How to Support Local Parks and Reap the Benefits
Life is getting back to normal, and we are settling back into our pre-COVID routines. We’re heading to the gym, going back to restaurants, and visiting museums. But why not add a new routine and support your local parks.
The first Saturday in July is National Hop-A-Park Day, and it’s a great reminder for you to visit different parks in your area. These parks provide many benefits and their natural beauty is only one of them.
Parks are essential to health, fitness
Physical health is an obvious benefit of parks. Going to the park is a way to simply get some fresh air, which is good for the lungs. But parks also offer plenty of open space to move around and get your heart rate up.
Those of us who have been stuck inside our homes for the past few months can head out to our local park, find an open space and explore. Walking, jogging or running provide great cardiovascular benefits. And if you’ve got children, be sure to bring them along. Parks are a great avenue for them to engage in play, have fun, and keep physically active.
Many parks provide playground equipment. You might think of the equipment as child’s play, but it’s a great way to revisit your childhood as well. Climb on those monkey bars and maybe have a pull-up contest to wake up those muscles.
Hanging out at a local park is good for mental health as well. Getting out for fresh air and increasing your heart rate can boost your sense of well-being, and meeting up with friends and family can also bring good feelings. According to the USDA, parks can bring mental health benefits such as stress reduction, better mental functioning, and improved mindfulness and creativity.
Many parks and recreation departments offer physical fitness and other programs. Some operate pools and offer swim lessons. Others offer sports leagues, outdoor recreation programs and environmental education programs. If you’re a dog lover, you can also visit a dog park, which can help keep you and your dogs physically active and healthy.
Parks bring economic health
When people consider moving to a new location, many look to see if their prospective living area is near a park. The National Recreation and Park Association says parks improve the local tax base and increase private property values when they are located near parks. The association also said parks and recreation services are often cited in surveys as an important factor in determining how livable communities are.
According to the association, community involvement in neighborhood parks can help bring lower levels of crime and vandalism. Access to parks and recreation opportunities has shown a strong link to reductions in crime and to reduced juvenile delinquency.
One of the parks' additional benefits to the community is that they are good for the environment. According to the Municipal Association of South Carolina parks provide a habitat for birds and animals. But that’s not all. They go on to say that a park’s mature tree canopy can cool rooftops, concrete roads and parking lots in a city. Trees can also help reduce pollutants caused by traffic and other sources, which improves air quality.
Hopefully people will continue to see the importance of supporting local parks. Volunteering for your local parks and recreation department is a great way to do that. Trash pickup is one volunteer activity. Cleaning the playground and other equipment is another. But you can also volunteer to staff various parks and recreation activities such as swim meets.
Another easy way to show support is to donate. According to the National Park Foundation, approximately 450 local philanthropic organizations across the country provide support to national parks and programs. Consider donating to one of those to help keep parks as a vital component of your neighborhood.
Santee Cooper manages various parks and trails, and Old Santee Canal Park recently celebrated its 30th anniversary in May. The celebration included guided walks and canoe trips, demonstrations and tours. The park is now back to normal operations, which means you have access to all the great things they have to offer. Visit www.oldsanteecanalpark.org today for more information.