Briefly Noted

February 1, 2013, Department, by Danielle Taylor

Help get your local kids excited about tennis by offering a tennis festival in conjunction with the United States Tennis Association.On March 4, the United States Tennis Association will launch thousands of tennis festivals that will continue throughout the month, designed to get kids active and excited about tennis. This event coincides with the annual “Tennis Night in America” celebration at New York’s Madison Square Garden, which this year will feature Rafael Nadal, Juan Martin del Potro, Serena Williams, and Victoria Azarenka. Tennis festivals are a great way for tennis facilities, parks, and municipalities to introduce tennis to kids and provide a platform to register children for spring and summer programs. Festival hosts will receive an event pack that includes special giveaways for their attendees, and all events will be featured in the USTA’s searchable online database. To host or find a tennis festival, please visit

Hurricane Sandy destroyed more than 8,000 street trees and thousands more in parks and woodlands in New York City, reports the New York Times. The destruction is double the amount caused last year during Tropical Storm Irene and triple that of a tornado three years ago. New York’s department of environmental protection has said whatever cannot be reused as fuel, mulch, or landfill cover will probably be incinerated, the Times reported in a separate article.

Following last summer’s financial scandal in the upper echelons of California State Parks management, in which $54 million in hidden funds were discovered in agency coffers while dozens of state parks were on the brink of closing, the department has replaced resigned director Ruth Coleman with retired Marine Corps General Anthony Jackson. In an effort to avoid repeating past mistakes, Jackson vows to ensure greater visibility with the department’s budget.

After a study reported that 30 to 50 percent of American dogs are obese, mimicking the rates of their human companions, the Georgia Veterinary Medical Association and Georgia State Parks have partnered to encourage dogs and their owners to go for more healthy walks in the woods. The joint effort, dubbed Pets RXercise, involves veterinarians writing “prescriptions” for walks in state parks, which dog owners can redeem for free parking (normally $5). Program developers hope the partnership and financial incentive will encourage more state residents to get out on the trails with their canine friends, helping man and beast alike sustain healthier lifestyles.

A unique partnership between the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the state’s Department of Children and Families is making it easier for foster families to enjoy the great outdoors together. The two agencies have donated 15,000 state park passes to foster families for use in 2013.

The City of Pensacola, Florida, has received the first installment of a $360,000 grant that will be awarded to the city’s Veterans’ Memorial Park as part of BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill settlement. The $57-million Gulf Tourism and Seafood Promotional Fund was created to help boost local tourism and seafood industries that can help bring business back to communities affected by the spill. Money from the grant will go toward replacing broken lights, establishing new memorials, and promoting the park through local tourism channels.

A new study by the U.S. Forest Service offers additional evidence that exposure to the natural environment, particularly trees, can improve human health. The study analyzed the health decline in communities that have lost trees due to infestations by the emerald ash borer, and it found consistent links between the loss of trees and the increase in cardiovascular and lower respiratory diseases. Even after accounting for influence of demographic differences, such as income, race, and education, the findings showed clear associations between lost trees and declining health in the 1,296 counties studied when compared with uninfected areas.

In Washington State, North Head Lighthouse has finally been transferred to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission from the U.S. Coast Guard, marking the end of a nearly 19-year process. Legal problems stemming from lead-based paint on the 114-year-old lighthouse significantly delayed the transfer, but soil cleanup around the base finally cleared the way for approval. Located at Cape Disappointment State Park at the southwestern corner of the state, North Head is the most intact lighthouse reservation in the Pacific Northwest and is open for tours from May through September.

A patch of ground that was once home to an abandoned coal processing plant will soon become a 30-acre city park, thanks to a partnership between the federal government, two state agencies, and the city of Wellington, Utah. The city was approached by the state Division of Oil, Gas, and Mining more than two years ago about a project to reclaim the land where the Knight-Ideal coal loadout facility once stood before it was abandoned in the 1950s. Long-term plans for the park include a pond that the state Division of Wildlife Resources will stock with fish, a skate park, a walking path, an ATV trailhead with parking for trailers, and two baseball fields.

