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Community Building with the Arts | Parks After Dark | Engaging New Conservation Leaders


How Playground Behaviors Shape Child Development


hild development experts tell us that what looks like mere child’s play is preparation for a successful adult life — as vital as learning to walk and talk. But few studies have examined patterns of play on specific playground equipment to assess how these play spaces might shape children’s development. To find out, Landscape Structures, a Delano, Minnesotabased commercial playground equipment manufacturer, commissioned an observational study in partnership with the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development. The key developmental skills observed were related to creativity, collaboration, persistence and problem-solving: attributes frequently identified in child psychology and developmental literature as important contributors to a successful adult life. Over a five-week period, researchers observed children of all ages and abilities at play on multiple components at four Landscape Structures playgrounds. They used a time-sampling method to observe and record three primary play behaviors, including gross motor play, dramatic/ imaginative play and rules-based play. The study also included adult interviews. Children demonstrated key developmental skills in a variety of ways, with behaviors often linked to specific types of playground equipment. For example, children’s gross motor play may contribute to physical development, refinement of gross motor skills and increased physical fitness. The Netplex® playsystem was one of the components observed that showed high levels of gross motor play. This is unsurprising as navigating the ropes, in addition to the spinners, slides and balancing activities, requires kids ages 5 to 12 to use their core, upper and lower body strength. Imaginative play, seen in contained spaces like the Sway Fun® glider, which becomes a car, boat, rocket ship and more, was linked to language development, social competence and self-regulation. Even waiting in line for components like the ZipKrooz® requires children to take turns and consider others’ needs. Adult interviews confirmed researchers’ observations. Parents and caregivers noted examples of turn-taking, communication, persistence and problem-solving behaviors. Research observations showed how different playground components encourage play behaviors associated with de

velopmentally important skills — creativity, collaboration, problem-solving and persistence. The playground components likeliest to elicit these behaviors met four common criteria: they challenged or engaged children, inspired more physical movement or social interactions, appealed to multiple age groups and offered multiple play possibilities. The implications? Well-designed play spaces contribute to the development of children. By helping them learn and practice key life skills, great playgrounds help children grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults. Request a copy of the full research whitepaper at The observational research, as well as a meta-study completed in 2017, are part of Landscape Structures’ Shaped by Play campaign. Learn more about the campaign, and watch the company’s inspirational video, For a Better Tomorrow, We Play Today, by visiting 888.438.6574 W W W. PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N . O R G | 2 0 1 8 I M A G I N AT I O N G U I D E |

Parks & Recreation


contents FEATURES


1 Landscape Structures Inc. 3 Milbank

4 Leading the Way Forward: NRPA’s Innovation Labs

8 RenoSys

5 Introducing the NRPA Innovation Awards

9 Greenfields Outdoor Fitness

6 Engaging Cook County’s Next Generation of Conservation Leaders 10 Providing Inclusive and Accessible Arts for All

13 Vortex 21 Superior Recreational Products 22 Shade Systems

14 The Transformative Nature of Parks 18 Embracing Innovative Park Design Along the Connecticut River

Cover image: istock/Choreograph

The Latest Park and Recreation News and Trends

On the Go

Available on iTunes and Google Play

The Official Podcast of NRPA


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Moving and Managing Power


ilbank designs and manufactures electrical solutions that move and manage power for the residential, commercial, industrial, utility and transportation sectors. With more than 90 years of expertise in electrical engineering design and manufacturing, Milbank’s portfolio includes electric metering equipment, enclosed controls and enclosures. Our enclosed controls offerings include commercial pedestals, weather-resistant electrical enclosures consisting of a utility pull section with optional meter socket and a customer section containing distribution and control equipment. Milbank’s safe, secure, aesthetically pleasing cabinets can provide power distribution, lighting and irrigation controls, vendor event and remote-site power without the use of unsightly strut or backboard systems.

Power distribution solutions for your park.

Milbank also offers a wide range of solutions for campgrounds and parks: pedestals, direct bury and padmount power outlets, and its accompanying accessories providing power distribution for mobile homes, campgrounds and RV parks. Available in many sizes and styles, including metered and unmetered units. For more information, please visit

The Enclosed Controls Advantage Outdoor Lighting | Traffic | Temporary Site Power | Irrigation

A one-box solution that can be customized to fit any space.

Control Equipment

Campsite Power


With more than 90 years of expertise in electrical engineering design and manufacturing, Milbank’s portfolio includes electric metering equipment, enclosed controls and enclosures.

