Parks & Recreation March 2022

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contentsmarch 2022


volume 57 | number 3 |

Improvements to Boston’s Moakley Park will include accommodating increased population pressure, responding to climate risk, and surfacing the support that these parks provide for public health, especially for members of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.


34 Parks Are Essential Public Health Infrastructure

Cheri Ruane, Julia Africa, Chuck Raymond, Gary Hilderbrand and Chris Reed

Learn how parks can serve as critical infrastructure to strengthen public health and safety.


Parks & Recreation

40 Blazing a Trail in Bristol, Connecticut

Nick Pitas and Sammie Powers

A mountain bike pump track is bringing new youth sports opportunities to Bristol, Connecticut.

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46 Evaluation Builds Park-Use Stories

J. Aaron Hipp, Ph.D., William Beam, Kat Deutsch and Christopher Dunstan

Park and recreation experts provide new park-use data on Catherine Street Park more than two years after its Parks Build Community revitalization.

WE COME BACK TO PLAY. Remember the moments that got your heart racing? Your imagination swirling? Your body moving? Our best moments—the moments that define our childhoods—begin in play. That’s why we always come back to it.

Watch our newest video and find inspiration for your play spaces at

©2021 Landscape Structures Inc. All rights reserved.


contents march


departments 12

10 Editor’s Letter Community Engagement Should Be Key to Park Design Vitisia Paynich

We Are Parks and Recreation To Relate: Indigenous Views on Native American Historical Events in Texas 12 See the Vision: Improved Way-Finding Access in Broward County Parks 13 Eastway Regional: Mecklenburg County’s First Regional Recreation Experience 14 Lisa and Douglas Goldman Tennis Center 15 Peaks to Plains: A Colorado Trail Experience 16 Member Benefit: NRPA Career Center 17


20 Advocacy Why Form Community Coalitions to Advance Legislative Priorities? Elvis Cordova

22 Health and Wellness Implementing Safe Zone Training to Create More Inclusive LGBTQ+ Spaces Hillary Roemersberger, CPRP, AFO

Research Making the Case for Parks and Recreation Kevin Roth


24 Equity . uilding a Framework for Equity Into Park Systems B .Terry Minarik, PLA, ASLA, and Brad Aldrich, PLA, LEED AP BD+C, ASLA

Park Pulse Parks and Recreation Provides Important Youth Sports Opportunities

26 Conservation Urban Nature and Intentionality: Elevating Urban Biodiversity and Equity Catherine L. Werner

50 Operations From Golf Course to Nature Study Area Elena Larsen


Perspectives Parks and Recreation Embodies Critical Infrastructure Kristine Stratton

28 Law Review

Park Essentials

Service Dog Beach Ban ADA Claim James C. Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D.

55 Advertiser Index 56 Park Bench The Bench Project Beth Romanowski

Parks & Recreation is printed using soy ink on at least 10 percent post-consumer recycled paper and is mailed in a wrap — only when required — that is plant based and certified compostable. If you are interested in helping us go even greener, email us at and ask to opt out of receiving the print magazine. Parks & Recreation is always available to read in an ezine format at


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Cover image: Photo courtesy of Bret Clancy

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Through intentional efforts, cities can determine priorities for creating new natural areas if the desired result is to provide more equitable access.

P E R S P E C T I V E S A M E S S A G E F R O M N R P A’ S L E A D E R S

Parks and Recreation Embodies Critical Infrastructure This month’s issue champions the idea of parks and recreation as critical infrastructure and of park and recreation professionals as essential to healthy and resilient communities. As the feature story, “Parks Are Essential Public Health Infrastructure,” on page 34, conveys, well-designed and placed parks protect our cities and towns. In fact, the first park ribbon cutting I attended as NRPA president was a perfect example of this. Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park, situated in the city of Atlanta, incorporated green stormwater infrastructure to reduce persistent flooding. On top of this, during the creation of the park, 7,000 tons of polluted soil were removed and replaced by healthy soil and park features important to the community. Another way that parks and recreation serve as critical infrastructure is evident during and after disasters — events that depend on people at the ready who can provide emergency shelter, disaster recovery and critical services. These catastrophes — from the destructive tornados that hit Kentucky and surrounding areas in December, to the tragic fires in Superior and Louisville, Colorado, on New Year’s Eve — reveal just how essential park and recreation professionals are. In Colorado, for example, the park and recreation agencies around these communities jumped in to provide multi-jurisdictional support for sheltering those impacted, executing mass damage assessments, navigating FEMA processes, and even spearheading snow removal. Park and recreation professionals are community heroes, and their departments and the spaces they manage are increasingly vital in the face of climate change and the extreme events that come with it. Another aspect of community life for which the park and recreation field is essential is youth programming and, in particular, youth sports. I have had the honor of serving alongside youth services and sport experts as part of the Return to Play Fund expert ad8

Parks & Recreation

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visory council, created by ESPN and Beyond Sport. The Return to Play Fund is designed to help close the gap in youth of color sports participation in North America and build pathways for positive futures. It is no small thing to be invited to participate in such an effort, rather it reflects a truth that we understand deeply — local parks and recreation is essential to equitable youth sports. After all, what is community infrastructure if not the spaces, programs and people who together create positive health, social, economic and environmental benefits to communities? That’s parks and recreation. The opportunity to serve on the expert advisory council provides a chance to share core aspects of NRPA’s Youth Sports Equity strategy, which is nested in our Equity in Practice program. Through a holistic approach of advocacy, education, research, field-based tools and infrastructure projects, we aim for systems-level change in communities across the country. Recognizing the political and budgetary pressures park and recreation agencies face, we are actively fundraising to offer programs, tools, training and grants that support park and recreation professionals as you work to ensure that all youth have the opportunity, motivation and access to play sports. A fantastic example of this is the new mountain bike pump track in Bristol, Connecticut, highlighted in the feature article, “Blazing a Trail in Bristol, Connecticut,” on page 40. Thanks to funding from NRPA’s Youth Sports and Play Grant, this new bike pump track is bringing more inclusive and diverse sport opportunities to Bristol’s residents. Parks and recreation as critical community infrastructure is a multi-faceted, complex and essential truth.


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NRPA’S MISSION: To advance parks, recreation and environmental conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people. EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE Chair of the Board of Directors Carolyn McKnight-Fredd, CPRP Eagle Methods Management Consulting Dallas, Texas

Treasurer Xavier D. Urrutia Alamo Colleges District San Antonio, Texas

President and CEO Kristine Stratton, Ex Officio National Recreation and Park Association Ashburn, Virginia

BOARD OF DIRECTORS Michael Abbaté, FASLA, LEED AP Abbaté Designs Portland, Oregon

Kathy Abbott Boston Harbor Now Boston, Massachusetts

Jesús Aguirre, CPRE

Carolyn McKnight-Fredd, CPRP

City of Bristol Parks and Recreation Bristol, Connecticut

Arnold L. Randall Forest Preserve District of Cook County Chicago, Illinois

Nonet T. Sykes Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. Atlanta, Georgia

Xavier D. Urrutia Alamo Colleges District San Antonio, Texas

City of Las Vegas Parks and Recreation Las Vegas, Nevada

Philip Wu, M.D. (Retired) Kaiser Permanente Northwest Region Portland, Oregon

Lexington, South Carolina

North Portland, Oregon

Anne S. Close

Jose Felix Diaz

James H. Evans

Angelou Ezeilo Greening Youth Foundation Atlanta, Georgia 860.531.2391

Greg A. Weitzel, M.S., CPRP

Rebecca Armstrong

Dover, Kohl & Partners Town Planning South Miami, Florida

Unique structures for all ages and abilities, designed with quality and safety in mind. Partner with our experienced playground professionals from planning through installation.

Richland County Recreation Commission Columbia, South Carolina

LIFE TRUSTEES Beverly D. Chrisman

Victor Dover

Play is essential. NetPlay USA makes it fun.

Lakita Watson, CPRP

Seattle Parks and Recreation Seattle, Washington

Ballard Partners Miami, Florida


Earthjustice Boulder, Colorado

Joshua Medeiros, Ed.D., CPRE

Abbaté Designs Portland, Oregon


Mollie Marsh-Heine

City of Bristol Parks and Recreation Bristol, Connecticut

At Large Mike Abbaté, FASLA, LEED AP

Adventure Courses

Joanna Lombard

Eagle Methods Management Consulting Dallas, Texas

Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. Atlanta, Georgia

Swings + Nests

University of Miami School of Architecture; Miller School of Medicine Department of Public Health Sciences Miami, Florida

Secretary Joshua Medeiros, Ed.D., CPRE

At Large Nonet T. Sykes


Fort Mill, South Carolina New York, New York

Rosemary Hall Evans Sugar Hill, New Hampshire


Post a Job on the NRPA Career Center

Earl T. Groves Gastonia, North Carolina

Charles E. Hartsoe, Ph.D. Richmond, Virginia

Richard Gulley

Harry G. Haskell, Jr.

San Diego Parks and Recreation San Diego, California

Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania

Kathryn A. Porter

Monica Hobbs Vinluan

Mendham, New Jersey

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Ashburn, Virginia

Perry J. Segura

Susie Kuruvilla

R. Dean Tice

Gurnee Park District Gurnee, Illinois

Round Hill, Virginia

New Iberia, Louisiana

Eugene A. Young, CPRP Baton Rouge, Louisiana

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Parks & Recreation



Community Engagement Should Be Key to Park Design Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” I would imagine those words resonate with most — if not all — park and recreation professionals. As stewards of the land and champions for public health and well-being, you have the power to create a world that is more equitable, inclusive and resilient. And you do that one community at a time. How do you begin? By engaging your community members and asking them what they envision for their neighborhood park. This month, we take a closer look at park design with the cover story, “Parks Are Essential Public Health Infrastructure,” on page 34. Contributors Cheri Ruane, Julia Africa, Chuck Raymond, Gary Hilderbrand and Chris Reed highlight the role the park and recreation field can play in strengthening public health and safety through intentional park design, especially in underserved neighborhoods. “Recent research suggests that 92 percent of low-income blocks in the United States have less tree cover and hotter average temperatures than high-income blocks; these figures are not accidental but rather an artifact of structural racism and stark wealth inequality,” they write. What’s more, the contributors point out, “we…must bring to bear the full measure of the role that the profession plays and turn resolutely toward planning an even healthier and more equitable future.” Sometimes, residents are the ones who first recognize a gap in their own communities, and therefore, directly engage their park and recreation department, as illustrated in the feature article, “Blazing a Trail in Bristol, Connecticut,” on page 40. Authors Nick Pitas and Sammie Powers take a closer look at the city’s new mountain bike pump track, which aims to offer more youth sports opportunities. “We believe everyone has a right to access high-quality parks and recreation, and we never want cost to be a barrier,” explains Dr. Josh Medeiros, superintendent of Bristol Parks, Recreation, Youth and Community Services (BPRYCS). To overcome this obstacle, he and BPRYCS have created the “All Heart Gear Shop,” in which young community members can borrow mountain bike equipment free of charge. Lastly, in the feature article, “Evaluation Builds Park-Use Stories,” on page 46, contributors Aaron Hipp, William Beam, Kat Deutsch and Christopher Dunstan share new data on park use at Catherine Street Park, a two-acre park located in Baltimore. The park was renovated more than two years ago as a Parks Build Community project. Cities like Boston, Bristol and Baltimore are testaments to innovative park design supported by strong community engagement and a shared goal of being the change they wish to see in the world.