A report commissioned by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder calls for “better funding for parks, clearer benchmarks on the results parks are expected to produce, and development of a handful of signature parks, with an impact similar to Chicago’s Millennium Park, in cities such as Detroit.” Other recommendations include: Identify and protect important natural, cultural, historic, and prehistoric resources for the enjoyment and education of Michigan’s residents and visitors, and expand stewardship of these resources. The report calls for diversifying funding and using new criteria to target investments. It also recommends changing the Recreation Passport to an “opt-out” system of funding and pursuing expansion of revenue bonding authority to address a backlog of priority maintenance and improvement needs at outdoor recreation facilities. In addition, the report recommends reestablishing the State Parks Foundation to accept private donations. For the full report, visit andrecpanel/Parks%20Panel%20Final%2010-4-12.pdf.

A report issued this fall by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation indicates falling rates of childhood obesity in certain parts of the country. In Health Policy Snapshot (, the organization notes several key trends:
Several cities and states throughout the country have recently reported declines in their childhood obesity rates.
The places reporting declines are those taking comprehensive actions to address the childhood obesity epidemic.
Despite signs of progress, socioeconomic, geographic, and racial and ethnic disparities in obesity rates are persisting in many places.
Philadelphia, New York City, Mississippi, and California are among the places reporting declining childhood obesity rates, according to the report. The report cites efforts in the cities and states to require schools to provide healthier food choices and more physical activity. For example, in Mississippi, the Healthy Students Act of 2007 requires the state’s public schools to provide more physical activity time, offer healthier foods and beverages, and develop health education programs.

Textizen, a text-message survey platform for civic engagement, was recently named as one of eight winners of the Knight News Challenge: Mobile by the Knight Foundation, a nonprofit organization supporting journalism for the betterment of communities. Textizen works by placing survey questions in physical places like parks and bus stops where residents will encounter them and can text in their opinion. By providing an easy-to-use medium to connect citizens with local government, Textizen hopes to increase community participation in civic discussions.

Recommended Reading

Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities: Creating Safe and Happy Places for Children by Marybeth Lima. Louisiana State University Press ( $125 (hardback), 216 pages.
With the belief that people can accomplish extraordinary things when they do ordinary things together, LSU professor Marybeth Lima launched the LSU Community Playground Project as a way to involve her students in the larger Baton Rouge community. Fifteen years and more than 700 students later, Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities tells the story of the Playground Project’s ongoing partnership with area public schools to build safe, fun, accessible, kid-designed playgrounds.
Lima’s experiences with the Playground Project range from outright failures to hard-won victories. Overcoming the challenges of working with scarce resources and persevering despite many setbacks, Lima and her students succeeded with hope, humor, and dedication.
Building Playgrounds, Engaging Communities emphasizes the major impact people have when they work together for the common good—whether by building playgrounds, establishing neighborhood gardens, or participating in honest, respectful conversations. To this end, Lima provides an appendix with practical advice for local engagement. People wanting to make a difference in their communities can use this book as a road map; those active in long-term endeavors can draw on it for ideas and inspiration.
Lima is the Cliff and Nancy Spanier Alumni Professor of Biological and Agricultural Engineering and director of the Center for Community Engagement, Learning, and Leadership at Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge.

Coaching Outside the Box: Changing the Mindset in Youth Soccer, Volume 1 by Richard E. Shaw and Paul S.A. Mairs. Mairs & Shaw Publishing ( $18.95 (paperback), 186 pages.
Using anecdotes, personal experiences, and perspectives of numerous development experts, authors and soccer coaches Shaw and Mairs provide the reader with a clear and compelling breakdown of critical issues involved with youth development.
They challenge what they see as conventional thinking in youth soccer that causes negative experiences during formative years and drives 70 to 80 percent of young players to quit the sport before they have had the opportunity to unlock their true potential. Shaw and Mairs explain how coaches and parents can positively influence young players’ involvement. They demonstrate how to ignite passion for the sport and provide young players with the tools needed for long-term success.
Recently ranked as the number-one best-selling soccer book on, this book is for coaches and parents aiming to enhance the player experiences and abilities at the recreational, travel, and elite levels.

Pastimes: The Context of Contemporary Leisure, 5th Edition by Ruth V. Russell. Sagamore Publishing ( $79.95 (paperback), 336 pages.
Published in 1996, Pastimes introduced a text that explored leisure and recreation philosophy and science, the various sub-fields, and the leisure services industry. This edition is the result of what the author has learned from years of engagement with leisure theory, research, and personal and professional practice.
Ruth V. Russell is professor emeritus in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Studies at Indiana University. She is a former trustee of the National Recreation and Park Association and has served as president of the Society of Park and Recreation Educators.