Celebrating parks and recreation

Park and Recreation Month

July is Park and Recreation Month, a time to celebrate the importance of parks and recreation to our health and wellness, conservation and social equity. Park and recreation employees protect our open spaces and natural resources, and provide us with fun, outdoor activities for our health.

I’d like to thank all the dedicated personnel and maintenance workers who do the best they can to keep our parks clean and safe. In Hawaii, our parks and recreation opportunities are amazing. In addition to beautiful beaches, mountain trails, camping, fishing, hunting, and water sports, our kids can picnic in grassy parks and play at neighborhood playgrounds. We have public pools, gyms, tennis and basketball courts, baseball and soccer fields, skate parks, enrichment classes, and children’s programs.

As a college student I spent two summers working as a recreation aide at a local park (it taught me a lot about patience and keeping your cool). When my son was a toddler, we often took him to local playgrounds to get exercise and practice climbing, sliding, swinging, and balancing. Now that he’s older, we’ve signed him up for after-school classes, we take him to baseball practice and Pinto games, and enrolled him in the summer fun program.

When we have access to public parks, we tend to exercise more, have a greater sense of well-being, and feel more connected to the community. Parks and open spaces can reduce air pollution and water runoff, increase property values, revitalize neighborhoods, and even reduce crime, according to “The Benefits of Parks: Why America Needs More city Parks and Open Space” (2006), a report by the Trust for Public Land.

In Hawaii, there are 7 national parks, with over five million visitors in 2012. Even if you can’t visit one of our national parks, Haleakalā National Park and Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park have great online resources for kids to become junior rangers, download activities, and learn about Hawaii and nature. There are also 53 Hawaii state parks, historic sites, and monuments; and numerous regional and neighborhood parks.

When you visit our parks and hiking trails, be a good visitor and caretaker of the land. Please pick up your litter, pack out what you pack in, and don’t damage the plants, animals, historic sites, and reefs. And thank the parks and recreation volunteers and staff you meet.

How often do you go to a neighborhood, state, or national park? What are your favorite parks in Hawaii, and what makes them special to you? Share why you love your park and recreation and your photos at http://www.nrpa.org/july.

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