VITISIA “VI” PAYNICH Executive Editor Director, Print and Online Content


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MAGAZINE ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS Anthony-Paul Diaz, Chair Michael Abbaté, FASLA Neelay Bhatt Ryan Eaker Beau Fieldsend Kathleen Gibi Paul Gilbert, CPRP Tim Herd, CPRE Brian Johnson, CPSI Denise Johnson-Caldwell Roslyn Johnson, CPRP Michele Lemons Sam Mendelsohn Maria Nardi Lisa Paradis, CPRP Paula Sliefert Shonnda Smith, CPRP, AFO Ronnetta Spalding Anne-Marie Spencer Stephen Springs

Because one size doesn’t fit all, NRPA offers many ways to support the field of parks and recreation.

Choose the one(s) that best suits your situation: Online Giving is an easy click away. Monthly Giving enables you to be an anchor for NRPA during these times of volatility. Tribute Gifts honor someone special or celebrate an important occasion. Gifts of Appreciated Stock allow you to save on taxes while supporting parks and recreation. Gifts Through a Donor-Advised Fund are a great way to see the impact of your gift right away. Gifts from Your IRA may be a great way to avoid taxes on your withdrawal and meet your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD).

Give Today

WE ARE PARKS AND RECREATION To Relate: Indigenous Views on Native American Historical Events in Texas By Auva Saghafi


akwood Cemetery, founded in 1839, is the final resting place of many people who are considered the founders of Austin, Texas. Their stories are told from generation to generation and taught in schools, but in many cases, Native Americans are either left out of these stories or depicted in a negative light. Amy Heath, a member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and former employee at Oakwood Cemetery, did some investigating and created an exhibit, titled “To Relate: Indigenous Views on Native American Historical Events in Texas,” to help tell the other side of the story.


“As an enrolled member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma, these stories are my family history,” says Heath. “Even if no one reads the project, the information I learned about my own direct ancestors is worth the world to me.” A lot of Texas land that has been transformed into cities was first


Parks & Recreation

established by Native Americans. Austin was once inhabited by Indigenous American groups and was a central meeting spot across the state. The word “Texas” even comes from the Indigenous American word, meaning ally or friend. The stories of these Indigenous American groups are a big part of Texas’ history, yet they haven’t been properly told. By focusing on the Austin-specific stories, as well as the larger Native American history of Texas, in the exhibit, Heath and other exhibit creators hope that the descendants of these tribes will feel seen and understand their importance in history. They also want the Texas community to be able to connect with these stories. Visitors can view maps, showing the areas that were inhabited by Indigenous American groups. Some of these maps focus specifically on wellknown parks in Texas. Amy Heath, a member of the Caddo Nation of Oklahoma and former employee at Oakwood Cemetery, created an exhibit that tells the stories of Native Americans who first lived on the land now known as Austin, Texas.

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“By focusing on local city parks, I think that it makes it easier for the general public to relate to the history of the people who lived here before,” says Heath. Heath, who is a geospatial analyst, created these new maps to show the importance of looking at Texas’ historical events from an Indigenous American point of view, and how it has directly influenced life today. The patterns revealed by the maps portray what was important to the first peoples of Texas, which have had a direct influence on why people live where they do now. “Once I learned about the El Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail, which goes from Northwest Louisiana into Texas, through Austin, and down to Mexico City, it became this thread that tied the whole history of Texas together,” says Heath. Native American stories have been ignored in history, but it is important to show that these tribes still exist, and that each tribe has its own important history. By presenting their “To Relate” digital exhibit, Oakwood Cemetery Chapel and Heath hope to share the stories of Native American tribes indigenous to Texas, as well as those who were there because of American expansion. To view the exhibit, visit tinyurl. com/yhxsc5k4. Auva Saghafi is Exhibit Assistant at City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department (auva.saghafi@

See the Vision: Improved Way-Finding Access in Broward County Parks By Mary Palacios, CTRS, CPRP, and Michael Mills


hen visitors come to a Broward County park in South Florida, what do they hope to see, do and enjoy? Maybe they’re there to enjoy one of the many amenities, including horse stables, campgrounds, playgrounds, pavilions, natural areas and much more. Broward County’s park system, established in 1956, has grown to encompass almost 6,500 acres, with nearly 50 regional parks and nature centers, neighborhood parks and natural areas at various stages of development. Broward County Parks and Recreation Division is dedicated to making its facilities, programs and resources relevant, diverse, attractive and accessible.


Close your eyes and imagine needing to find your way to one of the amenities — to a restroom, campsite or social gathering place — or to physically distance while maneuvering through a crowded space on your way to a shelter, field or park office with limited or no vision. Broward County

Parks is the first county park and recreation system in the state of Florida to provide its patrons with Aira, a way-finding app that gives individuals who are blind or have low vision with real-time access to trained agents who can help them navigate through our parks. The service was introduced in

Broward County Parks is the first county park and recreation system in the state of Florida to provide its patrons with Aira, a way-finding app that gives individuals who are blind or have low vision with real-time access to trained agents who can help them navigate.

July 2021 through the parks division’s Special Populations Section, which regularly partners with local organizations that provide services to individuals who are blind or have low vision. Aira is another way to demonstrate the agency’s commitment to serving park visitors with disabilities of all kinds. Here’s how Aira works: The free app can be downloaded at aira. io/app. (Assistance is available by phone at 1.800.835.1934 or via email at Upon entering one of our parks, a patron engages the app, which connects them to an Aira agent, each of whom have extensive training in working with people who are blind or have low vision. The agent interacts with the patron in real time, providing up to 30 minutes of assistance per day to help locate specific facilities, read signage and provide general navigation. So far, the feedback from program participants has been positive and enthusiastic. With the addition of Aira, Broward County Parks can enhance the quality of life for park visitors who are blind or have low vision. Not only will they have greater independence, but also they’ll be safer and more aware of their surroundings, which will increase their enjoyment of the many experiences that our parks have to offer. Mary Palacios, CTRS, CPRP, is Special Populations Manager at Broward County Parks and Recreation (mpalacios@broward. org). Michael Mills is “The Parks Wordsmith” and has 20 years of experience in parks and recreation.

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Eastway Regional: Mecklenburg County’s First Regional Recreation Experience By Daniel Leatherman, CPRE



estled on 120 acres of parkland, a mere four miles from Charlotte (North Carolina) center city, is Eastway Regional — Mecklenburg County’s newest recreation center. The Eastway Regional buildout has been a part of discussions, planning, advocacy and construction for the past 20 years, with many stakeholders working toward a shared goal: creating cutting-edge recreation for the east side of town.


Parks & Recreation

The initial project buildout was funded in 1999 and 2004 via bond measures, focusing on self-led outdoor park amenities. In 2008, voters approved a park bond package that included buildout of indoor spaces at Eastway Regional, slated to be the second of four proposed locations. Local neighborhood groups were not satisfied with projected buildout timelines and advocated directly to elected officials and recreation leadership, leading Eastway Regional to become indoor recreation priority number one. Meanwhile, light rail public transit and urban buildout continued to boom in the neighborhood between 2008 and 2018, and Eastway Regional found itself at a threeway intersection between historic art district-turned-millennial hotspot

North Davidson (NoDa); predominately Black and Latino residential area Hidden Valley; and drastically ethnic-, cultural-, age- and incomediverse Plaza-Eastway neighborhoods. Nowhere else in Mecklenburg County does a 20-minute drive time service area capture a more diverse population of residents. During planning, the community prioritized regional amenities, including multiple gymnasiums, two indoor pools, fitness studios, a senior center, a nature center, a tech lab, and flexible multipurpose spaces. Operation of these spaces, while delayed initially due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and labor market restrictions, has been a roaring success with patrons raving over the design and functionality of the facility. Recently, with equity and access becoming dominant themes of a renewed community focus, questions naturally came up: What type of user, and from what area of the county (or beyond) is the facility serving? Does a regional recreation facility serve the neighborhood in which it was placed, or do the “haves” travel to the area to use amenities and programs that only Eastway Regional is Mecklenburg County’s newest recreation center.

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they can afford or access? The important conversation and recognition of who has access to and ultimately utilizes the typical regional recreation facility has come to the forefront. While we know users in Mecklenburg County are more likely to travel farther distances to access aquatic facilities, nature and senior centers (based on pre-opening data of other county facilities), Eastway Regional staff have been deliberate in marketing and providing requested services to the immediate surrounding community as well. Data from the third quarter of 2021 shows that 75 percent of facility users live within a 3.5-mile radius, indicating that this intentional dedication to inclusion for all abilities, financial means and ages has been successful. These usage trends are comparable with other traditional neighborhood recreation and senior facilities in the area and show how successfully a facility with regional draw can still serve the immediate surrounding community as well. Mecklenburg County staff are encouraged by the immediate success of such a wonderful public amenity and seek to continue expanding services and recreation opportunities via Northern Regional, another new recreation facility, which is anticipated to be available for public use by April/May of 2022. Daniel Leatherman, CPRE, is Recreation Manager at Eastway Regional for Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation (daniel.leatherman@

Lisa and Douglas Goldman Tennis Center A tennis complex in Golden Gate Park reaffirms a commitment to equity, youth development and democratizing the sport By Marc L’Italien, FAIA, DBIA, LEED AP


The GTC — designed by EHDD with early design input from Hammel, Green and Abrahamson — is integrated seamlessly within the physical landscape and programmatic rhythm of San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Park. The intentionally flexible complex was designed to support year-round youth and adult programming, as well as a variety of professional and community uses, all of which now activate the center on a daily basis. Programmatic upgrades to the complex included dramatically increasing play time by installing new court lighting and offering additional services through spaces, such as the new comprehensive tennis pro shop. “The real magic of the GTC, in terms of both its design and programming, is its unique ability to reach and properly serve a wide range of our San Francisco community — it’s both a neighborhood center and a destination complex, and that’s a huge credit to the teams who worked to bring it to life,” says Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. A strong example as to how the

GTC distinctly caters to the populations it serves can be found in the space designed for San Francisco Recreation and Parks’ Tennis and Learning Center (TLC) nonprofit — an out-of-school time program that promotes academic achievement, health and wellness, and socialemotional development through tennis. Operated out of GTC’s Koret Teaching and Learning Center, this portion of the GTC is an integral component of the center’s clubhouse, complete with its own entrance to solidify a sense of place and ownership for students. TLC serves elementary school children in four of San Francisco’s most highneed communities. The new space at GTC enabled TLC to launch a new middle school program, providing the capacity to increase the number of students who can be served by the organization’s programming by close to 60 percent. “As a result of the revitalization, the GTC’s profile has been significantly elevated within the community, drawing in thousands of new players,” says Martha Ehrenfeld, co-chair of Tennis Coalition SF, an integral component of the publicprivate partnership that brought


n the heart of one of the West Coast’s great urban parks sits a revitalized tennis complex that is capturing the attention of tennis players, pickleball enthusiasts, San Francisco youth and other community members alike. The Lisa and Douglas Goldman Tennis Center (GTC) meets the distinct programming needs of its diverse users who rely on the complex for everything from professional tournaments to casual matches, as well as youth learning programs, tennis camps, pickleball clinics, community fundraising events, birthday parties and more.

