Margaret “Peggy” Hannon-Rizza, 60, director of Parks and Recreation in Billerica, Massachusetts, passed away at her home on February 19. After earning her bachelor’s degree in education from Northeastern University, Hannon-Rizza worked for number of schools, including a 12-year career at the Fernald State School in Waltham, Massachusetts, as a recreational therapist and director of recreational services. She began her involvement with Billerica’s Recreation Department in 1985 when she served as one of the town’s recreation commissioners. In 1995, she became the assistant director of parks and recreation, and in 2006 she was appointed director. Hannon-Rizza was instrumental in the redevelopment of the town’s Lampson Complex, for which she was heavily involved in design, fundraising and grant writing. On January 25, in recognition of all her work in Billerica and on behalf of the recreation industry, the town renamed the Lampson Complex to the Peggy Hannon-Rizza Complex. She was the recipient of a number of other awards, including the 2012 NRPA New England Council Dorothy Mullen Small Community Arts Award, 2012 American Cancer Society Award for Outstanding Role Model, 2012 Greater Lowell Health Alliance Civic Excellence Award, 2014 the Massachusetts Recreation and Park Association Peter C. O’Brien Humanitarian Award and many others.
Attention young park lovers: Be sure to save the date for Kids to Parks Day, set for Saturday, May 17. Kids to Parks Day is an annual, nationwide day of outdoor play organized by the National Park Trust. Families across America are encouraged to participate by hosting kid-friendly events at local parks or incorporating Kids to Parks Day into already planned events. Go online to register your Kids to Parks Day event, add your event to the national online event map and explore the resources provided by the National Park Trust, including a Kids to Parks Day planning guide, posters and flyers.
Advocates of “rail-trail” parks are having a tough time swallowing a recent United States Supreme Court decision, which could impact hundreds of established and proposed trails across the country. The case of Marvin Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States saw the court side with the Wyoming landowner, who challenged the U.S. Forest Service's construction of a bicycle trail on an abandoned railway line that slices through his property. By an 8–1 vote, the justices held that the U.S. government had no right to Brandt's tract once the Wyoming and Colorado Railroad formally abandoned the property around 2004. The decision is being lauded as a victory for property rights activists and a big blow to rail-trail supporters. Danaya Wright, a property rights professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, estimated that potentially one third of the country’s 270,000 miles of rail lies on rights-of-way granted under the law at issue in the case. Trails or highways built on that land are now susceptible to legal challenges.
Cre8Play and Playworld Structures received accolades for their work building the Casey’s Clubhouse playground at Dove Park in Grapeville, Texas. Mara Kaplan of Let Kids Play bestowed Casey’s Clubhouse with the Best Inclusive Playground of 2013 award, pointing to its easy accessibility for children of all ability levels. The design also won the Committee’s Choice Award at the 2013 Texas Recreation and Park Society’s North Region Conference. Casey’s Clubhouse includes a real clubhouse, wheelchair-accessible treehouse, electronic games, 14-foot slide, zip line, eight swings, rock climbing area, fishing shack and more. Let Kids Play is a consulting firm that works with various organizations to enhance play opportunities and inclusive play for children of all ability levels.
San Francisco’s Mission Dolores Park is adding an unusual amenity to its grounds this spring. The site is about to undergo a $12.5 million renovation, part of which includes the installation of a European-style pissoir, or, pPod, in the park’s southwest corner. The open-air urinal includes an area grate that drains to the city sewer system, partially surrounded by a 7-foot tall semicylindrical mesh privacy screen that is open in the back to accommodate users in wheelchairs. City of San Francisco Recreation and Parks spokeswoman Sarah Ballard said with some 5,000 visitors each weekend, the park’s existing portable toilets were being vandalized and overused. The pissoir is strategically located near a train station, and renovation project manager Jake Gilchrist hopes nighttime revelers also will make use of it, rather than relieving themselves on the train tracks, as is often reported.
Residents of Hinckley Township in Cleveland enjoyed a spooky ritual in March, welcoming home scads of turkey vultures that return to the area to roost each spring. The annual Return of the Buzzards observation began in 1957, and each year welcomes thousands of visitors who patiently wait until the feathered scavengers begin to descend on Cleveland Metroparks’ Hinckley Reservation. This year’s celebration included opportunities to study and count the birds, as well as enjoy naturalist-led hikes, live birds of prey programs, musical entertainment, puppet shows, displays and exhibits, bus tours of Hinckley Reservation, unique buzzard-related merchandise, refreshments and more.
Georgetown University and the Georgetown Public Policy Institute recently released its report Hard Times: College Majors, Unemployment and Earnings, and among the statistics was a bright spot for those considering a career in the park and recreation industry. Unemployment rates for recent college grads in the field of physical fitness and parks and recreation were among the lowest detailed, at just 5.2 percent. Experienced college graduates’ unemployment rates tracked low as well, at 4.5 percent. Few other majors boasted as low a figure — close seconds included nursing, with unemployment levels for recent graduates at 4.8 percent, and elementary education, at 5 percent.
Last October marked the launch of a two-part symposium honoring the life and legacy of one of the park and recreation industry’s most revered leaders, Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. Part One was held at Washington, D.C.’s, prestigious National Building Museum, and the concluding installment took place at the end of March at Stanford University. Organized by the National Association for Olmsted Parks (NAOP) and its partners, the event examined Olmsted Jr.’s extensive legacy, stretching back to his roots as the son of Frederick Law Olmsted Sr., through his various achievements into the late 1940s. Although he came into the planning/architecture/conservation field somewhat overshadowed by this father — Olmsted Sr. is often referred to as the forefather of landscape architecture in the United States and in 1859 was the chief architect of New York City’s iconic Central Park — Olmstead Jr. eventually made quite a name for himself, chiefly for his work in the Washington, D.C., area. As adviser or designer, he worked on many prominent landmarks in our nation’s capital, including the White House grounds, Federal Triangle, Jefferson Memorial, Roosevelt Island, Rock Creek Parkway and the National Cathedral grounds. Click here for more information about this park and recreation pioneer.
Kay Park Recreation hit a big milestone this year, marking its 60th anniversary in business. Back in 1954, a young Cedar Falls, Iowa, entrepreneur named Keith Borglum heard through his neighborhood grapevine that the city was looking for someone to fabricate steel charcoal grills for use in the public parks. Borglum — nicknamed “Kay” by his grandmother — had already been manufacturing other equipment in the garage on his family farm and figured he could lend a hand to this effort, too. Soon, Borglum was building grills, picnic tables, benches, trash cans and similar items for use in parks across the country. In 1956, the federal government launched an extensive, 10-year program to enhance several national parks, and much of Kay Park Recreation’s offerings are still in use at those sites today. At a spry 87 years old, Borglum continues to be involved in his business, developing new products and manufacturing strategies for Kay Park Recreation’s ever-expanding selection of park products.
Rapper, producer and fashion designer Pharrell Williams is adding another title to his name: conservationist. The wildly successful musician, known simply as Pharrell, will launch a new line of jeans this summer that are manufactured using recycled ocean plastic. By now, most of us have heard of the great Pacific garbage patch, a huge “island” of plastic waste and debris that has coagulated in the North Pacific Ocean. Pharrell’s fashion line, established in partnership with designer denim label G-Star RAW, uses special fibers that incorporate the plastic materials. The recycled ocean garbage makes up part of the core of each denim strand, which is then wrapped in an outer layer of cotton to form “bionic yarn.” The collection, G-Star RAW for the Oceans, is expected to be available in select retail stores by mid-August.