to a cabin on a lake for a vacation. On the lake was a huge slide. Upon arrival at the cabin while the mom was taking the baby into the cabin, the little boy went down the slide. To his surprise (and his mom's), the water was over his head. Instead of panicking, the boy laid on his back and in a very calm voice said, "Can someone help me, I can't swim."
"Another memorable one was a plus 30 year old Seminary student from the south who was deadly afraid of the water. After numerous lessons, he was able to swim in the deep water. Jumping off the board was a different story. When he finally took that step, when he surfaced, in his deep, loud Southern voice said, "That's more fun than a revival!'
"Swimming laps gives me forced times to think in quiet solitude. I solve the world's problems while going back and forth and back and forth. The water becomes an extension of yourself and you become one with the water. Makes me want to leave work now and go swimming."
"More cities are encouraging their residents to take a walk"
St. Louis Post-Dispatch pg. B8 4/16/00
St. Louis University study shows walking trails keep people healthier.
"When communities build walking trails, people exercise more," said Ross C. Brownson who conducted a study published in the April issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"Fifty-five percent of those surveyed reported an increase in walking since walking trails were constructed in those areas. This was particularly true for women and for those with lower incomes and education levels," Brownson said. "Sedentary people also appear to benefit from the use of walking trails."
"Those who were not regular walkers were more likely to increase their activity, compared with regular walkers. Walking trails can be developed at a cost of about $2,000 to $4,000 per trail, a small price to pay for the health of a community's citizens, said Brownson.
"This study was just a snapshot," he said. "Much
more work is needed on ways to actively promote trail
use and in determining whether there are longer-term
effects on walking behavior among groups at highest
risk of sedentary lifestyles."
A team of researchers at St. Louis University and
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recently completed a study in rural Missouri on
the impact of trails on physical fitness levels.
The study found that among persons who had used
trails, over half reported that they had increased
their amount of walking since they had begun using
a trail. Respondents with less education and lower
incomes - typically among the most difficult to
encourage to increase their level of physical activity
- were more likely to have increased their levels
of physical activity due to trail use. Source: Connections (The
National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse
Newsletter), February 2000
1998 Recreation Roundtable Survey:
OUTDOOR RECREATION IN AMERICA 1998
Performed by Roper Starch Worldwide
Communities around the country are learning that open space conservation is not an expense but an investment that produces important economic benefits. Chapters include:
Do Trails Affect Public Safety and Property Values? Trail Effects on Neighborhoods: Home Value, Safety, Quality of Life; Compiled by Suzanne Webel, Boulder Area Trails Coalition, Colorado State Trails News, May 1998.
Are trails safe? How do they affect property values of adjacent residents? These perennial issues have been the subject of a few studies which find that trails are quite benign in their social impact. The facts haven't stopped groups organized against rail trail development from trumpeting that the few instances of crime are proof that trails are unsafe.
Homeowners nationwide express the same concerns and fears about proposed trails in their neighborhoods. But studies in various parts of the U.S. seem to show that concerns about trails lowering property values and increasing crime are unfounded. In fact, trails have consistently been shown to increase (or have no effect on) property values, to have no measurable effect on public safety, and to have an overwhelming positive influence on the quality of life for trail neighbors as well as the larger community.
A 1995 study by the Conservation Fund and Colorado
State Parks on the effect of greenways on property
values and public safety shows that "urban trials
are regarded as an amenity that helps to attract
buyers and to sell property." Twenty-nine percent
residents believed that the existence of the trail would increase the selling price of their home (and 43% said it would have no effect). Fifty-seven percent felt that the trail would make the home easier to sell (with 36% saying no effect). Of the real estate agents interviewed, seventy-three percent believed that a home adjacent to a trail would be easier to sell, eighty-two percent used the trail as a selling point, and one hundred percent believed trails are an amenity to the community around it.