Community members play a match on the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Tennis Center’s sunken stadium-style court, the most visible court within the complex.

the GTC to fruition. The EHDD and HGA design teams, in close partnership with the city of San Francisco and local community members, have reimagined and reconfigured the GTC so that all its distinct populations can be satisfied, while creating a true cultural hub that allows future change and accommodations as these groups grow and evolve. The complex has brought new life and energy to Golden Gate Park, giving the entire community a new reason to explore all that it has to offer. Marc L’Italien, FAIA, DBIA, LEED AP, is Design Principal and Practice Leader at HGA (

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Peaks to Plains: A Colorado Trail Experience By Chris Barker


uring summer of 2016, Jefferson County (Colorado) Open Space (JCOS), through a partnership with Clear Creek County (Colorado) Open Space, opened the first segment of the Peaks to Plains (P2P) Trail in Clear Creek Canyon Park to visitors. This threemile segment of trail — two miles in Jefferson County and one mile in Clear Creek County — is a 10-foot-wide, Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible, stained-concrete surface, with 500 feet in elevation gain, six new or improved creek access points, an expanded trailhead, and three bridges across Clear Creek. Each bridge is equipped with overlooks, so that visitors can enjoy the view out over the water. The trail is multiuse and welcomes a variety of recreational activities, from cycling and walking to fishing and gold panning. ferred to as the Gateway Segment. The grant was part of GOCO’s first round of funding for its new Connect Initiative, with $10 million in grants awarded to close critical gaps in trail networks across the state. More than 80 percent of people in Colorado recreate on trails, so increasing connectivity has long been a top priority for the state’s residents.

Project Details JCOS started on the Gateway Segment of Clear Creek Canyon Park in 2018, with a contract for designing the east entrance of the canyon just outside of the City of Golden, Colorado. This 1.75-mile trail con-


In fall 2017, the final mile of the first segment of the P2P Trail opened, along with a developed recreation area and a new trailhead. The Big Easy trailhead and recreation area has a restroom, 54 parking spaces, fishing platforms over the water, picnic pavilions, a geology garden and a boardwalk in areas where vegetation needs to be protected. A new bridge also spans the creek, which connects to the Mayhem Gulch trailhead westward up the canyon. Around this same time, the Great Outdoors Colorado (GOCO) Board awarded a $2 million grant to JCOS to fund a new, 1.75-mile segment of the P2P Trail in Clear Creek Canyon Park, which was re-


Parks & Recreation

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nects with downtown Golden along Clear Creek and continues west to Tunnel 1 along U.S. Route 6. The two new trailheads — one at the entrance to the canyon and one near Tunnel 1 — feature more than 170 parking spaces, permanent restrooms and shade structures. The parking area at the Gateway Segment of Clear Creek Canyon Park has the added features of a bike repair station, a bike rack with a metal frame crafted from the parts of cars salvaged from the canyon during construction, and a drinking fountain that includes a ground-level fountain for four-legged recreational companions. This project also included the first suspension bridge in Jefferson County. This pedestrian-only crossing of Clear Creek near Tunnel 1 connects hikers with the restored historic wooden flume of the Welch Ditch on the south side of the creek. Improvements and repairs were made to almost 1.5 miles of the Welch Ditch Trail, including 0.5 miles of the historic wooden flume. The wooden flume was originally constructed to transport water from Clear Creek through Golden to points east, beyond South Table Mountain Park, to help with farmland irrigation. At its height, the ditch helped irrigate 4,000 acres and supplied water to Golden and Jefferson County for 130 years. Once the ditch was decommissioned in 2001, it became closed to visitors From atop the historic wooden flume, known as the Welch Ditch, one can see the rugged terrain of Clear Creek Canyon Park.

for safety, but has reopened to the public and transformed to a trail, following structural improvements and repairs to this historical feature. Much of the P2P Trail closely follows the rocky creek, and where possible, there has been an increase in sustainable water access, complete with improved rock staircases along the trail. The P2P Trail — and the Gateway Segment — honors the area’s mining history with materials and treatments like stained concrete, as well as weathered steel for the bridges and trail railings that are designed to help the trail blend in with the canyon. This segment combined the GOCO Connect grant scope of 1.25 miles and the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) funding of $850,650 for an additional 0.5 miles. In ad-

dition, Clear Creek County Open Space was awarded its CDOT TAP application request of $480,000 for the continuation of the P2P Trail further westward, following the alignment of the abandoned Colorado and Southern narrow gauge railway corridor. The vision for the P2P Trail is a 65-mile trail of statewide significance that will serve the 3 million residents of the Denver metro area. This project relies upon 11 partnerships that are central to the success of this effort. The goal is that the P2P Trail will one day connect the South Platte River Trail north of Denver in Adams County to the headwaters of Clear Creek at Loveland Pass on the Continental Divide. Once completed, it will connect four counties and seven cities, with a total elevation gain of more than 6,700 feet.

This legacy trail project will offer visitors a truly quintessential Colorado experience. That is why it was chosen by Colorado’s governor as one of the state’s 16 highest priority trail projects as part of the Colorado the Beautiful Initiative. Project complexities included steep canyon walls, narrow trail corridors, sensitive riparian areas, historic structures, access, impacts to visitors, and the Ute Ladies’ Tresses Orchid — a federally threatened species. Recognizing these significant design and construction challenges, the project received many awards in 2017, including the prestigious Honor Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies as one of the top 36 engineering projects in the country. Chris Barker is Communications Supervisor at Jefferson County Open Space (

Member Benefit: NRPA Career Center


t’s time to make a resolution to revamp your hiring process. It is also the perfect time to assess your agency’s team and find new employees to fill in the gaps. Hiring is a large obstacle to tackle; however, starting off right can make the process much easier. When park and recreation professionals want to land their next job or individuals want to break into the field, they turn to the NRPA Career Center. There are more than 33,000 searchable resumes, more than 20,000 monthly visitors, and more than 540 average views per job posting. Here are a few more reasons why NRPA members who are looking for qualified candidates should use the

NRPA Career Center: Free Internship/Seasonal Postings – Since you’re already thinking about summer hiring, why not post your open internship positions? NRPA members receive free internship and seasonal position packages. New User Discounts – NRPA wants to welcome first-time employers to the NRPA Career Center by giving you its biggest discount available: Get 50 percent off your first 30-day single job postings using the promo code HELLO50. Easily Manage Your Applications – After your job listing is posted, the next step is managing all the applications you’ve received. Stay organized by marking candidates

you are interested in and deleting applicants who don’t fit the position. Don’t forget to check out your job statistics to find actual numbers of views, applications, clicks to apply and job forwards. Job Posting Tips and Sample Descriptions – The Career Center offers employer resources to help your job posting stand out and attract top candidates. It also provides a summary of best practices for posting jobs online following government compliance. Create an employer account in the NRPA Career Center and gain access to qualified individuals waiting to make a difference at your agency today! Visit Careers for more information.

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RESEARCH Making the Case for Parks and Recreation By Kevin Roth


ou know your work is critical for a healthy, prosperous community, but it is likely that not everyone who has control over your agency’s destiny does. Hence, it is vital to consistently tell the park and recreation story with easy-to-understand and compelling facts and data.

NRPA has developed five statements that highlight how Parks and Recreation Is Essential ( Essential). Each statement is backed with multiple supporting proof points that paint the picture of how parks and recreation positively impacts the lives of millions of people every day. Each of these proof points is backed with data and insights culled from research developed by NRPA, other like-minded organizations and the academic community. Here are the five statements and their respective proof points: Parks and recreation promotes health and wellness. • People who live near parks are both physically and mentally healthier than those who do not. • Parks and recreation encourages physical activities by providing space for popular sports, hiking trails, swimming pools and many other activities designed to promote active lifestyles. • Parks and recreation is a leading provider of healthy meals, nutrition services and education. • Access to parks and other public open spaces promotes greater mental well-being. Park and recreation programming and education activities are critical to childhood development. • Parks and recreation is a leading 18

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provider of childcare and out-ofschool time programming. • Parks and recreation is a leader in youth sports, providing opportunities for children of all skills and abilities to play and introducing kids to a wide variety of sports activities. • Parks and recreation teaches kids about environmental responsibility, provides better cognitive and emotional stimulation, and promotes creativity and imagination. • Children who spend a significant amount of time in nature also experience better emotional stability and improved mental health. Parks and recreation drives economic opportunity. • Local park and recreation agencies’ expenditures support economic activity and job creation. • Employers and employees are more likely to locate near high-quality park and recreation amenities. • Parks and recreation boosts home values and property tax bases. • Parks and recreation is a leading source of first jobs for youth and young adults. Parks and recreation is everywhere, uniting people and strengthening communities. • There are more than 10,000 park and recreation agencies, providing parks, trails, and other pub-

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lic outdoor and indoor spaces in nearly every city, town and county across the United States. • Parks and recreation counters social isolation by connecting people with nature and each other. • The U.S. public strongly supports parks and recreation’s mission and funding. • U.S. adults want their political leaders to fully fund parks and recreation. Parks and recreation is essential and adaptable infrastructure that makes our communities resilient in the face of natural disasters and climate change. • Local park and recreation agencies collectively manage more than 11 million acres of open space across the United States. • Park and recreation agencies are on the forefront of their communities’ emergency response. • Climate-ready parks provide proven, cost-effective and sustainable environmental solutions. • People with access to parks and green spaces live longer, healthier lives. • The U.S. public wants parks and recreation to protect natural resources and mitigate the impact of climate change. Next month, we will highlight a new report that reviews the literature on the health and wellness benefits of parks and recreation. Kevin Roth is NRPA’s Vice President of Research, Evaluation and Technology (


Parks and Recreation Provides Important Youth Sports Opportunities Nearly all (98%) U.S. adults agree it is important to provide youth with equitable access to sports opportunities. These opportunities promote:

Increasing physical activity

Building friendships

Developing skills, like teamwork and respect

Millennials (86%) and parents (86%) are among those most likely to believe equitable access to sports opportunities for youth is extremely or very important. Park and recreation agencies provide a fun, safe place to play where kids feel like they belong.

Each month, through a poll of 1,000 U.S. residents focused on park and recreation issues, NRPA Park Pulse helps tell the park and recreation story. Questions span from the serious to the more lighthearted. The survey was conducted by Wakefield Research (

Visit for more information.


Champions for inclusive communities tend to use the term “community coalition” to mean a mutually beneficial relationship between individuals, governmental agencies, private-sector organizations and/or community-based organizations that seek to achieve common goals.

Why Form Community Coalitions to Advance Legislative Priorities? By Elvis Cordova


ith the congressional appropriations cycle underway (tinyurl. com/3dck9n3a), and in some areas the state appropriations cycles, it’s a good idea to keep in mind all the tools and resources that can assist you in reaching your legislative funding objectives. Say that you need federal funding for a new park along the river in your town, and you’ve decided to ask your local member of Congress for “Community Project Funding” (a modified version of congressional “earmark” funding, Your park, Silent Spring Park, is going to provide recreation and flood control. It’s also adjacent to a newly blossoming economic hub. In order to fund the park, you need to get your member of Congress to submit it as an earmark request for the fiscal year appropriations cycle. However, members of Congress have many competing priorities and a limited number of requests they are allowed to submit. How do you make sure they champion Silent Spring Park over all the other priorities in their district? This is where coalitions come in. Loosely speaking, a coalition is a group of people who all want the same goal — sometimes, for very different reasons. Champions for


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inclusive communities tend to use the term “community coalition” to mean a mutually beneficial relationship between individuals, governmental agencies, private-sector

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organizations and/or communitybased organizations that seek to achieve common goals. In our hypothetical scenario, what community coalition can we form to support Silent Spring Park’s earmark? Start by looking at who benefits. We’ve already mentioned recreation, which could benefit kids, adults, and even the local philosophy club that likes to meet in the park. Flood control may be important to the people who live, work and own property in the floodplain. The park also may serve as an additional draw to the new economic corridor that will benefit the new local stores and restaurants. But as any park and recreation professional knows, parks have many more benefits as well: increased property values are an asset

to homeowners, landlords and property developers; improvements in air quality help people with asthma; gorgeous views inspire local watercolor and photography clubs; birders will be drawn to the new habitat for wildlife; and much more.

