Briefly Noted

August 1, 2013, Department, by Danielle Taylor

Stay on top of the latest in parks and recreation with this listing of announcements from around the industry.The USTA invites facilities like yours to host a USTA Free Tennis Play Event in celebration of Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play on any day from September 1–30. USTA Free Tennis Play Events are a fun way for tennis facilities, parks and municipalities to introduce tennis to families. The USTA is hosting thousands of USTA Free Tennis Play Events throughout the country showcasing how fun and easy it is for families to get into the sport, as well as offering a great way for parents to spend time with their children while keeping them active during National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month in September. The event is open to the public, with an emphasis placed on family participation. To register or for more information, click here or call 800.990.8782.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) recently introduced the Beach Act of 2013 (H.R. 2601), a bill that would require improved water monitoring procedures where public swimming is allowed. If passed, it would provide $40 million a year to state and local governments. The bill, which is cosponsored by Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA), also calls for a study on how coastal recreation water pollution is contributing to climate change and requests that the Environmental Protection Agency develop faster methods for beach water monitoring. It was referred to the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources & Environment in early July.

Indiana's parks have enlisted eight young people to serve as youth ambassadors this year and help build an appreciation of the outdoors by telling the stories of all 32 state parks. In this first-year program, the youth ambassadors write blogs and take photos to share their experiences in the parks and also greet visitors. The program, run through America’s State Parks, plans to expand this summer and fall to recruit 2,000 new ambassadors across the country.

Ten thousand marijuana plants, with a street value of $40 million, were yanked from an illegal marijuana grow deep in California’s Henry Coe State Park in early July. Santa Clara County sheriff’s deputies and fish and game wardens hiked for hours to get to the camp before choppers carried away the bundles of plants. This new grow was in the same place where deputies eradicated a major pot grow last year and also where a neighboring rancher reported hearing a gunshot in late June. In addition to marijuana, deputies found two rifles with scopes, a reminder that the growers are ready and willing to kill for their crop. California Fish and Wildlife wardens say the illegal grows create major environmental damage, as growers dam streams, use illegal pesticides and fertilizers, and poach animals.

On July 8, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board’s youth football program unveiled a donation of 1,000 brand-new Riddell helmets from Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald, Jr., a wide receiver for the Arizona Cardinals. The unveiling of the helmets was held at Dr. Martin Luther King Park in Minneapolis, and Fitzgerald interacted with neighborhood youth, telling a local TV news station he wants to make sure the next generation of kids is well-protected and gets the same opportunities he had growing up at King Park. The youth football program will also get coaching and training help from Heads Up Football, a program in place to teach kids how to properly tackle and avoid concussions.

The Oregon Parks and Recreation Commission is considering a land exchange with a golf resort developer in the commission's largest-ever exchange. The proposal would require the state to give up 280 acres of its 902-acre Bandon State Natural Area, located along the Pacific Coast. The site is plagued by gorse, a noxious invasive plant that has cost $67,000 in the past two years to control. The owner of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, which operates five golf courses north of Bandon, would acquire the land to build a 27-hole, walking-only course. The developer’s preliminary agreement with Oregon parks would have him pay $300,000 to fight gorse locally, transfer 208 acres he owns near Bandon to state parks and pay nearly $3 million to help state parks acquire property elsewhere. Land the state would acquire includes the north side of Whale Cove near Depoe Bay, plus almost 10 square miles in Grant County. A decision to proceed with the exchange could come at the next commission meeting in late September.

The National Institute for Play, with support from the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA), has published the first round of academic research surrounding the benefits of free play on the newly-created Encyclopedia of Play Science. The encyclopedia establishes the field of play science and is free and open to the public, providing valuable resources for those interested in the science behind the free-play movement. It is the first-known database of scientific, academic research that demonstrates the scientifically proven benefits of play, and all articles listed on the encyclopedia have been peer reviewed by at least two editors prior to publication. Currently, 11 articles have been published, with six more in development, ranging in subject matter from Technology and Play, ADHD and Play, the Evolution of American Playgrounds, the Benefits of Recess in Primary School, Consequences of Play Deprivation and more.

