Notable News

January 1, 2016, Department, by NRPA

- On December 14, the Federal Aviation Administration rolled out a streamlined, web-based aircraft registration process for owners of small unmanned aircraft (UAS) — more commonly known as drones — weighing more than 0.55 pounds (250 grams) and less than 55 pounds (approx. 25 kilograms), including payloads such as onboard cameras. This move is in response to the growing number of reports of drones flying near jets and airports. Researchers say there have been at least 241 reports of close encounters between drones and manned aircraft that meet the government’s definition of a near midair collision, including 28 in which pilots maneuvered to get out of the way. Drones and model airplanes should not be flown higher than 400 feet or within 5 miles of an airport. Registration will cost $5 and must be renewed every three years, but the fee will be waived for the first 30 days, until January 20. Owners will have to mark the aircraft with their identification number that would let authorities track down owners if they violate the rules. Registration also provides the agency with a way to educate owners, many of whom are recreational fliers with very little aviation experience. Recreational fliers can register as many aircraft as they want on one registration number. Drone owners who are 13 and older will have to register on an FAA website and parents are expected to register for younger children. The FAA estimates that 1.6 million small unmanned aircraft were sold last year with the bulk of those sales occurring at Christmastime. Those who got drones before December 21 must register by February 19. Those who buy them later must register before their first outdoor flight. 


- Jennifer Schroder, Director of Parks and Community Services for the city of Kirkland, Washington, has announced her plans to retire. Schroder, who has worked in the field of parks and recreation for 35 years, officially retires on January 15. She is a Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP), has served as Kirkland’s Parks Director since 2004 and been an active member in state and national organizations. She served on NRPA’s Certification Committee in 2006-2007 and was a Board of Trustees member, representing the Pacific Northwest Region. She served as president of the Washington Recreation and Park Association (WRPA) in 2007 and in 2010 received the WRPA Honor Fellow Award, the state organization’s highest honor, recognizing an individual’s lifetime achievement in the field of parks and recreation. 


- The Ponchatoula Wellness Plaza, Phase I of a state-of-the-art, outdoor fitness area specializing in older adult health, opened this month in Kiwanis Park in Ponchatoula, Louisiana. The centerpiece of the Wellness Plaza is a jungle gym that includes 18 exercises to help adults improve their balance and build confidence, which in turn will prevent falls and hospital stays. The plaza also includes temperature-neutral benches, as well as a gazebo, to give Ponchatoula citizens age 50 and older the chance to visit and meet new people, and the facility will be lighted for nighttime use. Phase II of the plan includes the addition of what the project’s planner calls “Boomer equipment” (different types of exercise and stretching equipment) installed at intervals of about 500 feet along an existing walking path, which is now one of the city’s most heavily used recreation facilities. Phase III would include a second jungle gym for adults on the community center grounds to form a community center park. This is said to be the second installation of this type of fitness area in the nation. 


- On December 7, the Charleston, South Carolina, City Council passed a resolution to ban smoking in all city parks and playgrounds. Smoking now will be prohibited on all city playgrounds and parks, on the outdoor grounds of city community centers and the Sunrise Carriage Trail. If caught smoking in a city park, the individual will be given a verbal warning to put out the cigarette. If the individual refuses to extinguish the cigarette, he or she can be asked to leave the park. If they refuse to do so, the police may get involved and the person could face a trespassing charge. The ban, which will be phased in over the next year, will not take effect at individual parks and playgrounds until new signs to notify the public of the change are in place. 


- Vortex Aquatic Structures International’s Water Journey™ aquatic play solution was recently recognized with a Good Design Award by the Chicago Athenaeum. Water Journey is a collection of four different events — Labyrinth, Jet Dance, Race and Tide Pool — that are inspired by natural streams. Each event can be used separately or connected to provide unique play experiences, giving guests the ability to engage with different life-like stream behavior as water encounters creeks, flood plains, ripples and cascades. Click here for more information.