Best Practices Here are three guiding principles for creating such a coalition: 1. Welcome all perspectives. It doesn’t matter why someone likes Silent Spring Park; it only matters that they support it. If they dislike Silent Spring Park, think about what you can change in your plan to accommodate their concerns. 2. Quantity is important. Talk to as many people as you can —

the list can be as vast as your imagination allows. Make sure that you speak to them on their terms. Remember, the point is to hear their input, so don’t tell them why they should like the park or why you like the park. Ask them what they think about the park and then listen. 3. Quality is important. Talk to as many different people as you can. The greater diversity in viewpoints you have, the better. Not only will it make your coalition stronger, but also it will make your project better. How many “great” ideas have been hatched that, in the end, negatively affected the people closest to the issue? Our nation’s history is littered with examples. Again, listen more than you speak.

Putting Your Work Into Practice It is vital to ensure your member of Congress hears from numerous constituents, so, ask constituents to write, email, call, meet with, and if need be, send a carrier pigeon to your representative’s office telling them about how much they want this earmark, and why. No one can guarantee that your earmark will prevail because of the work you did to form this community coalition, but you will be much better positioned for success. Additionally, the relationships that you make or strengthen during this exercise will serve you well in all your future endeavors. Elvis Cordova is NRPA’s Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy (

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Safe Zone trainings allow people to deepen their understanding of LGBTQ+ identities and issues and give participants tools to foster more inclusive spaces.

Implementing Safe Zone Training to Create More Inclusive LGBTQ+ Spaces By Hillary Roemersberger, CPRP, AFO


s park and recreation professionals, it is our duty to provide safe spaces and programming for all members of our community. While as a profession we have made strides in offering more inclusive spaces for the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community, there is still more work to be done. Research shows that lack of physical and social opportunities contributes to health issues among LGBTQ+ persons, positioning park and recreation agencies as leaders in the community that can offer inclusive spaces and program opportunities. As professionals, we commit to offering welcoming and safe environments for our program participants. Yet, agencies sometimes struggle to communicate that mission to the LGBTQ+ community. There are several steps an agency can take that have the potential to provide a large and lasting impact, ranging from more inclusive messaging on promotional materials and social media posts to facility improvements,


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such as gender neutral and/or unisex restrooms. However, before taking any of these steps, professionals need to understand what it truly means to be a safe space.

Cultivating Awareness and Allyship Enter the Safe Zone Project (the The Safe Zone Project is a free training resource for cultivating effective LGBTQ+

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awareness and allyship and should be a best practice used in park and recreation agencies. You may have seen a sticker or sign that says, “Safe Zone” or “Safe Zone Trained.” Most often, these indicate that the person displaying the sticker or sign has gone through a Safe Zone training and wants to communicate that they are open to talking about and being supportive of LGBTQ+ individuals and identities. However, sometimes, these are a simple form of communication that says, “I’m an ally!” Safe Zone trainings allow people to deepen their understanding of LGBTQ+ identities and issues and give participants tools to foster more inclusive spaces. Trainings give participants familiarity and comfort with vocabulary and inclusive practices,

an understanding of privilege, and can help participants identify ways their organization can be a safe and inclusive space for the community. Safe Zone trainings are designed with everyone in mind. While workshops will assist straight and cisgender people in learning how to be better allies, many LGBTQ+ participants enjoy having the opportunity to learn more about how to be better allies to those within the community and more about identities and systems they may not otherwise be aware of.

viding training to staff are great first steps to better promote inclusion. Being mindful of inclusive best practices for our LGBTQ+ community is a vital way for ensuring the benefits of

parks and recreation are realized by everyone we serve. Hillary Roemersberger, CPRP, AFO, is Director of Recreation Services at Apex Park and Recreation District (hillaryr@

Additional Resources Safe Zone trainings usually are offered through local schools and universities, as well as through local LGBTQ+ community outreach centers. There also are resources for trainings that can be done virtually or as workshops at conferences, such as the NRPA Annual Conference. The Safe Zone Project also offers self-guided online courses, so the possibilities are endless. With more than 25,000 educators in 100 countries, chances are there is a trainer near you. The Safe Zone Project also offers a free online facilitator training guide and training packet that can be downloaded and used within your organization. For some agencies, it may mean a day-long intensive training. For others, it’s a 45-minute vocabulary lesson. Regardless of how an agency chooses to tackle training, it’s a big step toward creating a more inclusive space for your community. Park and recreation agencies have a unique opportunity to directly impact the LGBTQ+ community in a positive and healthy way through a variety of physical activity and social interaction programs and offerings. Raising awareness among and pro-






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Open lines of dialogue with communities — particularly those that have historically been left out of conversations — often result in significant changes to a park’s design.

Building a Framework for Equity Into Park Systems By Terry Minarik, PLA, ASLA, and Brad Aldrich, PLA, LEED AP BD+C, ASLA


s communities across the country look at righting existing inequities in park investments and improvements, they face common challenges. Some of the toughest questions to address are how to fairly prioritize investments and how to ensure the park’s design or redesign ultimately advances equity. For decades, Confluence has been working with park departments to address issues of equity in park planning and design. While each park and community are different, there is a general framework that can facilitate the creation of a more equitable parks system.

Leveling the Playing Field Equitably allocating budgets means understanding the level of park service currently available throughout the entire community and directing dollars in a prioritized fashion 24

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to address areas of need. The first challenge is to create a fair system through which parks are assessed and evaluated. Through our work with the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, we were introduced to a robust 23-point system, which scores parks using community demographics and park characteristics. These scores help inform prioritization of investment. While theirs is one of the largest parks systems in the nation, this evaluation system offers a powerful model for

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supporting greater equity in park investments in other communities. Confluence has since adapted this model for use in other communities, including Bloomington, Minnesota, where we worked with the city on the Bloomington Park System Master Plan, framing how Bloomington Parks and Recreation could be successful in understanding and advancing racial and economic equity among its more than 90 highlydiverse parks. Tailoring the tools and information being analyzed and customizing the evaluation methodology allow us to achieve each community’s specific equity goals and metrics.

Rethinking Engagement Once a park has been identified for investment, the next step is ensuring

an equitable community engagement process. Successful engagement is about who you are seeking input from, where you are doing the outreach and who is doing the asking. There is an inherent connection between a designer’s or planner’s background, experiences and biases, and their produced work. Black professionals, Indigenous professionals and other professionals from various racial and ethnic backgrounds are still vastly underrepresented in the landscape architecture, planning and design field, which can create challenges for connecting and building trust with diverse communities. To ensure a project’s design is reflective of the needs and wants of the community it will serve, planning and design firms also should partner with local organizations

that are already deeply immersed in the local community. Meeting groups of different socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds where and how they are most comfortable is vital to this process. We have found a combination of both in-person, facilitated interactions at a variety of times to allow for different work and childcare schedules, alongside online engagement methodologies, is important for securing the broadest input. Open lines of dialogue with communities — particularly those that have historically been left out of conversations — often result in significant changes to a park’s design. For example, in the South Service Area of Minneapolis, the design shifted away from clustered sports diamonds in favor of multiuse

fields, recognizing changing demographics within certain neighborhoods had led to stronger needs for soccer and football facilities over the systems’ ubiquitous softball fields.

Keep Up the Good Work Cities must continue building and strengthening relationships with underrepresented populations while listening and responding to identified needs throughout the planning, design and implementation process. By incorporating ongoing dialogue and engagement as a key part of the process, cities and parks systems can ensure the creation of spaces that serve everyone’s needs. Terry Minarik, PLA, ASLA, is Principal/Shareholder at Confluence ( Brad Aldrich, PLA, LEED AP BD+C, ASLA, is Associate Principal at Confluence (

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Through intentional efforts, cities can determine priorities for creating new natural areas if the desired result is to provide more equitable access.

Urban Nature and Intentionality: Elevating Urban Biodiversity and Equity By Catherine L. Werner


oes where you live impact your ability to access nature? Should it? Research has shown providing connections between people and nature often translates to beneficial outcomes, like improved health and well-being.

A national nonprofit organization, The Trust For Public Land (TPL), conducts an annual ParkScore assessment to evaluate how well residents of the 100 largest U.S. cities can access green space, parks and trails (green space) within a 10-minute walk of their home. I’m proud of the efforts taken in St. Louis that have resulted in nearly 98 percent of our residents having access to green space, especially when the national average is merely 55 percent. Through intentional efforts, cities can determine priorities for creating 26

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new natural areas if the desired result is to provide more equitable access. TPL offers tools that can help urban planners apply an equity lens in this effort. With tools like these and the American Forests Tree Equity Score, cities are better able to target activities so that people of color and low-income communities can more readily access green spaces. Ensuring there is equitable access to nature appears to be a priority for many cities as they strive to improve the quality of life for their residents, including those who are most at risk or in need. Some cities are specifically

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attempting to redress the legacies of historic practices now understood as systemic racism, such as redlining. Tree-planting efforts, gardening programs and park additions can all help make it easier for urban dwellers to connect with nature on a regular basis. Purposefully utilizing green-space enhancements to benefit underserved populations living in urban areas experiencing blight, neglect or vacancy is an investment in both the social fabric and natural infrastructure of a city.

The Opportunity and Imperative of Urban Natural Resources Cities can offer much more than access to nature, or even equitable access to nature. Is it enough to re-

place a city parking lot with a lawn urban heat island effects impacting with partners, such as universities of fescue in an underserved part of vulnerable populations, as well as by and conservation agencies, cities the city? It might be sufficient to imconverting vacant land to green space can provide green spaces teaming prove a city’s ParkScore rating, but it that neighborhood residents have with purpose and benefits for people misses the opportunity to be a rich voiced as their preferred use. Green and creatures alike. The key is to and nature-full experience that exspaces rich in native species are more be intentional in space planning, poses residents to native plants and likely to attract birds and butterflies program design and delivery, so that animals. Urban biodiversity is an imthat will, in turn, delight and inspire those special connections between portant opportunity to bolster a city’s residents. Doesn’t everyone deserve to people and nature can be enjoyed ecological integrity and vibrancy. have access to high-quality, biodiverse at schools, churches and gathering Urban green spaces — whether green spaces? spots — especially in challenged in public spaces or private areas Beyond enhancements to neighborhoods. — often serve as important urban physical spaces, cities also can refugia for wildlife. These spaces With Intentionality, Urban center equity in efforts that result Conservation Practices Can also can serve ecological functions, in improved eco-literacy through Benefit People and Nature such as stormwater mitigation and programming. The key is to be Conservation partners in St. Louis carbon sequestration. What’s more, both race-conscious and specieshave been working to improve people can benefit from proximity to conscious in natural resource equitable access to high-quality nature biodiversity, such as opportunities for design and decision making. through urban monarch butterfly increased eco-literacy and awe when Catherine L. Werner is Sustainability Director for the City of Mod: January 2022 1:28 PM Print:Missouri 02/03/22 page 1 v2.5 gardening, tree planting to 21, mitigate they notice a bird or22_0310_Parks_Recreation_MAR flower. Working St. Louis, (




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In the case of Silva v. Lee County, Silva claimed he was unable to visit a public beach with his service dog because Lee County had banned all service animals from that beach in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Service Dog Beach Ban ADA Claim By James C. Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D.



