The park and recreation mourns the loss of Ray Ellerbrook, former director of the Northampton (Massachusetts) Recreation Department and longtime member of the New England Park Association. Ellerbrook, 65, passed away peacefully on September 18 following a 10-year battle with cancer. His professional recreation career started at the University of Massachusetts, where he excelled on both the basketball and baseball teams in the late 1960s. Following his graduation, he began working at the South End Community Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, before becoming director of recreation in nearby Easthampton. The bulk of his career was then spent as director of recreation in Northampton, where he worked for 27 years. Most recently, Ellerbrook served as executive director of Look Memorial Park from 2002 to 2012. The New England Park Association recently planted a tree in his honor at the park, where he was also recognized with a plaque mounted by the park’s board of trustees. NRPA joins the wider park and recreation community in recognizing Ellerbrook’s contributions to New England recreation and his life dedicated to parks and recreation for all.
In Wilmington, North Carolina, parks and recreation department staff are working with the police department and other city staff to ban gang members from city parks. The plan came about after a 4-year-old recently found a gun in one of Wilmington’s parks, prompting local officials to take action. If it passes, the ordinance will ban all known gang members from stepping foot on any city park or city-owned facility. The intention is to reduce both gang activity and recruitment of gang members.
The Houston Parks and Recreation Department has recovered $300,000 to restore damage to the city’s Woodland Park by a developer. In early June, construction crews working on a private development of townhomes adjacent to Woodland Park extensively damaged an acre of the park by removing trees and vegetation and harmfully grading the soil. HPARD plans to work with the Houston Parks Board to restore the park and expects the project will take six months to complete.
The Seattle Department of Parks and Recreation is working with Red Bull and pro skateboarder Torey Pudwill to build a skateable permanent art structure for the city. The design, which is being created by artist C.J. Rench, will be located in Seattle’s popular Jefferson Park and is intended to be a work of art that invites interaction and participation. The department plans to unveil the structure by late fall.
A tragic accident in San Francisco’s Holly Park led to the death of Christine Svanemyr on September 5, prompting an investigation and a review of San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department policies. Svanemyr, 35, was lying on the grass in San Francisco’s Holly Park with her 11-month-old daughter when a parks employee accidentally ran over her while driving a department truck. The driver of the truck was arrested several blacks away following the incident and stated to police that he did not realized that he had struck anyone. He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter and felony hit-and-run but has since posted bail and has been released.
Community members in Montclair, California, are establishing a community fruit park in Sunset Park, making it the second such park in California and the first of its kind in San Bernardino County. The nonprofit Incredible Edible Community Garden has worked with area residents as well as officials from Montclair and San Bernardino County to launch the program, expected to have about 30 trees planted by late October. Ultimately, the goal is to have fruit in season throughout the year, which will help alleviate the lack of fresh fruit in this southern California food desert.
A teenager died in early September at a Brooklyn, New York, park following a freak accident with his remote-controlled helicopter. Roman Pirozek, 19, was trying to perform a stunt with his helicopter at Calvert Vaux Park when the machine came directly at him, hitting him at high speed and slicing off the top of his head. A city council member has urged the parks department to put a moratorium on flying model aircraft until the investigation has been completed.
Standing Stone State Park in Hilham, Tennessee, hosted the National Rolley Hole Marbles Championship and Festival on September 14, drawing some of the country’s best players to the park in central Tennessee. The event, which was named after a traditional marbles game similar to croquet, offered tournaments in multiple different marbles games and attracted approximately 35 competitors from a wide range of ages. Standing Stone is the only state park with a marble yard, making it a unique attraction for the annual event, now in its 31st year.
The sixth biennial Mid AmericaTrails and Greenways (MATAG) Conference is coming to the Chicago Southland October 27–30 in Matteson, Illinois. MATAG brings together trail advocates from local, state and federal government agencies, citizens, nonprofit organizations, and business and industry leaders who have an interest in the development and management of trails, greenways and blueways across the Midwest region. More than 300 attendees are expected to participate in a variety of on- and offsite activities like exploring the local greenways, water trails and other non-motorized and motorized trails.
Alabama’s Lake Guntersville State Park and other parks in the region commemorated the 175th anniversary of the Trail of Tears by launching the "800-Miles History Treks on Trails" event on September 28. An early morning hike, trail blessing, drumming, symbolic walk, lunch and various presentations were held throughout the day. To continue recognizing the significance of this historic event, park staff are encouraging visitors to Alabama’s state and national parks to bike, hike and paddle the routes taken by the people from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw and Seminole nations when they were pressured in the 1830s to leave their homeland and settle elsewhere. Participants can earn commemorative keepsakes from the Trail of Tears Association by keeping a log of the distances they travel.
The Washington State Parks Boating Safety Program has partnered with the Seattle Seahawks NFL team to promote boater education and reduce accidents on the water. As an incentive for the program, boaters who take a boater safety class and earn a boater education card are entered to win prizes from the team, such as a VIP game package or autographed jersey. Beginning in 2014, the card will be required for all boaters born after January 1, 1955.
In Georgia, residents can take advantage of two unique loan programs to make trips to their local state park more affordable. Georgians with public library cards can borrow a Georgia State Park "ParkPass" and Historic Site Pass from their local libraries. The passes, which can be checked out for up to five days and come with a guide to state parks and historic sites, are good for free parking or admission at any of the 63 parks and historic sites statewide. The ParkPass exempts holders from paying the daily $5 parking fee at state parks, and the Historic Sites Family Pass exempts up to four visitors from admission fees to any state historic site in the state. Additionally, aspiring fishermen and women can borrow fishing poles and stocked tackle boxes from 25 participating locations. The program is funded through the Sportfish Restoration Program and provides the means for budding anglers to try fishing without having to invest in any equipment.
Central Florida’s Silver Springs Nature Theme Park has been shut down as a private attraction due to declines in ticket sales and increasing nitrate pollution, but it will reopen later this month as a state park. Previously, the attraction had featured exotic animals, a petting zoo, a carousel, a safari ride and glass-bottom boat tours. While plans for the park’s renovation haven’t been fully released, the state will thoroughly clean up the site and will make it accessible as part of the adjacent Silver River State Park. The iconic glass-bottom boats, which have been operating since the late 1870s, will continue to run under the state’s management.
The president of American Atheists Inc., who was dismayed to find a Bible in his rented Georgia state park cabin earlier this year, has donated hundreds of atheist texts to parks across the state after a dispute with the governor. Following Ed Buckner’s complaint about finding the Bible in his cabin, the religious texts were removed but swiftly ordered to be returned by Governor Nathan Deal. Deal stated that any group is welcome to donate literature, so the atheist organization has provided books that they are asking to be placed alongside Bibles in state.