Green Space, Parks and Recreation Strengthen Local Communities

2013-06-22T00:00:00Z Green Space, Parks and Recreation Strengthen Local CommunitiesMichelle Krueger Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
June 22, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Last week, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) commended Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ), along with Congressman Mike Turner (R-OH) and 10 other original co-sponsors, for the reintroduction of the Community Parks Revitalization (CPR) Act.

This legislation will help revitalize urban areas making them healthier, more livable and economically competitive through improved access to public parks and recreation programs and services.

“In New Jersey’s 8th district, our parks and green spaces play a key role in creating vibrant, livable communities where people want to live and businesses want to invest,” Congressman Sires said. “With most Americans living in urban and metropolitan regions, it’s critical that we provide communities with the tools they need to create new or rehabilitee existing parks and recreation spaces.”

The reintroduction of the bill, previously titled the Urban Revitalization and Livable Communities Act, demonstrates the strong support and recognition of the vital role green space, public parks and recreation opportunities play in growing the economy, improving health outcomes and advancing conservation initiatives at the local level.

Building on the success of the previous Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program (UPARR), the CPR Act would provide matching federal grants to parks and recreation departments in metropolitan areas for the construction of new indoor and outdoor recreational resources and the refurbishment of existing facilities. The legislation also now includes an innovative financing mechanism that would establish a program for secured loans and loan guarantees for the development of parks and recreation infrastructure of a larger scale.

“Considering that more than 80 percent of the US population now lives in urban areas, it is critical that our nation's leaders recognize the importance of quality of life in the communities where most American live,” NRPA President and CEO Barbara Tulipane said. “The CPR Act emphasizes the vital role local parks and recreation plays in shaping and improving the economic vitality, environmental and physical wellness of urban communities in the country.”

A national nonprofit, NRPA’s network of 30,000 recreation and park professionals and citizens impacts communities through conservation – protecting open space, connecting children to nature and engaging communities in conservation practices; health & wellness – leading the nation to improved health and wellness through parks and recreation; and social equity – ensuring all people have access to the benefits of local parks and recreation.

Numerous studies have shown that access to parks, green space and recreation can help revitalize communities by attracting businesses, improving property values and increasing access to health and wellness opportunities.

“ASLA supports legislation that will assist with the rehabilitation and construction of urban parks and recreational facilities across the country,” ASLA Executive Vice President and CEO Nancy Somerville said. “Parks provide significant economic, social and environmental benefits to everyone in the community. Parks are not just pretty places, but critical to the fabric of our daily lives.”

Somerville also noted that landscape architects, many of whom are part of small businesses, plan and design community parks and other outdoor recreational spaces. They help encourage physical activity by making spaces more accessible, attractive and sustainable. Exposure to nature reduces stress and improves mood. These spaces also absorb storm water runoff, saving cities millions of dollars and, more importantly, promote healthier, happier lifestyles.

With budgets for national, state and local parks slashed – often significantly – this legislation is needed now more than ever. At larger attractions, fees are rising while services are declining. Faced with self-sufficiency, many public parks are relying on the efforts of volunteers.

In our local communities, parks and recreation programs remain a valued source of leisure for residents of all ages. They bring neighbors together - whether they choose to sign up for a class, take a trip, go for a walk or run, visit a playground or participate in organized sports.

In the fast-growing town of Winfield, residents look forward to the development of two new community parks. Located within Stonegate and Stonegate Commons by Providence Real Estate Development, Winfield’s first official community parks include a nearly 15 acre parcel - a little more than five miles south of US 30 off Randolph St. at 123rd - where plans include baseball fields as well as multi-purpose soccer and football fields with playgrounds featuring a variety of age-appropriate equipment in a few designated areas.

Then, just north of there, off Randolph St. at 112th, the Stonegate Commons park will compliment those facilities with unique play stations, a 6-foot wide concrete path and open green space for rest and relaxation.

“Winfield is an incredibly family-friendly place to call home,” Kris Anderson of Providence Real Estate Development said. “These parks are important amenities for residents who are seeking a true sense of community when they choose to purchase a new home.”

For more information on legislative issues impacting parks and recreation, visit www.NRPA.org/getinvolved. A fact sheet with detailed information on the CPR Act is also available.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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