Parks & Recreation

s illustrated by the case described herein, under certain circumstances, a federal court may dismiss a claim alleging a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as “moot” if the challenged governmental policy or practice has been terminated with no reasonable possibility that it will reoccur.

No Pets or Service Animals

In the case of Silva v. Lee County, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 197008 (M.D. Fla. 10/13/2021), Plaintiff Cesar Silva, a disabled military veteran living in Lee County, Florida, required the use of a service animal, an 8-year-old German Shepherd named Sophia. Silva claimed he was unable to visit a public beach with Sophia because Lee County had banned all service animals from that beach in violation of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213. Accordingly, Silva sued Lee County for violating Title II of the ADA.

Silva had multiple disabilities, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and required the use of a walker and cane to ambulate. Silva’s service dog, Sophia, helped Silva by picking up objects he dropped, alerting others when he required assistance, and acting as a barrier between him and large crowds. Sophia had “received over 1,500 hours of training in obedience, socialization, desensitization, public access training and advanced skill work” through Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs, Inc. In February 2021, Silva and So-

In response, Lee County filed a motion to dismiss Silva’s lawsuit. In so doing, Lee County argued its so-called “ban” on service animals was nothing more than a poorly worded sign that has since been removed. According to Lee County, the voluntary removal of the sign had effectively addressed any alleged violation of the ADA and, therefore, had “mooted” Silva’s lawsuit (i.e., no live dispute remained to provide jurisdiction for a federal court). Silva opposed the motion to dismiss because he believed there was

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still a live continuing controversy as to Lee County’s purported ban on service animals.

phia attempted to visit Bunche Beach, a public beach in Lee County. Silva claimed he was prevented from visiting Bunche Beach because Lee County had banned all pets and service animals from that beach. To prove the existence of this ban, Silva’s complaint cited: (1) a screenshot from Lee County’s website that provided information about Bunche Beach and stated, “Pets are not allowed at this park”; and (2) a picture of a sign Silva encountered on his visit. The sign at issue contained the words “NO PETS OR SERVICE ANIMALS” in large print on top. In smaller print immediately below, the sign stated: “This preserve provides habitat for wildlife protected by the Endangered Species Act.” The middle of the sign contained an interdictory circle, inside of which was a silhouette of a dog on a leash. Toward the bottom, the sign cited “Lee County Ordinance 18-12 as amended” and stated that according to “Architectural Barriers Act Standards § 1019.1 exceptions to the ADA exist where compliance is limited or precluded by federal law, including the Endangered Species Act (16 U.S.C. §§ 1531 et seq)” or other laws intended to “preserve threatened or endangered species.” On March 11, 2021, Silva brought this action against Lee County, alleging that its policy banning service dogs from Bunche Beach violated Title II of the ADA. About a month later, Lee County moved to dismiss the action as moot.

New Signage In support of the motion to dismiss, Lee County filed a declara-

tion from Alise Flanjack, deputy director for Lee County Parks and Recreation. Flanjack stated that the sign Silva photographed at Bunche Beach had been removed on February 18, 2021. As described by Flanjack, the original sign was erected because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “had designated all of the shoreline at Bunche Beach as a critical habitat for federally threatened species of birds.” As characterized by the federal district court, the sign seemed to recognize that “dogs ostensibly posed some kind of threat to these birds.” That being said, it remained unclear to the court “how the Architectural Barriers Act and the Endangered Species Act interfere with a person with a disability’s right to bring a service dog to a public beach”: The Architectural Barriers Act and its administrative standards were enacted “to insure whenever possible that physically handicapped persons will have ready access to, and use of, qualifying buildings.” 42 U.S.C. § 4152. While the Architectural Barriers Act Standards § 1019.1 exempts compliance if precluded by the Endangered Species Act, it is not clear how that statute relates to service dogs. In her declaration, Flanjack indicated Lee County had “ordered new signage with revised language” and installed it at Bunche Beach on March 17, 2021. A mockup of the “new signage” was attached to Flanjack’s declaration. The design for the new signage was very similar to the original sign Silva had photographed; i.e., a blue background with an interdictory

circle containing a silhouette of a dog. The language of the new sign, however, was much different. The top of the new sign now stated, “NO PETS ALLOWED,” without reference to service animals or the Endangered Species Act. Below the interdictory circle, the new sign contained the following language: In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), service dogs are permitted on any beach open to the public. A service dog is trained to do specific tasks directly related to the owner’s disability. Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not considered service animals under the ADA and, therefore, are not permitted. A service dog must remain under the owner’s control at all times. Any individual whose failure to maintain control of a dog results in disturbance to wildlife will be asked to leave the beach and may receive a citation.

The original sign was erected because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service “had designated all of the shoreline at Bunche Beach as a critical habitat for federally threatened species of birds.” At the bottom, the new sign again cited “Lee County Ordinance 18-12 as amended.” Besides the redesign, Flanjack also noted that Lee County Ordinance 18-12 exempted service animals from any prohibition on entering any public park, including Bunche Beach. In particular, Lee County

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In the opinion of the court, it was “doubtful whether the sign was intended to enforce any kind of coherent ‘policy’ against service dogs at Bunche Beach.”

Florida Ordinances No. 18-12, § 9.6(M) (2018) provided: “Service Animals are exempt from area restriction in accordance with federal and state law.” As a result, Lee County contended the sign Silva had photographed was “apparently contradicted by the same local law that it cited.” After Silva was notified of Lee County’s motion to dismiss, he returned to Bunche Beach and photographed a different sign that was “still posted on the property” and made it “appear as though not all animals are permitted at Bunche Beach.” This sign, however, merely stated, “NO PETS Allowed,” and contained an interdictory circle with a dog silhouette. The sign made no references to service ani30

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mals, the Endangered Species Act or Lee County ordinances.

Challenged Practice Terminated As noted by the federal district court, Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to deciding “cases” or “controversies.” U.S. Const. art. III, § 2. Further, the court found: “The doctrine of mootness derives directly from the case-or-controversy limitation because an action that is moot cannot be characterized as an active case or controversy.” Moreover, the court acknowledged that “a case is moot when the issues presented are no longer ‘live’ or the parties lack a legally cognizable interest in the outcome.”

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In determining the ongoing existence of a “live” controversy, the federal district court acknowledged that “mere voluntary cessation of a challenged practice does not render a case moot”: Otherwise, a party could moot a challenge to a practice simply by changing the practice during the course of a lawsuit, and then reinstate the practice as soon as the litigation was brought to a close. Voluntary cessation only moots a case if subsequent events made it absolutely clear that the allegedly wrongful behavior could not reasonably be expected to recur. Moreover, in cases where the defendant is a government actor, the federal district court noted that “there is a rebuttable presumption that the objectionable behavior will not recur,” but only after the government “has shown unambiguous termination of the complained of activity.” Accordingly, if the government can demonstrate termination of the complained of activity, the federal district court would dismiss as “moot” a lawsuit challenging a governmental policy, in the absence of “some reasonable basis to believe that the policy will be reinstated if the suit is terminated.” In determining whether a challenged conduct will reoccur, the federal district court would consider the following three factors before terminating a lawsuit as moot: (1) whether the termination of the offending conduct was unambiguous; (2) whether the change in government policy or conduct appears to be the result of substantial deliberation or is simply an attempt to manipulate jurisdiction; and (3) whether the government has consistently

applied a new policy or adhered to a new course of conduct. In addition to these three factors, the court also would consider “other relevant factors,” including “the timing and content of the cessation decision, and whether the challenged behavior was a continuing practice.”

Ordinance Exempted Service Dogs In this particular instance, Lee County had argued that “removal of the sign Silva photographed renders this case moot.” Moreover, Lee County maintained “the sign was never intended to conflict with the plain language of Ordinance 18-12 (cited in the sign), which exempts service dogs from the Ordinance’s general prohibition on dogs in public parks.” The federal district court found Lee County had effectively acknowledged “the original sign was flat-out wrong,” but noted Lee County’s contention that “any problems it may have caused are now moot because it was removed.” In response, Silva disagreed that the case was moot, claiming he had “encountered at least three signs prohibiting service animals during his first visit to Bunche Beach.” While this fact was not mentioned in his complaint, Silva argued his claim was not moot because Lee County had “not definitely confirmed” that all three signs were removed. In addition, Silva claimed he had returned to Bunche Beach after his lawyers told him Lee County “had removed the problematic sign and replaced it with a new sign.” On this second visit, Silva photographed a different sign that read, “NO PETS

Allowed,” without mentioning service animals. This other sign, according to Silva, made it appear that Lee County continued to ban service animals from Bunche Beach. The federal district court rejected Silva’s argument. In the opinion of the court, “Lee County’s removal and replacement of the offending sign (or signs) has mooted the case.” In reaching this conclusion, the court held Lee County, as a government defendant, was “entitled to a rebuttable presumption that its allegedly illegal behavior will not reoccur if it can demonstrate that it has unambiguously terminated the activity.” As noted by the court, Silva has alleged “the illegal behavior is Lee

County’s supposed policy of banning service animals from Bunche Beach.” The court, however, found it was “unclear whether such a policy ever truly existed.” In the opinion of the court, it was “doubtful whether the sign was intended to enforce any kind of coherent ‘policy’ against service dogs at Bunche Beach”: Lee County Ordinance 18-12, which is cited in the sign Silva photographed, exempts service animals from any prohibition on entering public parks like Bunche Beach. While the sign may have said, “NO PETS OR SERVICE ANIMALS,” that language was contradicted by the same legal authority cited in the sign.




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Under the circumstances of this case, the court found Silva had apparently “just encountered a poorly worded sign.”

Poorly Worded Sign Removed Under the circumstances of this case, the court found Silva had apparently “just encountered a poorly worded sign.” Moreover, regardless of “the intent behind the sign,” the federal district court noted the sworn declaration of Flanjack, Lee County’s deputy director of parks and recreation, which showed “the offending signage was removed, and new signage was installed at Bunche Beach on March 17, 2021.” While Silva had claimed to have 32

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seen three problematic signs upon his return to Bunche Beach, the federal district court noted Silva had not produced “any photographic evidence that any such signs remained.” On the contrary, the court found Silva had simply “photographed entirely different signs that did not specifically mention service animals.” In the opinion of the federal district court, Lee County’s redesign of the signage, as opposed to mere removal, was further “evidence that there was some delib-

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eration behind the County’s decision, at least enough deliberation to think about what the new sign should say.” Further, the court found “no reason to believe that Lee County’s ‘new’ policy is not being consistently applied.” That being said, it was “unclear” to the court “whether this policy is ‘new’ in the first place, considering the plain language of Lee County Ordinance 18-12.” As characterized by the court, “the new sign appears to reflect what Lee County’s policy has been all along (or at least since 2018 when Ordinance 18-12 was originally enacted).” Based on this evidence, the federal district court concluded “Lee County has shown unambiguous termination the complained-of activity” and, therefore, “Lee County is now entitled to a rebuttable presumption that its behavior will not reoccur.” In failing to rebut this presumption, the court noted Silva had merely “demonstrated that Lee County’s website and some other signs ban ‘pets’ from Bunche Beach.” In the opinion of the court, this apparent ban on pets was “not enough” to rebut the presumption that any alleged ban on service animals had been terminated.