A 1978 study of property values in Boulder, Colorado, noted that housing prices declined an average of $4.20 for each foot of distance from a greenbelt up to 3,200 feet. In one neighborhood, this figure was $10.20 for each foot of distance. The same study determined that, other variables being equal, the average value of property adjacent to the greenbelt would be 32% higher than those 3,200 feet away. This study also revealed that "the aggregate property value for one Boulder neighborhood was approximately $5.4 million greater than if there had been no greenbelt. This results in approximately $500,000 additional property tax revenue annually."
In their 1995 study "Effects of Three Cary Greenways on Adjacent Residents," the University of North Carolina found that most residents feel satisfied with the greenways and that problems are minimal.
The surveyors went on to offer some advice for those who are facing this issue in their communities: "Planners should take care to instill positive feelings among affected residents toward a proposed greenway by involving them in the planning process, educating them on the benefits of greenways, presenting data that refute their fears of perceived problems, and calming their greatest fears of crime through crime prevention efforts. Reducing the number of occurrences of the most commonly reported problems will require adapting greenways to specific circumstances. For example, noise and loss of privacy problems may be ameliorated by increased buffers between the greenway and home, while open wood rail fences may more clearly signify property lines and reduce trespassing."
The following is an excerpt from an article appearing in USA Weekend discussing the affects of the cyber world on children growing up today.
"Clearly, we're in a digital age," says Claire Green, president of the Parents' Choice Foundation, one of the event's sponsors. "Kids are teething on remote controls. They're constantly exposed to digital media. So let's find out what makes sense. Let's find out what's age appropriate and what encourages learning, thinking, probing."
There's little doubt a technological revolution is sweeping through children's lives. The Entertainment Software Association reports that nearly a third of Americans who play computer and/or video games are under 18. The Pew Internet & American Life Project says 93% of teenagers are on the Internet. A study of the cellphone industry found that up to 70% of 12- to 14-year-olds now have their own phones, as well as a significant number of 5- to 9-year-olds.
Good: The best video games and electronic toys can spur a child's imagination.
Bad: Real learning requires sustained thought, not the rapid-fire pace of electronic media.
According to a Kaiser Family Foundation study, American kids ages 8 to 18 average 44.5 hours per week in front of some kind of screen. The only thing that they do more is sleep.
Concern about what this activity -- or, many would say, lack of activity -- is doing to children dates back to the dawn of television. But it has accelerated with the spread of PCs and Xboxes into millions of homes. Much of the concern has centered on content -- the violence and sexual nature of some video games.
But some critics have raised more fundamental concerns about how electronic media affect mental development in children. Jane Healy, an educational psychologist and the author of "Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds -- and What We Can Do About It," believes they're actually wiring kids' brains differently than in past generations.
Healy believes many of the most popular and exciting video games engage and build the basic "fight or flee" part of the brain rather than the centers of higher reasoning. Some games, she acknowledges, are more reflective, and she encourages parents to play along to determine whether a game requires intelligent reasoning. In many cases, children "look like they're solving problems on a video game, but they're really just responding on a sensory level," she says. "If you watch kids on a computer, most of them, they're just hitting keys or moving the mouse as fast as they can. It really reminds me of rats running in a maze."
The rapid-fire pace of most electronic media is different from the sustained thought necessary for in-depth reasoning, Healy says. She is convinced that pace can be tied to the dramatic increase in the diagnosis of attention-deficit disorder among today's children. Healy believes most children should be kept away from computer screens until at least age 7, until their brains have had more time to develop.
Gloria DeGaetano, an educator who founded the Parent Coaching Institute in Bellevue, Wash., to help parents cope with the challenges of raising children in today's culture, says parents need to be particularly wary of videos or electronic games promoted as effective preschool teaching tools.
"There's an important theory in early-child education called the 'theory of loose parts,' which means that children need to manipulate things in a three-dimensional environment to grow their brain," she says. "These video games and electronic toys are replacing the loose parts that kids need, and it's not the same."
A recent study found that videos such as the highly touted Baby Einstein and Baby Genius series actually slowed children's language development. Sharna Olfman, a professor of developmental psychology at Point Park University and editor of the Childhood in America book series, says, "There's really no reason why kids under 2 years of age should be sitting in front of any kind of screen."