All components in a lockable, weather-resistant cabinet.

Many components, controls and mounting options available.


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Leading the Way Forward: NRPA’s Innovation Labs


n 2015, NRPA launched its first Innovation Lab in Miami. It was an interactive learning experience with tours of the local park system and discussions on how to create innovative solutions to community health challenges. Since then, the Innovation Lab series continues to grow, taking on topics such as Economic Impact of Parks and Recreation, Cross Agency Collaboration and What Parks and Recreation Can Do About Equity. NRPA’s Innovation Labs facilitate these discussions with leaders in a collaborative and creative environment. In 2018, NRPA held two Innovation Labs that addressed how park and recreation agencies are helping to create a better quality of life in the communities they serve and making the case for voters to fund them.


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“We started Innovation Labs as an effort to bring together some of the sharpest minds both in and outside the field of parks and recreation to explore how innovative thinking can meet emerging challenges, reduce costs and better serve the public,” says Kevin O’Hara, NRPA’s vice president of urban and government affairs. “These events are the perfect opportunities for industry leaders to share best practices and spark innovative solutions.” Park and recreation agencies are increasingly challenged to produce solutions to solve new problems and meet new challenges that come from a rapidly changing world. Demographic, social, technological and economic changes are forcing park and recreation agencies to adapt quickly and to embrace change at a pace for which they may not be well-prepared.

How Communities Can Attract Businesses: Parks Making the Case for Quality of Life Oklahoma City – May 16–18, 2018 NRPA, in collaboration with the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department, brought together leaders inside and outside of parks and recreation to explore how the field makes an impact on regional economic com-

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petitiveness and quality of life. Parks contribute significantly, but how does the private sector see the field, and what tools and funding exists to help ensure that our park and recreational opportunities continue to drive economic development and attract businesses, talent and visitors? What was learned: Using Oklahoma City and other cities as models, attendees discussed best practices around how parks and recreation contributes to a region’s quality of life and how private sector entities view parks from a competitive economic lens. Via site visits and facilitated discussions, attendees discussed how parks can better integrate into regional/ city economic development planning and identify novel funding sources for parks and recreation through economic development activities. For more information, visit www.nrpa. org/events/innovation-labs/innova tion-labs-oklahoma-city-oklahoma/.

#Winning: The Art of Getting Voters to Open their Wallets for Parks Seattle, Washington – August 8–10, 2018 Park and recreation agencies from coast to coast struggle to find the resources to adequately operate and maintain their existing assets. The Seattle Innovation Lab investigated the politics of voterapproved park and recreation funding mechanisms. Using Seattle’s passage of a special park district in 2014 as a model, participants discussed how different communities have succeeded — and failed — in going to the voters for dedicated parks and recreation funding. The lab convened some of the brains behind the passage of the Seattle referendum and, through an interactive workshop, helped attendees envision what a successful campaign could look like in different communities. What was learned: Through case studies, panel discussions and an interactive workshop, attendees gained knowledge of key tools and strategies to implement a successful ballot measure in their community. Attendees also learned how to match community needs with funding sources, and how to craft a campaign to meet those needs. For more information, visit novation-labs/innovation-labs-seat tle-washington/. For more information about previous Innovation Labs, visit w w w. n r p a . o r g / eve n t s / i n n ova tion-labs/. The next NRPA Innovation Lab, Resilient Parks, is scheduled for January 16-18, 2019, in Miami, Florida. Space is limited. For more information, visit novation-labs/.

Introducing the NRPA Innovation Awards This new awards program recognizes the most innovative in parks and recreation


n 2018, NRPA introduced the Innovation Awards, replacing the former Agency Awards. These awards recognize and honor park and recreation agencies nationwide that have improved and empowered their communities through innovative practices in park design, health and wellness, conservation and social equity. “Many park agencies across the country are taking an innovative approach to tackling some of our country’s biggest challenges,” says Barbara Tulipane, NRPA president and CEO. “These awards present an opportunity to recognize our industry’s most innovative agencies and inspire others.” This year’s award winners are showcased in the following pages of this Imagination Guide with a feature story about each of the winning programs or projects. Each of the Innovation Awards reflects the following achievement: • The Innovation in Health Award recognizes a park and recreation agency leading an innovative project that fosters a culture of health in its community. • The Innovation in Conservation Award recognizes a park and recreation agency leading an innovative project that creates localized solutions for addressing global or regional environmental challenges. • The Innovation in Social Equity Award recognizes a park and recreation agency leading an innovative project that improves access