Pets Not ADA “Service Animals” As cited by the federal district court, the ADA’s implementing regulations define “service animal” as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” 28 C.F.R. § 35.104. Other than dogs, the court acknowledged “no other an-

imal may be a service animal” and “the tasks which the service animal performs must be directly related to the individual’s disability.” In the opinion of the court, this narrow definition of service animals under the ADA and its regulations did not include “household pets” because “the crime deterrent effects of an animal’s presence and the provision of emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship do not constitute work or tasks” directly related to an individual’s disability: The ADA does not create unlimited license for disabled customers to enter facilities of public accommodation with their pets. An animal that simply provides comfort or reassurance

is equivalent to a household pet, and does not qualify as a service animal under the ADA. Having found pets were not service animals under the ADA’s regulations, the court concluded “Silva cannot refute Lee County’s presumption of non-reoccurrence with evidence that its website or some remaining signage bans pets from Bunche Beach”: Such a ban on pets would not violate the ADA. And the allegations in Silva’s own complaint make clear that Sophia is more than a pet. She has more than 1,500 hours of specialized training and performs tasks that are directly related to Silva’s multiple disabilities. A ban on pets plainly does not apply to her.

Conclusion Having found the alleged violation of the ADA had effectively been terminated and unlikely to reoccur, the federal district court granted Lee County’s motion to dismiss Silva’s ADA complaint as moot. SEE ALSO: ADA Claim to Allow Emotional Support Hog in Parks, James C. Kozlowski, Parks & Recreation, Oct. 2019, Vol. 53, Iss. 10 ( y4yx6s8f) and Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 35 - Nondiscrimination on The Basis of Disability in State and Local Government Services CFR § 35.136 SERVICE ANIMALS (tinyurl. com/3w3bm37z). James C. Kozlowski, J.D., Ph.D., is an Attorney and Associate Professor in the School of Sport, Recreation and Tourism Management at George Mason University ( Law review articles archive (1982 to present):

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Parks & Recreation


Parks Are Essential Public Health


INFRA STRUC TURE Improvements to Boston’s Moakley Park will include accommodating increased population pressure, responding to climate risk, and surfacing the support that these parks provide for public health, especially for members of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.


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Parks can serve as critical infrastructure to strengthen public health and safety By Cheri Ruane, Julia Africa, Chuck Raymond, Gary Hilderbrand and Chris Reed


f the past two years have taught us anything, it is that our parks and open spaces are essential to our health and well-being as a society. Not unlike the laurels due essential workers, the role of parks during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic should be celebrated, protected and ultimately leveraged to support public health. We must continue to evolve our thinking to include parks in public health strategy during the ongoing pandemic and in future times of crisis, rigorously maintain their ecologies for when these crises abate, and adapt planning and programming efforts to better accommodate urban populations — especially those that have been historically underserved.

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We live in a moment of risk, but also unparalleled opportunity to make bold moves toward equity and justice through our public parks. Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA), parks in qualifying census tracts, which include communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19, are eligible for funding to support healthy outdoor recreation while allowing physical distancing. For example, the Chesterfield, Virginia, Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to allocate $25 million — more than a third of the county’s $68.5 million in ARPA funding — for parks maintenance and enhancement ( mrxuf33w). The unprecedented investment in Chesterfield Parks and Recreation, which saw record usage last year in response to COVID-19 closings and physical distancing mandates, will enable the department to proceed more quickly than expected on new facilities in the


county’s most economically underserved and vulnerable areas. By allocating meaningful funding to both renovation and maintenance of parks, communities like Chesterfield are making great strides in efforts to adjust the use and care of these important spaces.

Improving Inequities Through Green Space Desiree Dickerson, a clinical psychologist in Spain who specializes in academic mental health and well-being, when speaking of the value of green space to society, states, “Back in the day, if we were isolated, we’d either be eaten or we’d starve. We are wired for social connection and belonging. And when those needs aren’t met, we see increased psychological distress, anxiety, depression and a raft of other health issues” (tinyurl. com/3fyn46a3). Communities that are considered most at risk in the current pan-

Recently, Boston conducted a comprehensive upgrade and modernization of the 4.5-acre Langone Park and Puopolo Playground, a signature waterfront park in the city’s historic North End. Parks & Recreation

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demic are often vulnerable to current and forecast effects of climate change. In September, the Columbia University Climate School released a report that provided eight specific recommendations for New York City to help underserved communities survive summer heat. Residents in substandard or poorly insulated housing without adequate cooling mechanisms, like air conditioning, may suffer from dehydration, aggravated cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, and disturbed sleep. Notably, the report recommended planting vegetation and expanding green spaces, such as those found in parks, in neighborhoods with high-heat vulnerability. This strategy would help cool urban neighborhoods in need of safe spaces to cool off while providing other additional short- and long-term health benefits (tinyurl. com/mrykc637). Many neighborhoods in the United States need interventions like these to improve inequities in health and well-being. The 2021 Parks and an Equitable Recovery report released by The Trust for Public Land ( estimates that nearly 100 million Americans — almost a full third of our population — don’t have a park close to their home where they can safely exercise outside, gather with friends and maintain their mental health. The pandemic has heightened our awareness of this disparity while the specter of heat spikes and floods from climate change make “tree equity” a life-or-death issue. Recent research suggests that 92 percent of low-income blocks in the United States have less tree cover and hotter average temperatures than high-income blocks; these figures are not accidental but rather an


Upgrades to Langone Park and Puopolo Playground will provide neighborhood residents with physically-distanced recreation opportunities and a stronger stance against the impacts of climate change.

artifact of structural racism and stark wealth inequality. In Boston, Frederick Law Olmsted’s legacy of the Emerald Necklace park system — a 1,100acre chain of six parks linked by parkways and waterways in Boston and Brookline, Massachusetts — is anything but ornamental. In times of peace, these iconic landscapes have played a central role in civic life: as cow pastures, premodern sewage treatment ecologies, performance venues, flood-retention basins, and stages for visiting dignitaries and historic movements. In times of strife, our parks have served as muster grounds for troops and protests; there also is the potential for them to play a role as field hospitals by absorbing overflow from hospitals and quarantine centers, as was the case in the past. Boston, like many U.S. cities, continues to reckon with the tangled legacies of discriminatory planning and lending practices,

which are visible in communities with high rates of COVID-19 and chronic disease. However, people who live and work here benefit from world-class hospitals, talented clinicians and pioneering pharmaceutical companies; it’s possible that the city’s Emerald Necklace of parks will one day be mentioned in the same breath. As our country struggles to contain and defeat this terrible virus, the role of parks as critical open space for respite and restoration is more important than ever, and landscape architects are well-positioned to lead the charge. We, therefore, must bring to bear the full measure of the role that the profession plays and turn resolutely toward planning an even healthier and more equitable future.

Waterfront Parks At the edge of our storied coastline, green space gives way to blue space, which is no less valued for its cultural, economic and recre-

ational merits. Waterfront parks serve as our first lines of defense by allowing us to retreat from, protect against and accommodate the environmental impacts of climate change. Well-designed and strategically placed parks at the land/water interface can mitigate wave action, protect against flooding, infiltrate stormwater, reduce the urban heat island effect, and protect our cities and towns. Not unlike their green cousins, blue parks along riverways and shorelines function as critical infrastructure on par with our water, sewer and electricity systems. In addition to funding parks to help alleviate the spread of COVID-19, ARPA also allows communities to be eligible for billions of dollars in federally-funded infrastructure assistance if they can demonstrate that their parks help mitigate climate change driven sea level rise and manage stormwater. Rather fortuitously, Boston is revising the master plans of its three

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Over the next century, infectious disease epidemics are projected to increase in severity and frequency given current trends in urbanization, globalization and greater consumption of animal products. Sea level rise and global warming will continue to endanger our coastal cities. One aspect of fostering resilience will involve developing

Cheri Ruane is Vice President of Weston & Sampson. Julia Africa is a Biophilic Design and Landscape Research Consultant. Chuck Raymond is Publications and Press Manager with Weston & Sampson. Gary Hilderbrand is Founding Principal of Reed Hilderbrand. Chris Reed is Founding Principal of Stoss Landscape Urbanism.

Langone Park is an active outdoor recreation haven for Boston’s most densely developed community and an important link within Boston’s Harborwalk.

largest and most significant parks — Boston Common, Franklin Park and Moakley Park. Objectives include accommodating increased population pressure, responding to climate risk, and — perhaps most importantly — surfacing the support that these parks provide for public health, especially for our most vulnerable and disadvantaged residents. Recently, the city also conducted a comprehensive upgrade and modernization of the 4.5-acre Langone Park and Puopolo Playground, a signature waterfront park in the city’s historic North End. The park is an active outdoor recreation haven for the city’s most densely developed community and an important link within Boston’s Harborwalk, a network of publicly accessible corridors that provide the interface between public and private properties and access to Boston Harbor. By taking advantage of the 38

Designing Parks for Health

flexible infrastructure to accommodate serious health challenges like the one we face today. When this moment has passed — as it will — envisioning public park systems that are more agile in supporting public health should become the norm. In times of relative health and peace, this includes designing and maintaining big parks and greenways with ample walking, biking and running trails that extend into all parts of the city — including historically underserved areas — and provide the simple, healthy pleasure of a long stroll or ride as an escape from the toils of everyday life (to paraphrase Olmsted). This also could include kiosks with sunscreen, sun hats, drinking water and insect repellent, along with digital billboards or text alerts that provide information about air quality and heat indices. We must embrace the opportunity to curate safe enjoyment of our legacy parks. Open space is essential public health infrastructure that warrants the protection and investment provided for our water, sewer and electricity infrastructure. We must embrace the opportunity to curate safe enjoyment of our legacy parks by adapting their usage guidelines to reflect the best available science of health, disease and disaster prevention. Now is the time to embrace bold thinking and take advantage of landscape architecture’s potential to transform American cities.

Parks & Recreation

outdoor recreational opportunities that the facility provides, combined with several engineered improvements to its ability to deflect and absorb the impacts of sea level rise, the neighborhood’s residents and many others will be able to benefit from a stronger stance against the impacts of climate change. At the same time, it also can be a resource for physically-distanced recreation for the current crisis and others that may follow.

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g n i z Bla l i a r aT t u c i t c e n n o C , l in Bristo

A mountain bike pump track brings new youth sports opportunities to the community By Nick Pitas and Sammie Powers, Ph.D.


t’s fair to say that Bristol, Connecticut, is a sports town. Not only is the city home to ESPN, but also it’s a great place for residents of all ages to roll up their sleeves and participate in a variety of recreational sports activities.