A San Francisco lawmaker's recent proposal to close city parks overnight is drawing criticism from homeless advocates. If approved, the legislation would close the parks from midnight to 5 a.m., putting San Francisco in line with Los Angeles, New York and about a dozen other U.S. cities. Supervisor Scott Wiener said the closure could help curb rampant vandalism, metal theft and illegal dumping at the city's roughly 200 parks. However, a spokesperson for the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco said hundreds of people live in city parks, especially Golden Gate Park, which covers more than 1,000 acres. The board is expected to take up the proposed legislation in September. Mayor Ed Lee supports the proposal to help set a standard for city park hours and increase public safety, his spokesman said. Park officials said illegal dumping and vandalism occur largely at night and cost the city about $1 million annually.

Instead of reclaiming existing properties, Chicago is creating new parkland by installing topsoil dredged from the Illinois River near Lake Michigan. The innovative program, dubbed Mud-to-Parks, is a component of Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn’s Millennium Reserve Initiative to restore habitat, rehabilitate brownfields and create green space in southern Chicago. To date, more than 232,000 tons of Illinois River mud have been shipped and spread over 25 acres at the old U.S. Steel (USX) South Works site at 86th Street and Lake Michigan. Mud-to-Parks is funded by $8 million in bond funds appropriated in 2009. Recipients of Mud-to-Parks funds include the Litchfield Park District, Chicago Park District, City of East Peoria, City of Decatur and Fox Waterway Agency. 

Shortly after establishing a state Office of Outdoor Recreation, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert named Brad Petersen as its new director. In his new role, Petersen is charged with implementing Gov. Gary Herbert’s "State of Utah Outdoor Recreation Vision," which highlights the important economic and social benefits of outdoor recreation in the state and highlights the need to protect public lands for current and future generations. Before his appointment, Petersen served as general manager of outdoor gear maker Combined Resources International.

In early July, the Raleigh, North Carolina, City Council approved changing the name of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department to the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department. The title change recognizes the expanded scope and the importance of the city’s cultural resources. The newly established Cultural Resources section houses the Raleigh Arts and the Historic Resource and Museum areas.

Authorities in Lumberton, North Carolina, are looking for the person who stole a city-owned pickup and used it to gain entry to and rob a local jewelry store in mid-July. When police responded to a burglar alarm at the shop, they found a Ford F-250 pickup truck belonging to the Lumberton Parks and Recreation Department backed up to the front door of the store. The truck was used to ram the front door to gain access into the store. The culprit wasn’t able to take much inventory during the robbery, however, because the shop’s manager puts all of the jewelry into a safe at the end of each business day.

To celebrate the 100th birthday of Washington State Parks, the state parks department and the ParksByNature Network invite the public to join the Washington State Parks Centennial Passport GeoChallenge. As participants discover the natural beauty of Washington by traveling to each of its exceptional state parks, they will have the opportunity to rack up points and win prizes. To get started, participants must download the Official Washington State Parks Pocket Ranger app onto their mobile device, select the “Challenges” icon, register a username and password, and start the GeoChallenge. For more information and official rules, click here and select Passport GeoChallenge.

Calling it a historical site with cultural and archaeological significance for Native Americans, South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad dedicated South Dakota's first state park in 40 years in mid-July. They were joined by tribal leaders, state legislators and officials from South Dakota's Game, Fish and Parks department at the dedication of Good Earth State Park at Blood Run, the 13th state park, which was designated a national historic landmark in 1970. South Dakota owns about 600 acres of land there, while Iowa owns several hundred acres. The ultimate goal is to join the land, a significant historical site to the Oneota Native American tribe, and create the first joint state park in the country.

