Parks, rec month elevates often overlooked spaces

How often do you give thanks for your nearby park?

We often take these refreshingly open and family-friendly expanses for granted, local features that are just another part of the landscape. But while the style and footprints of the housing stock morph over time, these parks hold their ground, inviting generation after generation to enjoy both the active and leisurely pleasures they provide.

Since 1985, America has celebrated July as the nation’s official Park and Recreation Month. Created by the National Recreation and Park Association, Park and Recreation Month specifically highlights the vital and powerful role these dedicated areas play in building stronger, more vibrant and more resilient communities all across the country. Many of us became more cognizant of the benefits of parks during the COVID-19 pandemic as places to escape our home confinement without violating social distancing parameters.

Parks are at the center of so many experiences and memories. Our local parks are often our first experiences in nature, our introduction to a favorite hobby or physical activity. They are places to gather with friends and family, spaces to celebrate life’s special moments, spots of respite and healing, sites that connect us with essential community services, and so much more.

in the early part of the 20th century, Hinsdale was woefully bereft of park space relative to other communities in the area. To the credit of village officials at that time, this shortcoming was acknowledged and steps were taken to improve that facet of life for residents of the fast-growing town. A parks and recreation department was created, and Robbins Park and Melin Park are among the fruit that grew out of the more intentional effort to dedicate land for the public’s enjoyment.

Of course, parks continue to evolve, like the recent installation of pickleball courts at Brook Park or a playground upgrade to address kids’ desires and parents’ safety concerns.

This year the NRPA is also shining the light on the local parks and recreation staff that develop fun and engaging ways to invite the public to make use of these community treasures with Park and Recreation Professionals Day tomorrow, July 16. This is a day to honor all the dedicated professionals who work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide the high-quality programs and infrastructure residents expect.

The services that park and recreation professionals provide are vital for our community — from protecting open space and natural resources to helping fight obesity and providing activities and resources for all people. This has been especially true throughout the pandemic.

Marcel Acosta, executive director of the National Capital Planning Commission in Washington D.C., captured the multi-dimensional benefits of parks in a recent interview with Urbanland.

“Parks not only provide recreation, help the environment, improve our general health, connect places and promote social cohesion, but it’s also good business,” he said. “Parks can add value to nearby property and provide much-needed amenities to the surrounding community.”

We agree. So go enjoy a park today!