Andrew Justin Mowen, associate professor of recreation at Penn State University recently sent me an article from the current issue of Parks & Recreation (May 2013) magazine. The article is co-authored by Greg A. Weitzel, former park and rec director of Allentown, Pennsylvania, and explores the importance of park renovations and investments.
On the surface it seems that everyone would support reinvesting tax payer dollars in community parks. However, given the economic climate and the fact that policy makers are now questioning whether parks merit public tax support, we have to move beyond “faith alone” as Weitzel and his co-authors suggest.
To that end, there is a growing movement to research and document the positive impact of public parks. The city of Allentown recently commissioned a multi-year study to examine the impact of a major park renovation at its Cedar Creek park. The $2.3 million project includes a destination playground, incorporating Playworld Systems equipment, for children of all ages and abilities. Pre and post-renovation studies indicated a majority of visitors supported the renovations, resulting in increased enjoyment, more frequent use, longer visits, more activity variety, and improved perceptions of quality and user satisfaction. The playground also received high marks for providing youth with a safe place to play. Key focus groups indicated that the playground enhanced their community by bringing together various groups of people from varying ethnicities and backgrounds.
There is current data available that demonstrates the positive impact of parks on a community. With a climate of budget tightening and cuts, it’s important to gather evidence and data to support the re-development of parks.
Are there any community park renovation proposals being considered in your area? The research on Cedar Creek Park makes a strong case for the positive impact of play in communities. Do you have your data and research studies ready so you can support the need for a playground renovation in your area?