The 17 restaurants operated by the Kentucky State Parks are now offering healthier options on their kids’ menus. The parks have joined “Better Bites: Restaurant Edition,” a project of the Tweens Nutrition and Fitness Coalition in Lexington, which focuses on making healthy eating and regular physical activity popular and accessible for children ages nine to 13. Some examples of the changes that meet the Better Bites nutrition guidelines are smaller hamburgers and cheeseburgers on whole-wheat buns, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on whole-wheat bread and half turkey sandwiches, also on whole-wheat bread. All children’s menu items are served with a side of fresh fruit and vegetable sticks. With the changes, 80 percent of the kids’ menu items are considered Better Bites options.

In Indiana, an environmental group has reforested 67 acres of western Indiana's Montgomery County and transferred the land to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources to become part of Shades State Park. The Indiana chapter of the Nature Conservancy said it planted more than 29,000 trees on the land with a donation from the Alcoa Foundation. The 3,400-acre Shades State Park has numerous deep and rugged ravines along the south bank of Sugar Creek, about 50 miles west of Indianapolis.

Willard Bay State Park's North Campground and Marina in northern Utah reopened in mid-July after the Utah Division of Water Quality deemed it safe, four months after a Chevron diesel spill. The park is one of the state's busiest, drawing nearly 350,000 visitors last year. Willard Bay is a freshwater reservoir located 12 miles northwest of Ogden. The campground and marina were shut down after a Chevron Pipe Line Co. pipeline failed on March 18 and leaked about 20,000 gallons of diesel fuel into the soil and marshes.

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has partnered with The North Face and their Explore Your Parks program to encourage families to get outdoors and enjoy Idaho’s treasured state parks. With support from The North Face, Idaho State Parks are offering first-time camper programs with overnight experiences running from now through September at Lake Cascade State Park, Hells Gate State Park and Priest Lake State Park. Each location is equipped with camping gear purchased through a generous donation from The North Face, which is now available to check out within the park for free Individuals and families wishing to take advantage of this opportunity will only be responsible for paying the campsite and reservation fee. In addition, first-time camping programs offer overnight experiences for those new to camping, or for those who could use a refresher. Staff will greet campers and assist with campsite set-up as well as discuss some basics of camping like campground etiquette and outdoor cooking. Additional programming such as staff-led nature hikes and plant identification, wildlife interpretive programs and fun family activities like fishing and canoeing are available as well, depending on the site.

The Trust for Public Land and The Fresh Air Fund recently announced their new partnership to connect children living in New York City to land, water and the great outdoors this summer, and give them the chance to learn about the environment and land conservation. Each summer, The Fresh Air Fund sends 4,000 children from New York City to spend the summer with 3,700 volunteer host families across the Atlantic Seaboard and West Virginia. During the month of July, local Trust for Public Land and The Fresh Air Fund partnered up and down the Atlantic seaboard to enjoy fun-filled Day on the Land events, where New York City children and their volunteer host families will learn about the importance of conservation, then tour a local site that was protected by The Trust for Public Land.

Active Living Research (ALR), a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, has announced a call for presentation and workshop abstracts for its 11th Annual Conference on March 9–12, 2014, in San Diego, California. The theme of the 2014 conference, “Niche to Norm,” recognizes the importance of advancing active living from an emerging research field with limited results and impact to well-accepted findings that regularly guide decisionmaking across sectors to create more active communities. Abstracts related to all populations and active living environments and policies in all settings are welcome. The submission deadline is September 4, 2013. For more information, click here.

Roanoke County Parks, Recreation and Tourism is hosting the annual Southeast CLASS Owners Group Annual Conference on October 15–17, 2013 in Roanoke County, Virginia. This is the annual conference for owners of the CLASS software for parks and recreation groups in the southeast area of the United States. To register, click here and enter course number 23243. Contact Jodi Jekielek (540.777.6329) with questions.

The American Planning Association and the American Public Health Association recently hosted a webinar that featured stories of successful collaboration between public health and planning in communities across the country. Entitled Healthy Communities: Neighborhood Planning through a Health Equity Lens, it focused on neighborhood planning as one strategy to promote positive impacts on health and health equity, and offered examples of the Community Transformation Grant program (CTG) at work in Seattle, Washington, and Fort Worth, Texas. To view the archived webinar, click here.