Notable News

April 1, 2015, Department, by Danielle Taylor

Stay up to date on what’s happening in parks and recreation with the latest news from around the field.Begin making plans now for youth participation in the international children and youth wildlife and nature art contest sponsored by the Wild Neighbours Society. The online contest kicks off May 1 in the United States. Begun almost 15 years ago, this innovative contest allows children and teens to create and submit a variety of art inspired by wildlife and nature, which is then grouped by category and posted in an online gallery for everyone to view. The contest encourages a variety of submissions of original art including drawings, paintings, writing, photography, videography and music. It is open to children and youths up to age 18. According to the Wild Neighbours Society, more than 600 entries last year were inspired by or created from park settings. Several park and recreation agencies held their own competitions and displayed kids’ work online or at their facilities. The Get to Know contest is a great way to get kids connected to nature and the outdoors, and the impact of kids creating art from scenes in nature lasts a lifetime. Click here for more information and instructions of how to get involved. 


In mid-March, the John S. and James L. Knight and William Penn Foundations announced nearly $11 million in grants to Philadelphia’s Fairmount Park Conservancy in support of efforts to reimagine the city’s public spaces. Funded by these grants, the Reimagining the Civic Commons initiative will revitalize and connect libraries, parks, trails, plazas and community centers with the aim of attracting and retaining talented workers to the region, advancing economic opportunity, boosting civic participation and leveling the playing field between affluent communities and those in need. 


The American Red Cross recently announced the designation of a new professional lifeguard certification for extreme shallow water and the launch of two new programs that are designed to increase safety at facilities employing lifeguards. The exclusive new Red Cross Aquatic Attraction Lifeguarding course trains lifeguards specifically guarding attractions in extreme shallow water, defined as 3 feet or less. This includes winding rivers, catch pools, slide runouts, water play areas and slide dispatch. The Red Cross is also launching a one-time Explorer package as part of its Aquatic Examiner Service (AES) program. This program, unique to the Red Cross, assists aquatics facilities in ensuring that they meet or exceed Red Cross lifeguarding standards and that the facility is prepared for emergencies. The program includes a comprehensive lifeguarding operations assessment, followed up by multiple unannounced site visits for additional observation, drills and training. The scaled-down Explorer package allows facilities to test the AES program with a one-time operational assessment. Additional details can be found by contacting a Red Cross Aquatics representative.


A botanist and urban ecologist has launched a Kickstarter campaign to transform Times Square into a pop-up forest, and her fundraising effort has already surpassed its goal. Marielle Anzelone proposes to install multiple shipping containers filled with trees, flowers and soil in the iconic New York intersection, which she also plans to augment with the sounds of birds and wildlife piped in from local green spaces. Anzelone’s stated goal for the project, which she has titled PopUP Forest: Times Square, is to draw attention to the thousands of unpaved acres in New York City that need help. The initial fundraising goal will go toward creating a design and a prototype in Brooklyn. The next step will be to secure sponsorship funding for the final project and approval from the Times Square Alliance board, and if all goes well, the final project will be installed for three weeks in June 2016.


In mid-March, a panel from the Idaho House of Representatives approved a proposal that would allow the state’s Department of Recreation and Parks to receive money from corporate sponsors. The proposal, which would allow sponsor logos to appear on informational signs or on a mobile app, would generate approximately $20,000 in the first year and up to $100,000 per year beyond that. The bill unanimously passed in the Senate a few weeks prior to its approval by the House panel, but it will likely undergo minor changes before it is considered by the full House.


In early March, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Chicago Park District announced a joint effort to build or refurbish 77 playgrounds throughout the city in 2015 through the Chicago Plays! program. This initiative was launched in spring 2013 with the goal of renewing 325 city playgrounds over five years. Mayor Emanuel also stated that the program is on track to hit its target a full year ahead of schedule. The total cost of the program is estimated at $37.5 million.


Marcell Dareus, a defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills NFL team, recently donated $100,000 to refurbish the hometown park where he learned his sport. Dareus, who played ball for the Wahouma Seminoles at Wahouma Park in Birmingham, Alabama, said his contribution to help fund the park’s revitalization is rooted in his desire to provide kids with motivations for success. “I want the kids who play here to know that they have the same opportunities to succeed as I did,” he said in a press release. “And what better way to do that than to give them a safe and clean environment in which to play?”


South Florida should soon get its own version of New York’s immensely popular High Line, as the company behind that iconic project has been tapped to create a similar one in Miami. James Corner Field Operations has been selected to transform a 10-mile stretch of land below the city's Metrorail into a linear park dubbed the “Miami Underline.” Construction is expected to begin in May 2016 and is anticipated to be completed five to six years later.

Danielle Taylor is the Executive Editor of Parks & Recreation magazine.