Ron Donahue, a dedicated leader in the field of parks and recreation, died of leukemia June 14 at age 80. Born May 9, 1934, Donahue attended Freemont High School where he was inducted into Freemont’s football and basketball Hall of Fame. In 1956 he graduated cum laude from Midland University with a degree in Business Administration and won the Wall Street Journal Award for top business student, in addition to being awarded 13 letters in football, basketball, tennis and track. After college he served as a Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps and was an Aviation Ordinance Officer and Special Weapons Courier for the 1st Marine Air Wing in Iwakuni, Japan, serving with honors from 1955 to 1959. From 1962 to 1967, Donahue served as superintendent of parks for the City of Fremont, and in 1968 graduated with honors from Michigan State University with a master’s degree in resource management. He became the parks and recreation director for the City of Southfield, Michigan, and served on the Governors Committee for Recreation Standards. Donahue later became park superintendent for the City of Boulder in June 1969 — under his purview, Boulder saw the number of city parks increase from 14 to 56. His other achievements included employment as resource manager with Open Space until 1984; working with NRPA to produce the first test for registered park and recreation professionals; serving on NRPA’s Board of Directors for six years; and serving as NRPA’s national treasurer for two years. His awards included the CPRS Dedicated Service Award in 1977; CPRS Fellow Award in 1978; Midwest Appreciation Award in 1982; Midland University’s Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award in 1993; American Park and Recreation Association’s National Meritorious Service Award in 1987; and the National Distinguished Fellow Award in 1991, NRPA’s highest award.
Karon Badalamenti, a principal with GreenPlay, LLC, died June 9 following her battle with cancer. Badalamenti joined GreenPlay in 2004, and throughout her career led many successful consultation, planning and analysis projects across the country. She was also served a crucial role in the development of the Pyramid Methodology for determining cost recovery and in the improvement of the Public Sector Services Assessment for determining an agency’s core services and focus areas. Before she worked for GreenPlay, Badalamenti was the assistant director of leisure services in Commerce City, Colorado, spending the earlier part of her career working in the Foothills Parks and Recreation District in Colorado and volunteering for the Colorado Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA). Badalamenti was also an NRPA representative for the Midwest region for many years. She received the CPRA President’s Award and CPRA Outstanding Service Award in the 1990’s for her work, and was one of the first individuals in the country to achieve Certified Parks and Recreation Executive (CPRE)standing.
Robert L. “Bob” Harbin, CPRP, who worked with the Broward County Parks and Recreation Division (BCPRD) in Florida for more than 25 years, died June 11 following a lengthy illness. After graduating from Georgia Southern University in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in administrative recreation, Harbin joined Broward County where he worked from 1977 to 1983. Harbin was an assistant division director for BCPRD from 1984 through 1991 and helped the agency win the 1990 National Gold Medal Award from the American Academy for Park and Recreation Administration. In 1992 he became division director and in 1996 helped his agency win accreditation by the Commission for the Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies, followed by reaccreditation in 2001 and 2006. Harbin also worked to ensure the division was instrumental in passing the 2000 Safe Parks and Land Preservation Bond Referendum, his proudest achievement. In 2007 he was named a fellow of the National Association of County Park and Recreation Officials (NACPRO), one of the organization’s highest individual distinctions. Harbin was further honored by the establishment of Robert L. “Bob” Harbin Appreciation Day, declared by a proclamation of the Broward County Board of County Commissioners December 8, 2009.
This year’s Special Olympics was extremely memorable for New Jersey participants, as the quadrennial event was held in their home state. The 2014 Special Olympics welcomed more than 3,500 athletes from across the nation to the Garden State, with many of the events held in Mercer County parks. Garnering particular excitement from this year’s athletes was the Special Olympics’ first triathlon, which consisted of a 250-meter swim in Mercer Lake, a 10-mile bike ride and a 5K run. Other events included golf, tennis, softball, baseball, cycling, soccer and volleyball. The Special Olympics hold extra meaning for local athletes, such as New Jersey resident William Donahue, who earned a gold medal in the 1,500-meter run despite previously being told by doctors that he might never be able to walk again. Another New Jersey resident, John Rosati, who won four medals during the events — three silver and one bronze — summed up his incredible experience in an interview with the Times of Trenton by saying, “I had the best time of my life.”
A new kind of bench is connecting technology to nature in several Boston-based parks. Dubbed “Soofas,” the benches look, for the most part, like any other bench, but with one unique feature: a solar powered charging station. The Soofas connect to Verizon’s wireless 4G LTE network and can charge up to two cell phones at a time. The benches also collect data on noise levels and the surrounding environment. Those individuals who visit the Soofa website will be able to see data on how much solar power the Soofas produce and how often the benches are being used. These tech-savvy seats were created by the three female co-founders of Changing Environment, described as a “spin-off of the Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.” Changing Environment is currently trying to bring Soofas to other cities in the United States. Says Changing Environment CEO and co-founder Sandra Richter, “We definitely see this as the first step of smart, urban furniture.”
In late June, a resolution that aims to fight childhood obesity and create healthy urban environments was unanimously passed at the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors. Subsequently, municipal leaders across the country showed their support of the initiative with new outdoor programs and public parks. The resolution urges Congress to reauthorize and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) with $90 million per year. To help struggling urban communities, the resolution also called for $25 million to be earmarked for the Urban Parks and Recreation Recovery Program. The resolution justifies request this by offering information about the beneficial effects of children having safe and ready access to open green spaces, including being more physically active and combating obesity. Those legislators in support of the resolution are hopeful that it will encourage more of the nation’s youth to get outside, get active and lead healthier lifestyles when there are more available areas and opportunities for them to do so.
Folks of Irish descent had a reason to celebrate in Bergen County, New Jersey, June 28, when the First Annual Bergen County Irish Festival was held in Overpeck County Park. The Council of Irish Associations and Organizations in Bergen County organized the festival, originally estimating that between 3,000 and 5,000 would attend. By the end of the day, it was estimated approximately 8,000 people made their way to the sizeable county park. Attractions at the festival included Irish dancing, bagpipes and banjo performances, a Gaelic football tournament, and food trucks serving traditional fare such as corned beef, cabbage and potatoes.
The Parks and Recreation Department in Amarillo, Texas, is focused on one thing from May to September, and that’s the senior population. Ellwood Park has become the place for Senior Socials, which happen once a month. JoAnn Robinson, who lives in a retirement community, says she gets “kind of bored just sitting in a room,” so the Senior Socials are a great way for the 30-45 people who attend to enjoy each other’s company, go outside, and be active. Rachel Cunningham, a member of the Amarillo Parks and Recreation Department, said Ellwood is “kind of our senior park now.” There’s an area with exercise equipment for senior fitness, and the Senior Social also hosts fun games such as bingo. Of the attendees Cunningham says, “They get here and they have a good time.” The Senior Social started in the summer of 2013 as a way to reach the elderly population in Amarillo, and has been widely enjoyed by the very social residents in area retirement communities.