Your Local Park Grows Community

charming young woman and senior woman in a wheelchair sit together in a park and have fun

July is Park and Recreation Month, and a great opportunity to revisit all the ways your local parks build strong, vibrant, and resilient communities. It’s also a good time to recognize more than 160,000 full-time park and recreation professionals and the hundreds of thousands of additional workers and volunteers who make sure our local, state, and community parks are a valued and valuable resource for everyone in our neighborhood.

So, how important are local parks to your community? Last year, 275 million people in the US visited a nearby park or recreation center. It’s easy to do because 75% of residents are within walking distance of a playground, park, center, or open public space. Plus, it’s important to people when relocating: 90% believe it’s an important governmental service and 84% actively look for them when choosing a place to live. And, if you are thinking about running for political office, you should know that 60% of voters say they are more likely to vote for a candidate who makes parks and recreation funding a priority.

Local parks and recreation centers provide many benefits.

Safe spaces. Playfields, parks, and community centers ensure everyone has a safe space to play, meet, and exercise away from busy streets or heavy commercial areas. Both formal and informal gathering places are available for families, social groups, and individuals regardless of age, economic status, or ability to pay.

Health and wellness. Centers can connect neighbors to supportive programs and services to improve health equity and outcomes. Up to 25% higher levels of physical activity for both adults and children are related to nearby parks and center access. Parks, in particular, can improve mental health since being in nature has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety.

Economic activity. Local parks and centers create approximately 1.3 million jobs and contribute about $218 billion in economic activity. They increase property values and help grow revenue for local businesses and governments. Moreover, availability of parks and recreation centers has been strongly linked to less crime and juvenile delinquency.

Environmental protection. Local park professionals manage 11 million acres and are on the front line in protecting the environment; they preserve wildlife habitats, plant trees, include native and climate-adaptable plants in their upkeep, and retrofit buildings. Parks can cool cities in the summertime and reduce the impact of storms by absorbing the water. The open spaces and trees improve the air quality, inhibit water pollution, and protect areas from over-development.

Parks and recreation centers boost the quality of life for everyone in the community. You can find a local resource by using the National Park and Recreation Service app. So, go visit one and discover all the ways you can bloom.