Briefly Noted

September 1, 2013, Department, by Derek Yost

Stay on top of the latest in parks and recreation with this listing of announcements from around the industry.The park and recreation community mourns the loss of Nathaniel Washington, former NRPA president and commissioner of the Philadelphia Department of Recreation, who passed away on June 1, his 84th birthday. Washington’s extensive career in recreation also included leadership positions at the Newark (New Jersey) Recreation and Parks Department and Fairleigh Dickinson University. As an active leader within NRPA, Washington served on the board of trustees from 1974–1982 and holds the distinction of being the association’s first minority president in 1980. He also was a founder of the National Recreation and Park Ethnic Minority Society and participated as a member of many other park and recreation-related associations and organizations. Notably, he also held a lifeguard certification until the age of 78. Recreation professionals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as across the country, will miss his enthusiasm and leadership in recreation throughout the greater Philadelphia area.

A park director in Pennsylvania has received accolades for his quick action that saved numerous lives during a shooting at a recent board supervisors’ meeting in Pennsylvania. At the August 5 meeting in Ross Township, a disgruntled citizen opened fire, fatally wounding three and injuring at least six others. The gunman retreated, and West End Open Space Commission Executive Director Bernie Kozen was attending to the injured when he saw the shooter return. Kozen tackled the shooter, subduing him until police arrived. The alleged shooter was reportedly upset that the township had taken legal action against him due to excessive refuse on his property.

From coast to coast, state parks are gearing up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of National Public Lands Day on Saturday, September 28, 2013. National Public Lands Day (NPLD) is the nation’s largest single-day volunteer effort for public lands. In 2012, about 175,000 volunteers worked at 2,206 sites in every state, the District of Columbia and in many U.S. territories. NPLD volunteers collected an estimated 23,000 pounds of invasive plants,  built and maintained 1,500 miles of trails, planted 100,000 trees, shrubs and other native plants, removed 500 tons of trash from trails and other places, and contributed $18 million through volunteer services to improve public lands across the country.

New evidence suggests the nation is finally turning the corner in the campaign against child obesity. Small but significant improvements in obesity rates of low-income preschoolers were counted in 18 states from 2008 to 2011, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden said on August 5. “This is the first report to show many states with declining rates of obesity in our youngest children after literally decades of rising rates….Although obesity remains epidemic, the tide has begun to turn for some kids in some states,” Frieden says. “While the changes are small, for the first time in a generation they are going in the right direction.”

A pregnant woman sitting on a New York City park bench was struck and killed by a falling tree on August 4. The Parks Department said Yingyi Li-Dikov, 30, was struck by the 50-foot-tall tree in Kissena Park in Queens when it snapped about eight feet from the ground. Residents say they hope this tragedy pushes the city to spend more money on park maintenance, although the parks department said the 70-year-old tree was in a section of the park that had last been inspected on June 20.

In mid-July, the Utah Supreme Court ruled that the state had a duty to protect 11-year-old Sam Ives from the bear that killed him in 2007 while his family was camping in American Fork Canyon. The ruling was similar to one a federal judge issued for the boy’s family, and against the U.S. Forest Service, in 2011. The federal judge also ordered the U.S. government to pay Ives’ heirs $1.9 million. The Utah Supreme Court ordered the case back to a lower court, where a civil trial may proceed.

A new watercraft named “The Warrior” is helping wounded soldiers at Fort Rucker, Alabama, enjoy the great outdoors once again. The new boat, which debuted in early July, helps wounded warriors and physically disabled people enjoy time on the water. Its features, including a ramp that allows a person in a wheelchair to directly roll onto the boat, make it easy for those dealing with a variety of physical impairments to enjoy the water. The boat can hold up to eight people and can be used for fishing and other types of water sports.

National wildlife refuges may get a new three-year lease on life under H.R. 1300, passed by the House on July 30. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Jon Runyan (R-NJ), said “In FY 2012, volunteers contributed 1,594,246 hours of work at the wildlife refuges across the country,” which is valued at more than $34 million. “With this annual authorized appropriation of just $2 million, we have received a value of return on investment of over 17 times. This kind of return on investment sets an example of how to effectively leverage a limited government investment.”

Five years after first being found in Wisconsin, the ash tree-killing invasive species known as the emerald ash borer has finally breached Watertown's borders. Emerald ash borer adults lay eggs on the bark of ash trees in the summer, and when the eggs hatch a few weeks later, the larvae burrow under the bark and eat the wood, destroying the tree and killing it within a few years. The DNR has placed Watertown under quarantine; the quarantine prohibits wood products from being moved out of the county to areas that are not infested. For businesses handling wood products that could carry the borer, it means that they must work with the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection to assure that their products are pest-free before shipping.

The University of Virginia Press released Public Nature, a diverse collection of essays, written by scholars, practitioners and public-land managers, in early July for a list price of $45. The book explores the role design has played in the public sphere of parks, and looks not only at noticeably planned landscapes such as Central Park but also at parks such as Yosemite with naturally occurring scenic qualities. The essays present design as encompassing not simply a park’s appearance, but also its functions and how it delivers a culturally significant experience to the visitors.