Notable News

June 1, 2015, Department, by NRPA

- In late April, Arkansas resident Susie Clark discovered a 3.69 carat diamond in the search field of Crater of Diamonds State Park in Murfreesboro, Arkansas. Clark named the pinto-bean sized diamond the Hallelujah Diamond because of the prayer she said before she went looking for a diamond. Out of the 122 diamonds found at Crater of Diamonds so far this year, the Hallelujah Diamond is the largest. According to Park Interpreter Waymon Cox, weather conditions are currently ideal to locate a diamond in the park.

- The park and recreation field mourns the loss of Dave Rodda, who passed away April 3rd in Long Beach, California. Rodda dedicated 45 years to the youth of the City of Lakewood, California, before retiring in 2002 as the director of Recreation and Community Services Department. During his time as director, Rodda saw more than $16 million spent on new facilities and capital improvements, such as the revitalization of Mayfair Park, the Lisa Fernandez Softball Field and West San Gabriel River Parkway nature trail. Rodda was a champion for gender equality in sports long before there were state requirements to let girls participate and might be remembered most for his coaching of female track and field athletes. He coached 12 Olympic athletes and was an assistant coach for women’s track and field for the 1980 and 1988 U.S. Olympic teams. He was also a coach at his alma mater Cal State Long Beach. In 1996, Rodda earned the title of Master Coach — the highest recognition in coaching given by USA Track and Field. 

- After six years of planning and nine months of building, the city of Palo Alto, California, has opened one of the few parks in the nation that offers all-inclusive features to accommodate children and parents of all abilities. Opened April 18, the Magical Bridge Playground includes giant slides, a jungle gym, musical instruments, swings and a custom playhouse. All of the surfaces are completely flat, and are made from rubbery, spongy soft materials. The playground was dreamed up by Palo Alto resident Olenka Villarreal after recognizing that her special-needs child could not comfortably navigate and play in any of the 34 playgrounds in her community. After speaking with the city of Palo Alto, Villarreal was approved for a space and ultimately raised $4 million for the park.

- On May 19, the White House unveiled a plan aimed at stopping the rapid decline in bee and butterfly populations. Pollinators are responsible for $15 billion in agricultural value each year and their disappearance has become a major concern for farmers. The White House’s plan aims to reduce the death rate of honey bees while stimulating the growth of monarchs by restoring 7 million acres of federal and private land for the insects to use as a habitat. To save the bees, the White House said it will make sure that the government’s landscaping plans, methods of restoring forests after fires and other land management actions keep the insect’s health in mind. President Obama’s budget for the 2016 fiscal year asks for about $82.5 million for the effort, an increase of almost $34 million from last year’s budget.

- North Las Vegas officials are starting more than $2 million worth of construction on a new park at Kiel Ranch Historic Park. The site is part of an original 240-acre homestead that was settled in the mid-1800s by Conrad Kiel. The land is home to Nevada’s oldest building—an adobe structure dating back to the 1800s. The area also served as a settlement for Mormon missionaries and a dude ranch for people seeking a fast and easy method of divorce. Talks of creating a public park have been ongoing for years, but nothing has happened until now. The new park will feature a new visitor’s area, along with preserved historical sites. Construction will happen in four phases, with the first phase set to be completed within a year.

- The Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks recently implemented a new initiative to construct 50 small parks in underserved areas of the city. Combined, these new parks only cover 25 acres of ground; however, the density of the city makes this is the largest urban park expansion anywhere in the country. So far, the 50 Parks Initiative has completed 31 of these tiny parks, with six currently under construction and 17 more sites slated for development. Los Angeles is also planning to revitalize and rehabilitate the Los Angeles River. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently began to remove the 11-mile concrete channel and soon in its place will be sloping green terraces, natural wetlands, café’s and bike paths.

- The city of Milwaukee recently launched a plan to turn 12 of the city’s most deteriorated playgrounds into innovative play spaces. Spearheaded by Milwaukee Common Council Pres. Michael J. Murphy, the initiative for improved parks will help the city combat growing obesity rates and a lack of healthy and safe outdoor play options for kids. A key component of MKE Plays is involving neighborhood residents and students in the planning and eventual building of the parks. The estimated $1.9 million initiative is already under way with expected completion in 2018.

- Jacksonville, Florida Mayor Alvin Brown recently announced the expansion of the Rec ‘N Roll program for inner-city youth. Starting in June, the eight-week summer program—which places coaches and retired coaches in urban parks for guidance—will expand from 10 parks to 18 parks. The Rec ‘N Roll initiative helps youth in some of Jacksonville’s higher-crime neighborhoods participate in safe and productive recreation during their summer break. During the program’s inaugural year in 2014, more than 350 youth regularly participated at 10 parks.