Park and Recreation Month is here and soon all the brainstorming, planning, preparing and more will be put into action. If you need a little last minute inspiration or even a reminder as to why Park and Recreation Month can be an important part of your agency’s mission here’s a great story for you.
Sarah Mylcraine, activities specialist for Harker Heights Parks and Recreation in Harker Heights, Texas gives the inside scoop on how she successfully implemented Park and Recreation Month activities for the very first time for her community last year and what she has in store for this year too!
2013 was the first year Harker Heights Parks and Recreation celebrated National Park and Recreation Month. Creating festivities from the beginning was a challenging yet rewarding opportunity for me. I enjoyed brainstorming ideas then having the ability to plan, create and complete the activities that made the events successful.
The City Mayor read a proclamation at the last scheduled council meeting in June to kick off the activities for Park and Recreation Month. My first plan of action was creating opportunities for Harker Heights citizens to explore our city’s local parks. Although the 194 acres of space provides 10 parks and green spaces, many are unknown or not utilized by our residents. We created a scavenger hunt contest with clues located at the park locations and held two “Fun Days” as a method of reacquainting city residents with all the parks.
The Scavenger Hunt
Scavenger hunt clues were posted on our website every Tuesday and Friday within the month of July and reminders to check the clues were posted on social media outlets. Participants first read the clue and then had to figure out which park held the answer. Once they figured out where the answer was located they submitted their answer by taking a picture of the object or action necessary to solve the answer. An electronic submission form was located on our website along with a link to upload photos. Once completed, the form was emailed to staff.
All correct scavenger hunt entries were placed in a drawing. The winner of the contest remarked how much she appreciated the parks and recreation department and what we do for our city.
“Fun Days in the Park”
As part of our celebration, I created two “Fun Days in the Park,” envisioned to mimic field days in school. The Fun Days took place on two separate days in July; one held at a lesser-known park, Kern, while the other at the popular Purser Family Park.
The goals for the Fun Days were similar to that of the scavenger hunt; assist citizens in the discovery of a park and its amenities that they may not have known was available. This was the first time that the department held an event at Kern Park, so the community members around the area were grateful that they were able to attend an event closer to their residence.
Kids were invited to fill out NRPA’s pin-it card listing reasons they love parks and recreation; submissions were stapled on an A-frame board later used for a display. The board also contained a schedule of activities such as potato sack and egg on a spoon races, hula hoop contest and a freeze dance-off. The activities were a hit and participants enjoyed the competition and medals. A bounce house was generously donated by a local business and complimentary face-painting was provided by the Harker Heights Public Library staff.
Children at Kern Park in Harker Heights, TX enjoy their first Park and Recreation Month Celebration in 2013
Purser Family Park is the location of our city’s dog park. The day of the Purser Family Park Fun Day our city’s Pet Adoption Center offered pets available for adoption, while Texas Vets for Pets provided a variety of low-cost vaccinations. A local vendor sold homemade dog treats, donating proceeds to purchase postage for overseas military care packages.
During the Fun Days we invited everyone to participate in demonstrations of line dancing, Zumba® and Tai Chi fitness, helping to raise public awareness of the variety of health and wellness classes offered throughout the year. A demonstration of a new program, Bricks 4 Kidz©, a Lego®-based program, was offered as well as an opportunity for interested citizens to sign up for more information. Demonstration times varied to allow the public time to observe and/or participate in more than one presentation.
Community business vendors were also included in the Fun Days. Sam’s Club sold memberships for their new store that opened within our city limits and donated snack foods, 1st National Bank of Texas donated water and Central Texas Orthodontics provided a chance to earn free prizes such as T-shirts, water bottles and gift vouchers to use at their business.
Overall, the feedback and participation received from our Park and Recreation Month celebrations was very rewarding as it gave residents the opportunity to explore our city parks and discover programs that our department offers.
OUT is IN for Harker Heights
This year, we are having a kick-off celebration to promote Park and Recreation Month and let community members know about the wonderful programs our department has in store for the month. Community members will have the opportunity to sign a pledge agreeing to spend time OUTdoors, thus being “unplugged.” We will distribute “31-days Unplugged” activity ideas during the kick-off as well as distribute the idea sheets within the community. The kick-off celebration will include a kite-building workshop for kids so that during the 31-day challenge they can get out and fly a kite.
We are looking forward to providing another successful Fun Day to members of our community. This year’s Fun Day will be held on a Saturday night with our Family Dive-In. What better way to end the Fun Day than watching a movie at the pool? Also included are plans to expand the event to include a fishing demonstration at our catfish pond, a rock wall, and a bicycle area where kids with disabilities can ride on adaptive bikes.
Our second annual celebration will provide many opportunities for community members to take the challenge and spend more time OUTdoors while enjoying the great parks our city offers. We look forward to having another successful Park and Recreation Month!
What are some ways you are connecting with your community this July? What new activities are you trying to get your community OUT all July long? Leave a comment below or share on Twitter using the hashtag #JulyOUTisIN.
Sarah Mylcraine is the activities specialist for Harker Heights Parks and Recreation in Harker Heights, Texas.