to the benefits of local parks and recreation for everyone in the community, no matter the color of their skin, age, income level or ability. • The Innovation in Park Design Award recognizes a park and recreation agency that manages a unique park or facility that embraces innovative technology, strategies or programs to improve its community. And, the 2018 award recipients are as follows: • Innovation in Health Award - Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, Alhambra, California (see page 14) • Innovation in Conservation Award - Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois (see page 6) • Innovation in Social Equity Award - Chicago Park District, Chicago, Illinois (see page 10) • Innovation in Park Design Award - Town of Glastonbury, Glastonbury, Connecticut (see page 18) From these four winners, which were determined by a panel of judges, Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation received the NRPA Best in Innovation Award by a public, online vote.

Applications for the 2019 Innovation Awards accepted January 7 - March 29. Visit innovation-awards/ for more information.

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Engaging Cook County’s Next Generation of Conservation Leaders


f only part of our population cares about our public lands, the future for those lands may be in jeopardy. This idea was the impetus of the Conservation Corps, launched in 2005 by the Forest Preserves of Cook County, Illinois, in partnership with Friends of the Forest Preserves (FOTFP), Student Conservation Association (SCA), The Forest Preserves of

NRPA’s 2018 Innovation in


Greencorps Chicago (Greencorps), Audubon Great Lakes (Audubon) and the Housing Authority of Cook County ( tion/conservation-corps-pro grams/). This program was created to address two significant environmental challenges facing the region: people who had become disconnected from nature and a lack of racial diversity in the conservation field. The Forest Preserves of Cook County is one of the nation’s


Cook County’s Conservation Corps Programs


oldest and largest conservation districts. It manages nearly 70,000 acres of public land that shelter unique plants and animals and provides the more than 5 million Cook County residents with opportunities for recreation, education and relaxation. Protecting nature in this urban environment brings with it unique challenges — invasive species, pollution and a large segment of the community who no longer feel connected to nature. The Conservation Corps mobilizes youth and adults in paid, hands-on, year-round, summer and six-month experiences that help restore public land. There are high school programs — the Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps and the Forest Preserve Experience Program — that focus on teamwork, basic job skills, hard work and environmental awareness, and adult programs — Habitat Restoration Internship, Friends’ Conservation Corps and Greencorps Chicago — focused on the technical skills needed to pursue a career in conservation and related fields. The Forest Preserves and its partners offer Conservation Corps Roving Crews, like the one shown here, help the Forest Preserves restore the land.

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financial literacy workshops, as well as industry-recognized certifications, such as HAZWOPER (hazardous waste operations and emergency response) training, state of Illinois herbicide licensing and Chicago Wilderness Burn Crew Training, that give participants an edge in tracking into positions with environmental consulting firms in the Chicago region. Since its inception in 2005, more than 1,562 participants have gone through the Conservation Corps — the program has grown from 15 interns in 2005 to 264 participants in 2017. The high school programs enjoy an 85–100 percent

retention rate — an unusually high rate when compared to similar programs run by the SCA across the United States. And, adult participants have gone on to pursue careers in conservation, as well as other college careers. In addition to nurturing the next generation of conservation leaders, the program’s benefits to the land are also considerable. Conservation Corps members annually restore more than 1,000 acres of land through invasive species control efforts, assist the Forest Preserves in implementing prescribed fires on 1,765 acres and, in the process, have become nature ambassa-

The Roving Crew works year-round to nuture native plants and animals, bringing balance back to the Forest Preserves.

dors in their communities and among their peers. “The more you work here [in the Forest Preserves], the more you’ll want to keep doing it,” says 15-year-old Lance Williams, who worked at the Sand Ridge Nature Center. “One day I want to take my family here and show them the things I’ve done. I’m proud of the things I’ve been doing.” James Carpenter, the recently retired director of the nature center, explains that the program is a win-win situation for the preserves and for the partic-

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Chicago Conservation Leadership Corps (CCLC) is a summer program that teaches high schoolers about environmental restoration.

ipants. “The kids get a paid summer experience, but instead of just being a summer job, they receive specific exposure to the Forest Preserves and to potential career opportunities in the environmental fields,” he says. For Williams, that exposure inspired his post-high school dreams. After he graduates, he plans to attend a university to major in environmental science with hopes of becoming a wildlife biologist, something he hadn’t decided until he

joined the Corps. While not all participants may choose science as their vocation, surveys of Conservation Corps participants indicate that they do gain an understanding of local ecology and are well on their way to having a lifelong avocation for nature. Currently, there is no metric to measure the corps’ impact on the economic mobility of its participants, but strides are being made in diversifying the Forest Preserves’ workforce and in engaging people of all backgrounds in conservation careers and nature-based recreation.


