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Fit in the OV: July is Parks and Recreation Month

In 1985, NFL Hall of Fame running back Walter Payton and then-Vice President George H.W. Bush helped the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) designate the month of July as “Parks and Recreation Month.” This year, Parks and Recreation Month celebrates the power of play.

July 5, 2017

Play is a vital part of mental well-being, physical health and personal interactions, and local parks and recreation facilities are places where all people can play and have fun. 

Other than national and local proclamations being issued, what purpose does National Parks and Recreation Month serve? In addition to highlighting local, state and national park facilities, it also promotes the recreational programs available to local communities, and helps to elucidate the important role that local parks and recreation agencies have in communities across the United States.

The NRPA has stated, “Just as water, sewer, and public safety are considered essential public services, parks are vitally important to establishing and maintaining the quality of life in a community, ensuring the health of families and youth, and contributing to the economic and environmental well-being of a community and a region.”

In its 1992 landmark study, “The Benefits of Local Recreation and Park Services: A Nationwide Study of the Perceptions of the American Public,” the NRPA found that most Americans indicated they had personally benefited, as did their community as a whole, from their local recreation and park services. In a 2015 update to the study, it was found that this public support did not change over the past 25 years, even though there have been significant changes to demographics, the economy and developments in technology that allow for different methods of entertainment. Even if people did not personally use the parks or programs, they understood the benefits of these amenities to their communities.

The fact that most Americans continue to value parks and recreation, even with a multitude of other distracting activities, indicates that people continue to believe in the power of play. Recent studies support this emphasis: 50 percent of all vigorous exercise in America happens in parks. Most Americans spend five or more hours per week engaged in fun outdoor activities. Community play spaces have been shown to boost positive attitudes toward cultural diversity and reduce feelings of isolation.

The Town of Oro Valley has provided outstanding parks and recreation facilities and programming since its founding in 1974. Take time this month to explore the Parks and Recreation Department’s myriad offerings, whether it is summer camp, a hike, a bike ride on the shared use paths, meeting neighbors at the park or community center or learning to play golf or tennis. Put down the electronic devices and discover the continued benefits of play, regardless of your age or abilities.

By Nancy Ellis, Parks and Recreation Multimodal Planner - Explorer Newspaper, 7/5/17

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