July marks Park and Recreation Month, a period when national visibility for agencies — and the field of parks and recreation in general — is at its greatest height. Summer is in full-swing and communities seem eager to take advantage of available recreational amenities. Savvy park and recreation leaders find ways to capitalize on this momentum and leverage public awareness to its greatest effect. This Park and Recreation Month, we reached out to Rick Herold, director of the Grand Prairie (Texas) Parks and Recreation Department; Michael S. Soderberg, executive director for community services at Thornton, Colorado, Parks and Open Space; and Eric Call, director of the Palm Beach County, Florida, Parks and Recreation Department, to ask the following question: How has Park and Recreation Month helped to increase awareness of park and recreation amenities in your community and how have you capitalized on this campaign? Following are their insights:
Grand Prairie Parks and Recreation is always excited to engage with Park and Recreation Month. We have also found over the years that it reinforces our mission and encourages more people to jump aboard the parks and recreation bandwagon. Our staff creates events for every day of the month to help broaden the effort! We engage our elected and appointed officials, citizens groups and organizations, and even our staff. Programming for the month supports the Three Pillars set-forth by NRPA: Conservation, Health and Wellness and Social Equity.
During [the 2013 Park and Recreation Month campaign themed] “I Love My Parks and Recreation,” we had people do selfies as to what they like best in parks and recreation. We turned that into a short film we marketed to everyone. During a 1970s-themed celebration, we had contests and 70s music, turned back time to 70s pricing for a day, and broadened our fan and user base.
From having a superhero costume contest on July 1 to myriad fun and exciting events, Park and Recreation Month has become a tradition in Grand Prairie. It supports our tagline that in our community, parks and recreation is a “community celebration!”
Michael S. Soderberg
During the past six to seven years, the city of Thornton’s Parks and Recreation team has really tried to embrace National Park and Recreation Month to spread enthusiasm for all of the wonderful amenities in our community.
One of the most immediate ways we capitalize on increasing visibility is to regularly utilize social media to send messages about a particular park, facility or program that might be featured on any given day. And, the most successful posts tend to include photos that show kids or families using the various amenities. We also utilize our Fourth of July Celebration every year to make Park and Recreation Month announcements or introductions (e.g., Captain Community this year!). With more than 50,000 people in the park that day, we have a captive audience whose curiosity we hope to pique with information on the various activities happening in July. July is our busiest month of the year, and we take full advantage of the many programs and facilities to promote all of the park and recreation amenities available to our residents.
Palm Beach County, covering nearly 2,500 square miles, works year-round on advocacy and community building to bring awareness to the many park and recreation amenities we have to offer. However, Park and Recreation Month allows us to focus our efforts with all team members rallying around a common message.
Our public outreach efforts focus on the value and benefits of a quality park and recreation system and we seek out opportunities to share that message. Tying the theme into our social media posts has increased interest among our park users who have in turn shared their own stories and photos. A proclamation is prepared every year by the Board of County Commissioners, and we always include users of our parks in this public spotlight, celebrating how parks and recreation has positively impacted their lives.
We incorporate the Park and Recreation Month theme in our summer camps, special events, sporting events, and throughout our wilderness and environmental sites and programs. We work closely with the 22 municipal agencies within Palm Beach County, encouraging them to come up with innovative and creative ways to showcase parks and recreation amenities and to bring awareness of the health, economic, social and environmental benefits our parks deliver to approximately 1.4 million residents.
Equally important, Park and Recreation Month has allowed every one of our 1,120 employees the opportunity to participate in the festivities we plan and to take pride in the profession they’ve chosen.
— Samantha Bartram, Executive Editor of Parks & Recreation magazine