July is one of the best months to get out and enjoy community parks and recreational areas, so it’s only fitting that it’s National Park and Recreation Month — a designation dating back to 1985. While the theme changes every year, the mission of Park and Recreation Month remains the same: encouraging people to explore, enjoy, and celebrate their local parks and recreation centers.
And no, it has nothing to do with Leslie Knope, Ron Swanson, or the show Parks & Rec (though we’re sure they would approve).
The History of Parks and Recreation
Parks aren’t a new concept. The English aristocracy set aside land for hunting, surrounding it with walls or hedges to keep people out. As stately homes were built around these grounds, more of an emphasis was placed on natural landscaping. Eventually, hunting was discontinued and these grounds were opened to the public as a sanctuary to escape from crowded cities.
In the United States, the first public park — Boston Common — opened in the 1830s. As cities became increasingly crowded in the early 1900s, “reform parks” were created in individual neighborhoods. These were viewed as spaces in which the working class could socialize away from the streets, where deviant behavior often occurred, and provide children with opportunities for organized play. City governments began installing playground equipment and amenities such as swimming pools, ball fields, and indoor facilities. Planners emphasized natural environments with a focus on landscape beauty to attract people of all ages.
Today, parks and recreation play an essential role in our communities. They provide many health, environmental, social, and economic benefits, including:
- Promoting physical activity for better health and fitness.
- Lowering blood pressure and reducing stress.
- Providing gathering spaces for families and social groups, as well as individuals of all ages and abilities.
- Improving water and air quality, protecting groundwater, preventing flooding, and providing habitat for wildlife.
- Conserving open spaces and providing a buffer against development.
- Generating money for the local economy, improving the local tax base, and increasing property values.
Help Promote NRPA’s “Where Community Grows” Theme
This year’s theme, “Where Community Grows,” celebrates the vital role park and recreation professionals play in bringing people together, providing essential services, and fostering community growth. Nationwide, over 160,000 full-time park and recreation professionals — along with hundreds of thousands of part-time and seasonal employees — work hard to maintain our vital public spaces. Hats off to them all!
At Burke, we encourage play, fitness, and recreation year-round, but with warm weather, sunshine, and plenty of daylight, July is an especially good month to take advantage of your local parks and playgrounds!
Here are some ideas we’ve put together to help you celebrate Park and Recreation Month.
- Help promote Park and Recreation Month in your community by downloading a free outreach toolkit from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). The kit includes fact sheets, sample social media posts, editorial story samples, posters, and more. You can also use the “Where Community Grows” logo on your materials to show your support.
- Officially proclaim July as Park and Recreation Month in your community. This usually means contacting a local elected official and creating the proclamation (unless you’re already the mayor, in which case, have at it!). Again the NRPA has a downloadable template and tips on how to proceed.
- Share stories on how parks and recreation make your community stronger and more vibrant, or the impact they have on community members, through your organization’s social media channels. Use the hashtag #OurParkAndRecStory or #WhereCommunityGrows.
- Organize a party in a local park and invite everyone from your community to attend. Make it a potluck so the entire burden isn’t on you. Plan fun, family friendly games like corn hole, badminton, water balloon toss and more — let your creativity go wild!
- Take advantage of all your park has to offer by participating in as many activities as you can while the weather is pleasant. Walk, bike, swim, play disc golf or pickleball, toss a frisbee back and forth, let your kids burn off energy on the playground. After all, going to the park and having fun outdoors is the best way we can think of to honor Park and Recreation Month.
Burke is a proud member of the NRPA Business Council, where we work with others to explore, share and deploy powerful solutions that benefit both businesses and parks and recreation.
Looking to bring play that moves you to your community? Connect with your local Burke Representative today to learn more about what’s possible.