Friends of Hemming Park, a nonprofit organization was contracted by the City of Jacksonville in 2014 to manage Jacksonville’s oldest public park. Since our inception, we implemented placemaking projects and brought regular amenities and programming to the park. Although great things have happened in Hemming Park, the park has also had some recent challenges.
In my three years working at R.O.C.K. (Recreation Of City Kids) Programs with the City of San Jose, the opportunity to implement nature focused enrichment in our daily afterschool program had yet to come up until this past Fall. My supervisor informed me that my school site Majestic Way Elementary was chosen to pilot the Wildlife Explorers Program through the NRPA.
It’s hard to imagine that in nine months’ time, a vacant lot in the Dutch Kills area of Queens was transformed into a lively community garden to enjoy nature, promote healthy living, and engage local youth. Soon after being licensed and registered as a GreenThumb community garden, Windmill Community Garden’s development was set into high-gear with the help of the 2016 Disney Parks Build Community program.
As a graduate from art school, and someone who was previously known for avoiding bugs at all costs, I never imagined myself as a leader in the nature-based Wildlife Explorers program. However, my perception and willingness to engage with the natural world has dramatically changed since the beginning of my employment about two and a half years ago at the Carrie Murray Nature Center, under Baltimore City Recreation and Parks.
"Please send me kids that can share my garden with the community," prayed Dana Caley as she stood on the soil that had previously not been successful as a community garden. Quincy Teen REACH was the answer to her prayer--a partnership which resulted in at-risk kids becoming gardeners and Dana's harvest being more than vegetables.
Nestled in western Maryland is a nature park that is one of Frederick County’s true jewels. Catoctin Creek Park captures the imagination of visitors every day as guests enjoy not only historical elements in this one hundred and thirty-nine acre park, but also miles of trails and the County’s newest green energy efficient nature center.
We’ve all heard the statistics about the amount of “screen time” kids consume — around 7.5 hours per day, according to the Henry J. Kaiser Foundation. Ann Cejka, a creative and passionate program coordinator at Iowa’s Cedar Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, has found a way to capitalize on a familiar theme in popular movies, TV shows and video games and use it to get kids outside. The Zombie Survival Camp she runs has become the agency’s most popular day camp.
On April 18, 2015 over 100 volunteers and community members flocked to Belleville, Illinois to complete construction and dedicate a new nature-based play space! The new space, made possible by a grant from the American Water Charitable Foundation and NRPA as part of their Building Better Communities program, is a 25,000 square-foot nature-themed play area within the 27-acre Bellevue Park.
Eugene’s community garden program has child- and youth-oriented gardens in each of three community centers: Sheldon, River House, and Peterson Barn Park. Sheldon and River House are located in predominantly middle to upper middle class neighborhoods. Peterson Barn Park, however, is in Bethel, a low-income, ethnically diverse neighborhood with a large Latino population. There are about 200 children involved in gardening among the three sites.
Iowa City’s community garden program is located in Wetherby Park, a city park that serves neighborhoods in the southeastern end of the city. These neighborhoods are predominantly low income and multi-ethnic. The park is in the center of this area and is within walking distance for most residents.
Peoria’s youth gardening program is part of the city’s Park District. The youth gardens are located at two sites — the Proctor Recreation Center and the Logan Recreation Center. The latter is next to a private Lutheran K-8 school where the Park District also has a youth garden that operates in tandem with the Logan garden.