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Although the city of Bristol, Connecticut, is known as a sports town, some residents didn’t believe the city offered enough opportunities in the area of youth sports. PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N .O R G | M A R C H 2 02 2 |

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“Anything you can think of, you have a way to do it in Bristol,” says Dr. Josh Medeiros, superintendent of Bristol Parks, Recreation, Youth and Community Services (BPRYCS). “The city has a really strong youth sports program, including little league, youth football and cheer, soccer, basketball, tennis and more.” But to some residents, there was still a gap in the types of opportunities available for young people in the community — in particular, for youth less interested in tradi-

tional team sports. Concerned these youth might be left out of the youth sports equation, community members took action. This was the case for Brian Archibald, who alongside his friend, Mike Seery, founded the nonprofit known as Bike Bristol. “My sons started riding mountain bikes because the traditional ball sports weren’t really working for them, especially [for] my older son,” says Archibald. “Suddenly, he had a thing that was his. It became his place.” And as the Archibalds’ passion for mountain biking grew, they realized that the right facilities were lacking in Bristol. “Kids ride on the road, doing wheelies down the middle of the road. And we thought, ‘We’ve gotta get somewhere for these kids to go and do their stuff,’” notes Archibald. That’s why Archibald, Seery and other members of the community approached BPRYCS in 2018, with a proposal for a five-mile mountain biking loop through Bristol’s Rockwell Park. Situated on slightly more than 100 acres near the heart of downtown Bristol, Rockwell Park was a natural fit for the new facilities,

Mountain biking is helping to fill a youth sports gap in Bristol, Connecticut. 42

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especially given the focus on providing accessible opportunities to everyone in the community. “The department and the Parks Board loved the idea, [so] despite some obstacles, we said…let’s find a way to do it,” recalls Medeiros. With volunteers driving the action and BPRYCS providing technical expertise, the community constructed the five-mile wooded loop over the next year. After seeing the popularity of the loop, and with community support for establishing more biking opportunities in Bristol, BPRYCS and Bike Bristol kept momentum going with plans for a bike pump track located near the trail head in Rockwell Park. Unlike a traditional mountain bike trail, pump tracks are relatively short, and purposely designed to allow riders to navigate them without pedaling. Instead, riders generate and maintain their speed by “pumping” their bikes up and down a series of short, steeply sloped “rollers,” or hills. Again, Medeiros and BPRYCS were enthusiastic about the ideas coming to the table from Bike Bristol, especially as a means of getting younger community members involved in a new type of sport offering. However, finding the capital necessary for the pump track proved to be a challenge. Bike Bristol wasted no time, holding a fundraising event and building a network of connections with local businesses and community members eager to help build the new pump track. However, this flurry of activity was cut short by the onset of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Suddenly, it seemed like a project with significant community support and momentum was in jeopardy, just when people needed access to

high-quality outdoor recreation activities more than ever. Fortunately, an unexpected funding opportunity caught the attention of Medeiros and the BPYRCS team: NRPA’s Youth Sports and Play Grant. Supported by NRPA as part of the Walt Disney Company’s commitment to create healthier generations, the Youth Sports and Play Grant provides park and recreation professionals with resources, technical assistance and funding to implement park projects that increase equitable access to play. “My staff and I looked at it and said, ‘Woah, this would actually be the perfect fit to fund the bike pump track,’” remembers Medeiros. Bristol’s receipt of a Youth Sports and Play Grant funded 100 percent

of the pump track project. Just nine months later, in time for the busy summer season, the plans became reality and the pump track opened to the public in July 2021.

Impacting the Community and Shredding Barriers In more ways than one, the pump track is a gateway to the sport of mountain biking. For those who have never ridden a mountain bike on a trail before, especially younger riders, the pump track provides a venue to practice some of the basic skills. “It’s a great place to learn some of the handling skills [and] some of the balance skills that go into riding a bike safely [without] crashing or falling on rocks,” says Seery. Whereas tackling the wooded


A mountain biker pops a wheelie while riding Bristol’s new pump track in Rockwell Park.

loop may prove too difficult or too intimidating for younger riders, the pump track provides a low-stakes place to train and have fun. The pump track also is purposefully located at the start of the wooded trail loop, not only to entice new riders, but also to provide an opportunity for more experienced riders to warm up and refine some of the more advanced skills. “When you’re on a trail for five, six, 10 miles, it’s hard to get that type of repetition,” says Archibald. The pump track is designed to be a place to do just that, and for riders to connect with one another over a shared passion. Archibald is quick to point out that the pump track is a versatile and inclusive community asset for kids of all ages, and that while it was built

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and pump track in Rockwell Park helped address transportationrelated constraints, as young people in the area now have a close-tohome option within easy biking or walking distance. Developing these assets in Rockwell Park also was an important step in bringing services to a traditionally under-resourced neighborhood of Bristol, and a way for Medeiros and his staff to build a bridge with a larger portion of the Bristol community. As he explained, “This is one of our underserved areas…and this is a residential area, so most of the kids that come to visit are walking or biking.” With entry-level bikes costing several hundred dollars, and higherend gear ranging into the multiple thousands, Medeiros and Bike

Bristol are acutely aware that cost may be the difference between a young person finding the sport they love versus sitting on the sidelines. “We believe everyone has a right to access high-quality parks and recreation, and we never want cost to be a barrier,” explains Medeiros. To help address financial obstacles for youth interested in learning to mountain bike, Medeiros and BPRYCS are establishing a free gear rental program in Rockwell Park. The “All Heart Gear Shop” — reflecting Bristol’s slogan, the “All Heart City” — will function something like a library, except instead of a book, young people will be able to check out a bike and protective equipment. Leveraging the fundraising and networking capabilities


with mountain bikes in mind, visitors are just as likely to see “little kids on Strider [balance] bikes. It’s just the coolest thing to see little ones like 3, 4 years old with no pedals, just kind of using gravity to run them around [to] get the feel of the balance and how the bike responds to turns,” he says. In this way, Medeiros and Bike Bristol see the pump track as a way to bring the next generation of mountain bikers on board, a goal they view as integral to the success of the facility and the well-being of young people in the community. The new mountain bike assets are located and designed purposefully to address the most common barriers to sports facing many young people in Bristol: transportation and cost. Simply locating the trail system

In July 2021, Bristol Parks, Recreation, Youth and Community Services held a ribboncutting ceremony opening the new mountain bike pump track in Rockwell Park.


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of Bike Bristol, along with generous contributions from sponsors in the community, the vision for the gear rental program is to acquire and maintain a fleet of equipment that will allow young people to sample a new sport without the cost barrier. These innovative partnerships are paying off. As Medeiros explains, “We can buy all this stuff, and then lend it out to neighborhood kids and families to use when they’re coming to visit the park. That way if you can’t afford a mountain bike, you can come to our gear shop, get that for free, and then go try it out.” The gear shop program had a soft launch in summer 2021 and is expected to be fully up and running by summer 2022, alongside a host of programming aimed at introducing bike skills to young people and developing competitive mountain biking opportunities for more experienced riders. In keeping with the agency’s mission to “enhance the quality of life for all Bristol residents,” Medeiros views the Rockwell Park improvements as a means of changing the face of mountain biking — and members of Bike Bristol agree. “Mountain biking is still primarily a rural or suburban white sport, and [is] still primarily male, although that’s changing faster than I could possibly imagine. The whole goal of the trail and the pump track was to put a trail system where [new] people could be introduced to biking,” reflects Seery. Not only does the pump track increase access and opportunities for local youth, but also it provides a unique amenity that helps set Bristol apart in the region. “It’s really something that’s very unusual


The new bike pump track also will include the onsite All Heart Gear Shop, which functions like a library to loan out bikes and protective gear to youth.

across the country. Urban mountain biking is not something you see much,” says Seery. Medeiros points to the economic impacts of the pump track, saying visitors travel from Massachusetts and Vermont to use it. “People come from all over to use our pump track and the trail system, so that is a really, really cool thing. And if you’re coming [and using] the trail in the morning, you’re going out to lunch, so you’re patronizing the local restaurants. It is definitely a benefit to the economy.” Some impacts of the project are less easily quantifiable, but perhaps even more important. As one young person in the community describes, “Mountain biking changed my life. It flipped my life upside down, or maybe right side up. I’m a completely different person now.”

The Next Lap What’s next after the gear shop? Medeiros and Bike Bristol already have started discussing an expansion of

the biking assets in Rockwell Park, as well as a network of bike trails connecting the parks system and other key destinations across the city. In reflecting on the whirlwind of development during the past several years and the potential next steps, Medeiros is excited to see Bristol reach its full potential and to expand the role of parks and recreation in that process. “Bristol is where I live, and there’s something special about working for the community you live in. I’ve always seen so much potential here, especially in our parks… they are really the gem of the city.” To hear Medeiros and Brian Archibald talk more about the ways Bristol’s new pump track is bringing equitable youth sports opportunities to the community, tune in to the March bonus episode of Open Space Radio at March2022BonusEpisode. Nick Pitas, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Park and Recreation Management at State University of New York Brockport ( Sammie Powers, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Recreation, Park and Tourism Management at Penn State Abington (

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Catherine Street Park in Baltimore reopened with great fanfare to kick off the 2019 NRPA Annual Conference. 46

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Evaluation Builds Park-Use Stories Park and recreation experts provide new park-use data on Catherine Street Park more than two years after its Parks Build Community

By J. Aaron Hipp, Ph.D., William Beam, Kat Deutsch and Christopher Dunstan


he past two years have seen many changes within parks and recreation. Overall, use of our park and recreation resources appear to have increased, in some cases dramatically ( btwutc2t). But without proper and consistent evaluation, stories of our park use, and who is benefiting and where, are difficult to tell. Catherine Street Park in Baltimore reopened with great fanfare to kick off the 2019 NRPA Annual Conference ( The twoacre park received upgraded and expanded playground equipment, a splash pad, and swing sets, in addition to a new basketball court, outdoor fitness equipment, seating, and new fencing and signage ( This Parks Build Community effort was different from previous ones, as it includes a five-year evaluation spanning from 2018 to 2023 (tinyurl. com/8tht5cee). The important decision was made in 2018, prior to the beginning of Catherine Street Park renovations, to include a comparison park. By evaluating Catherine Street Park and a nearby park

with similar amenities and located in a neighborhood with similar demographics, we can be more confident that any changes in use and behaviors in and around Catherine Street Park are associated with the park improvements rather than other, external forces, such as a global pandemic. For instance, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and Baltimore City Recreation and Parks’ associated alerts, policies, closings and reopenings should impact both parks equally. With the parks located only one mile apart, the same is true for weather, public transit policy, bike and electric scooter share programs, and more.

Evaluation Methods The timing of the evaluation effort has been both fortuitous and chal-

lenging. The investment in both a comparison park and five years of evaluation allow for better understanding of changes in park use at Catherine Street Park, as well as behaviors in the surrounding community — such as perceptions of safety, community support and access to the park. However, due to university research restrictions to minimize community and researcher exposure to COVID-19, in-person evaluation efforts were canceled during 2020. Again, deciding in 2018 to invest the resources in a long-term evaluation of the park minimizes the disruption that a one-year pause may cause in the evidence-based stories we are able to tell with our data evaluation. There always will be challenges to evaluation, including human and capital resources, but consistency in methods and measures can help overcome disruptions and challenges. In addition to the decision to include a comparison park, it also

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FIGURE 1: Park-User Spaces


Parks & Recreation

FIGURE 2: Percentage of Children Park Users All Children Under 10

Girls Under 10

Catherine St. Park

Harlem Sq. Park

Catherine St. Park

Harlem Sq. Park

December 2018





December 2019





May 2021





This effort was repeated in December 2019. December 2020 was missed due to COVID-19 travel and research restrictions, but systematic observations were able to continue in May 2021, and we have recently returned from observations the first two weeks of December 2021 (data and evaluation forthcoming).

