Sam Graft, one of New Mexico’s visionary parks professionals and former park and recreation director for the state, lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s April 29 at the age of 79. Graft’s parks career began following several years of service in the United States Army, with much of his tour based out of Fort Bliss, Texas. He earned his bachelor of science degree from Montana State University and his master’s at the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Graft served as the youth activities director at Holloman Air Force Base in Alamogordo, New Mexico, before moving in 1968 to Las Cruces to begin his tenure as that city’s park and recreation director. While in that position, Graft managed the design and construction of Young Park and the Maag Park sports complex, both beloved park installments enjoyed by the public to this day. In 1975, New Mexico Governor Jerry Apodaca appointed Graft to his cabinet as state park and recreation director. Following Apodaca’s term, Graft returned to Las Cruces to serve as director of community facilities until his retirement in 1998. Ten years later, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s. In 2001, Sonoma Ranch Partners; David and Vivian Steinborn; George and Yvonne Rawson; and Dale and Diane Schueller named and dedicated Sam Graft Park in Graft’s honor, which his loved ones described as “one of the highlights of his life.”
Brooklyn, New York’s Bushwick Inlet Park has received big accolades from the American Institute of Architects Committee on the Environment, winning a spot in the group’s Top 10 Green Projects list. In 2009, the parcel of land on the Williamsburg waterfront was a parking lot and former home of a gas plant, and was generally regarded as an urban eyesore. Perhaps worse, the area’s impervious surface sent stormwater runoff either directly into the city’s sewer system or rushing into the East River. As part of a comprehensive rezoning in 2005, the 6.2-acre waterfront parcel was set aside to become public space, and today boasts amenities like tidal pools, a soccer field and a community center. In a “green” effort to manage stormwater drainage, landscape architecture firm Starr Whitehouse and Kiss + Cathcart Architects built a 15,000-gallon cistern under the soccer field’s artificial turf to collect rainfall that is then used to irrigate the community center’s green roof. In bouts of heavy rain, the tidal pools will filter water before draining into the river. Bushwick Inlet Park opened to the public in October 2013 and is expected to draw large crowds during the summer months.
Dog lovers and dog-park advocates have a new ally in the recently formed National Dog Park Association (NDPA). “The growth in dog park popularity is almost mandating an organization to help people find answers to questions they have about a multitude of things regarding starting or maintaining a dog park,” says NDPA President Roseanne Conrad. NDPA’s stated goals include assisting and supporting developers, administrators and managers of existing and planned off-leash dog parks in their missions to provide safe, clean, exciting and healthy recreational parks for canines and their human companions. NDPA also will offer annual memberships in a variety of categories, and members will have the opportunity to serve on various committees, including membership, marketing, bylaws, standards and conferences/events. Conrad’s business, GPPInc., will manage NDPA as further plans for programs and benefits are developed. To keep abreast of the latest NDPA news, click here.
Lepidoptera fans, take note — July 19–27 marks National Moth Week (NMW), celebrating those intriguing, fragile insects that are drawn to our camp lanterns and porch lights throughout the spring and summer seasons. The observation highlights the beauty, life cycles and habitats of moths, encouraging “moth-ers” of all ages and abilities to learn about, observe and document moths in their backyards, parks and neighborhoods. This year’s event will pay special attention to the silk moth, which has seen a recent decline in population numbers. Nature lovers are encouraged to learn more about this diverse subspecies — about 2,300 species of silk moths exist worldwide — as well as host local “moth-ing” events. Such activities might include simply turning on an outdoor light at night to see what happens, or attempting to draw moths with UV lights, mercury vapor lights or sweet moth bait brushed on tree bark. For more information, including opportunities to register local events and find ideas for educational projects, click here.
Inmates at the Rutherford County Adult Detention Center in Eagleville, Tennessee, got a side of fresh air with their community service, as they recently helped to complete several facility upgrades at the nearby Eagleville City Park. Ten inmates spent a total of three weeks improving the park ahead of the spring season — the men built and stained a ramp for the park’s gazebo, framed the awning, cleaned out a fence row and removed dead trees, painted picnic tables and several handicapped parking spots, cleaned and painted the kitchen area, framed the doors to a storage shed and added fencing around a trash dumpster. Eagleville Mayor Sam Tune estimated the inmates’ work amounted to about $50,000 in labor costs. “If we had hired a professional crew, I don’t know if they could have done a better job,” Tune stated in an interview with the Murfreesboro Post.
Enterprising students at Reading Elementary School in Reading, Kansas, held a walk-a-thon fundraiser to purchase an Earth Day gift for the nearby Reading Park. The “Buck for a Bench” event included 90 students, who found sponsors to pledge money or who pledged themselves. Each class in which every student secured one sponsor for $1 was allowed to walk 15 minutes in the park; those that brought in more than $1 per student got to walk 30 minutes at the park; and students who raised $5 or more got an extra 15 minutes after the walk of free time on the playground. Students raked in almost $643 to purchase a new bench for the park — “We were going for $100 and we got [more than] $600,” stated sixth-grader Emily Gilbert, president of the school’s student council, which developed and instigated the fundraiser.