Country's birthday not only celebration in July

Hinsdale residents earlier this week enjoyed a great Fourth of July celebration, thanks in large part to efforts by the village’s parks and recreation department.

So it seems fitting to take this opportunity to recognize all the department does throughout the year, as July is National Parks and Recreation Month.

This summer alone, the department is hosting a plethora of events to entertain people of all ages — Lunch on the Lawn, Movies in the Park, Unplug and Play, summer camps, swimming and diving lessons and a men’s softball league, to name a few. The department also offers ongoing programs for preschoolers to adults covering topics from first aid to foreign language, from painting to pickleball.

They do all this in addition to managing 17 parks totaling more than 130 acres, the Hinsdale Community Swimming Pool and The Lodge at KLM. Amenities available at village parks include baseball, football, lacrosse and soccer fields; basketball, tennis, platform tennis, pickleball and volleyball courts; playgrounds; picnic areas and shelters; ice skating rinks and sledding hills; and an 18-hole disk golf course.

July has been designated as Park and Recreation Month since 1985. The goal is to promote building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation and to recognize the more than 160,000 full-time park and recreation professionals — along with hundreds of thousands of part-time and seasonal workers and volunteers — that maintain the country’s local, state and community parks.

These green spaces and recreational facilities are not just nice amenities to have. Research shows park and recreation agencies promote community health and wellness.

People who live near parks are both physically and mentally healthier than those who do not, according to the NRPA. Park users are three times more likely to achieve recommended levels of physical activity than non-users. Parks have a significant affect on mental health as well, with people living farther than .62 miles away from a green space having nearly 50 percent higher odds of experiencing stress than those living within four blocks of a green space.

A thriving parks and recreation department is good for the community as a whole, too.

Local park and recreation agencies generated $166 billion in economic activity and supported more than 1.1 million jobs in 2017. Park and recreation departments across the country are among the biggest employers of youth. Four in five U.S. adults seek high-quality parks and recreation when choosing a place to live.

Parks and programs offer residents the opportunity to spend time with one another and connect people with nature — something that became even more important during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Heather Bereckis, who has worked for the village since 2013 and been superintendent of parks and recreation since May 2017, has done an outstanding job leading the department. We are sorry to learn that her last day in the village will be July 15, but we wish her well in her new position heading up economic development in Elmhurst.

The village also is fortunate to have residents who volunteer to serve on the Hinsdale Parks and Recreation Commission — Alice Waverly (chair), Dareen Baker, Chris Boruff, Nash Moore, John George, Steve Keane and Heather Hester.

This year, the month’s theme is “We Rise up for Parks and Recreation.”

We most certainly do.