Mid-Stream Findings During the three years of systematic observations (December 2018, December 2019 and May 2021), we observed more than 1,000 people across approximately 50 hours spent in each park. Per park area scan, there was, on average, 1.8 park users at Catherine Street Park and one park user at Harlem Square Park. In setting up the systematic observations, we specifically tried to identify children under the age of 10 — those most likely to use the new playground equipment and swings. Overall, at Catherine Street Park, children were 48.6 percent of those observed using the park, compared to 27.2 percent at Harlem Square Park. Looking at the yearly difference in Catherine Street Park, there were 0.4, 0.5 and 1.3 children per scan in December 2018, December 2019 and May 2021, respectively. By comparison, Harlem Square Park had averages of 0.6, 0.4 and 0.1 children per area across those same dates. Of note is the average

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was determined in 2018 to anchor the Parks Build Community evaluation on the use of systematic observations of the parks. The System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) has been used in park and recreation evaluation and research since 2006 ( Systematic observations, and specifically SOPARC, rely on trained evaluators (who can be researchers, students, community members, and park and recreation staff) to observe predetermined park spaces intermittently and through brief scans. The scans of these park spaces are meant to be very brief snapshots of who is using the space and how, such as an adult female walking on a track or a 4-year-old boy playing on a slide. SOPARC also works by breaking up parks into distinct user spaces and observing, or scanning, each one every quarter hour (see Figure 1). An added benefit of using systematic observations during COVID-19 is the measure does not necessitate direct interactions with park users, further limiting any exposure, while providing the evaluation with detailed park-use data. Due to the timing of the closure of Catherine Street Park for renovations, the pre-renovation systematic observations occurred during the first two weeks of December 2018.

number of children per scan at Catherine Street Park is increasing following the Parks Build Community renovation, and unsurprisingly, was highest in May 2021. The opposite is true for the comparison park, Harlem Square. We believe this may be due to Harlem Square Park being situated near a school and recreation center, both of which were mostly closed to inperson use due to the pandemic during the 2020/2021 school year. Another way of looking at systematic observation data is to ask: What proportion of park users were children? In 2018, 33.7 percent of park users at Catherine Street Park were observed to be under the age of 10. In December 2019, post-Parks Build Community renovation, this was 49.5 percent. This means the proportion of park users observed to be children increased by 46.9 percent. In May 2021, more than 51 percent of observed users were children (see Figure 2). The opposite trend continued at the comparison park. From here, we were curious about playground and swing-set space use specifically. Catherine Street Park improved from three distinct play areas prior to the Parks Build Community renovation to four areas after the renovation (see areas 3, 4, 5 and 8 in Figure 1). Looking at the average number of children per scan in these spaces, the difference

in December 2018 and 2019 is 0.7 to 0.8, respectively. This may seem to be a small increase, but this is an average from more than 1,400 momentary scans, or observations, and does equate to a 14.3 percent increase in the number of children using the play spaces between preand post-Parks Build Community renovations. Again, the pandemic observations of May 2021 showed the greatest use with 2.1 children per scan of play spaces at Catherine Street Park, a three-fold increase from December 2018. During the same time, matched for weather and days of the week, Harlem Square Park experienced a 69.2 percent decrease in child use of play spaces. As the SOPARC form allows the evaluator to specify the perceived gender of each park user, we are able to evaluate specifically if there was an increase in girls using Catherine Street Park after the renovation. Having previously studied kids’ use of parks, gender differences and safety ( yckjddhu,, we thought there may indeed be a difference and were able to further look at girls’ (observed to be under 10 years of age) use of the two parks. We found a more than fivefold increase in the proportion of girls per play space between 2018 and 2019; from 3.4 percent to 17.2 percent of the total users observed in play spaces. In May 2021, the proportion of girls under 10 years of age increased to 25.5 percent of all users (see Figure 2 on p. 48). Harlem Square Park continued to see declines in overall child use of the park space between 2018 and 2021; girls were on average 20.4


William Beam (front) and Christopher Dunstan complete systematic observation training in Catherine Street Park.

percent, 20 percent and 1.1 percent of users of the park.

Analyzing the Findings Having just returned from Baltimore and the December 2021 systematic observations, we believe the above findings will continue to be supported: that Catherine Street Park, post-Parks Build Community renovation, is supporting increased use by children, especially girls. A major focus of the renovations was upgraded and expanded playgrounds. The comparison playground at Harlem Square Park has not yet been upgraded and expanded. We believe the combination of new, colorful equipment and safer sightlines contributes directly to the increase in kids at Catherine Street Park. The previous design of Catherine Street Park placed the restroom facility between the single playground and the swing set. The renovation provides a more open and connected area for play with three distinct play structures, plus a swing set, all in front of the restroom facility. In addition, there is seating nearby and direct sightlines from the added fitness equipment and upgraded basketball court, another popular play area. During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been general increases in park use, but these increases have not been observed in every commu-

nity. In fact, we found that underresourced communities actually saw up to a 56 percent drop in park use during the first year of the pandemic ( The evaluation numbers from Harlem Square Park seem to correspond with this drop, that even with the warmer weather of May 2021, there was a decrease in use compared to December 2018 and December 2019. However, Catherine Street Park, with recent investments and improvements in an otherwise under-resourced neighborhood, has bucked this trend and shown increases in use, especially among children. Though the timing of this evaluation has been challenging, the detailed measures are providing opportunities to highlight successes during the pandemic. Moving forward in 2022, we will continue systematic observations, as well as introduce qualitative interviews to provide context and stories to the changes in use of Catherine Street Park since 2018. Thank you to our Parks Build Community Research Partner — BCI Burke Company, LLC — for their generous support, which has made this research possible.

J. Aaron Hipp, Ph.D. (, William Beam (, Kat Deutsch ( and Christopher Dunstan ( are with the North Carolina State University Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management and Center for Geospatial Analytics.

PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N .O R G | M A R C H 2 02 2 |

Parks & Recreation


OPERATIONS From Golf Course to Nature Study Area By Elena Larsen



t is the mission of Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation (TMPF) to protect and enhance our communities’ livability through public engagement, education, and the sustainability of our parks, open spaces and trails. TMPF is furthering this mission through the Rosewood Restoration Project. The 219-acre Rosewood Nature Study Area (RNSA), located in Reno, Nevada, operated as a municipal golf course from 1991 to 2015. The course was decommissioned when a regional roadway was built that bisected the property. Possibilities for reopening the golf course were considered, but ultimately the plan was deemed infeasible. The property remained vacant until fall of 2018 when TMPF began planning the restoration of the wetlands and the opening of the property as a nature study area. A community-led planning strategy began in collaboration with the City of Reno and the National Parks Service’s Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program.


Project Vision and Goals

Community Engagement

The vision of the RNSA is to establish and steward a publicly accessible Great Basin wetland habitat, where the community can come to learn about and appreciate the importance of our natural open spaces and local parks. There are four main goals to accomplish this: develop a sustainable restoration plan for the property, rehabilitate existing paths and develop new trails, offer an environmentally conscious nature center, and inspire community members to take a proactive volunteer role in the preservation and improvement of our parks and open spaces.

TMPF wanted to ensure the development of this project was not only community driven, but also created and built with diverse groups of the community. Public engagement played a vital role throughout the process — more than 1,300 community members participated in the development of the RNSA concept.

The vision of the Rosewood Nature Study Area is to establish and steward a publicly accessible Great Basin wetland habitat.

Parks & Recreation

Volunteerism To inspire individuals to take an active role in the improvement of their open spaces, TMPF hosts volunteer days at the RNSA. Volunteer opportunities range from invasive/debris removal to phenology tracking and more. Since January 2020, 270 volunteers have participated in events totaling 670 volunteer hours, worth more than $15,000 in labor. Volunteer events allow the community to actively participate in the restoration while helping TMPF accomplish its goals.

Restoration and Progress The main focus of the RNSA restoration activities in the short term | M A R C H 2 02 2 | PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N .O R G

is removing invasive and noxious weed species from the property and concurrently planting ecologicallyappropriate native species. TMPF is implementing an integrated pest management plan to target invasive weeds. For example, more sensitive areas that are being replanted to encourage pollinators are utilizing non-chemical invasive species removal techniques, whereas areas that are overrun with difficult perennial species will use a combination of mechanical and chemical approaches. The native plants chosen for revegetation include species that are shown to be quality forage and habitat for wildlife, stabilize streambanks, and/or provide important ecosystem services. A mixture of woody and herbaceous plants is used along riparian areas to maximize bank stability and reduce erosion. Future restoration efforts may include more intensive grading or topographic changes to increase water storage, but for the moment, TMPF is focusing on restoring the ecosystem services that wetlands can provide with appropriate vegetation and healthy soils. To date, 134 acres have been treated, 92 acres have shown improvement (percentage of coverage for native plants increasing or invasive plants decreasing), approximately 4,000 native plants have been established, and 12,500 linear feet of riparian area has been planted with stabilizing species. Elena Larsen is Wetland Restoration Program Director at Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation (elena@

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ERRATA On page 23 of the February 2022 issue of Parks & Recreation, Keygan Miller is incorrectly listed as Healthier Generation’s advocacy manager at The Trevor Project. Miller is solely advocacy manager at The Trevor Project. This has been corrected on the website and in the ezine.—Ed.

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(ISSN 0031-2215) is published monthly by the National Recreation and Park Association, 22377 Belmont Ridge Rd., Ashburn, VA 20148, a service organization supported by membership dues and voluntary contributions. Copyright ©2022 by the National Recreation and Park Association. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. Opinions expressed in signed articles are those of the writers and not necessarily those of NRPA. Issued to members at the annual subscription price of $30, included in dues. Subscription: $46 a year in the U.S.; $56 elsewhere. Single copy price: $7. Library rate: $58 a year in the U.S.; $68 elsewhere. Periodical postage paid at Ashburn, Virginia, and at additional mailing offices. Editorial and advertising offices at 22377 Belmont Ridge Rd., Ashburn, VA 20148. 703.858.0784. Postmaster, send address changes to Parks & Recreation, 22377 Belmont Ridge Rd., Ashburn, VA 20148.

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The Bench Project “This would be a great place for a bench.” At The Bench Project, our mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit by enabling connection through a shared experience, one bench at a time. It all started in 2013 with 20 benches, as a celebration of 20 years of marriage. I placed each bench on our family farm with great intention, choosing places with an inspiring view, peaceful surroundings or thought-provoking silence. I wanted to be sure that this experience could live on, so I placed a journal and pen inside a weatherproof bag at each bench — allowing anyone who sat there to share their own amazing experience. The parts of The Bench Project are pretty simple: a bench, a book and a bag. Whether it’s a physical book and bag at your favorite bench, or a bench tag with a unique quick response (QR) code to connect you to the virtual journal, people all over the world can share “bench moments” together. That’s what it’s all about: reflecting, connecting and being part of a shared experience. By sharing your words and your story with our community, it’ll lighten your load, connect you to gratitude, and inspire the next person who sits on that same bench. My vision for The Bench Project is a global presence with an app where people can find public benches all over the world. As part of this vision, I see a wonderful partnership with local park and recreation agencies. Parks give us the opportunity to get outside and enjoy nature. The Bench Project creates meaningful experiences outdoors for individuals and communities alike. Our ecosystem of benches fosters a connection to the collective human experience. My hope is that through The Bench Project we can gain connection and a return to something simple. Part of the healing experience of sitting on a bench and participating in a shared journal is both sharing your story and reading the stories of the people who sat before you. Whether you write about something beautiful that will inspire the next reader or something heavy you need to stop carrying with you, either way, it feels good to leave it at the bench. We will make an impact on our world, our communities and humanity, together. Get outside to go inside. Come sit with us. To learn more, visit, or find us on Instagram and Facebook @thebenchproj. – Beth Romanowski, Founder of The Bench Project


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The mission of The Bench Project is to inspire and nurture the human spirit by enabling connection through a shared experience, one bench at a time.

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