Your Old Pool, Like New


any parks hesitate to explore the option of renovating aging swimming pools because it can often seem like starting fresh is the best option. However, RenoSys has proven time and time again that pools that others have condemned can be made to look and


Parks & Recreation

perform like new again. Better still, when compared with conventional reconstruction, RenoSys typically offers dramatic upfront and long-term cost savings. Older pool interiors and plumbing systems can be responsible for several points of water loss that can be difficult to track down and repair. The RenoSys PVC membrane is a commercial-grade 60-milliter liner that spans cracks and chips in the existing pool shell to make it completely watertight. The membrane is easy to maintain and is textured to provide a safe and comfortable surface. Installing a new PVC or stainless-steel gutter system as part of your renovation will greatly improve efficiency and will provide an immediate facelift to the pool edge. RenoSys also supplies

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a number of grating options that fit any trench width. Many parks choose to finish off their pool area renovation with RecDeck. This incredibly popular PVC flooring is watertight and slip-resistant and is available in several different color options. Since RecDeck may be used indoors and outdoors, it is perfect for pool decks and locker rooms. In 2019, RenoSys is celebrating its 30th year of helping pool operators obtain the most cost-effective pool renovation. 800.783.7005 2825 E. 55th Place Indianapolis, IN 46220


Greenfields Outdoor Fitness


reate an inclusive, inviting outdoor exercise center with Greenfields Outdoor Fitness! Greenfields’ units are enjoyed at parks, schools, senior centers, trails and military bases across the United States and beyond. One of the most exciting concepts introduced to the public in recent years, Greenfields Outdoor Fitness units can be used by nearly anyone, regardless of ability or fitness level. In 2018, Greenfields expanded its product offerings to include several exciting new units in the Functional Fitness and Signature Accessible™ lines. Greenfields’ brand new X-Rig for suspension training combines an eye-catching design with the nearly unlimited versatility of suspension training. Featuring 6 built-in trainers plus a free bar for users to attach their own, the X-Rig is perfect for small group classes or individual training. Also, in the functional fitness category is the upgraded Functional Fitness Rig, now with a rope-climbing station, high rings, ring rows and an S-shaped pull-up bar. With 17 total features, also including a cannonball pull-up bar and wall ball target, it’s the best way to take the latest indoor gym trends into the park! Greenfields has also further expanded its outdoor fitness options for those in wheelchairs, adding three new units to its Signature Accessible™ line: the Adjustable Tricep Press, Adjustable Vertical Press and Adjustable Shoulder Press. Like Greenfields’ Professional Series, these patent-pending units feature bidirectional resistance, eliminating recoil. The equipment uses rugged yet comfortable PolySafe seats, and SafeStop stoppers provide another layer of safety. These new

units integrate seamlessly with the 16 units from Greenfields’ Professional Series line. Greenfields’ Signature Accessible™ line also includes several additional patented units (U.S. Patent 9,079,069), many of which are available as two-person models with one side for an able-bodied individual and one side for use from a wheelchair. In some cases, the wheelchair-accessible side can be used by the able-bodied in a standing position, further broadening the versatility of this line. Endorsed by U.S. Paralympian Jen French, the Signature Accessible™ line creates a highly inclusive fitness experience. Rounding out Greenfields’ diverse product offerings is the Core Line, enjoyed in a vast number of parks throughout North America and the

Caribbean. The Core Line harnesses users’ body weight to provide resistance, thereby conforming to the fitness level of the individual. Rugged in their design and construction, the Core Line units perform well even in challenging environments. With so many options to choose from, and a large variety of packages to fit any environment, Greenfields Outdoor Fitness is helping bring fun, social fitness to outdoor spaces, continually pursuing its mission of “promoting wellness and fighting obesity one community at a time.” 888.315.9037

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Providing Inclusive and Accessible Arts for All


n 2012, the Chicago Park District (CPD) developed a free, accessible, quality arts program for neighborhood parks, called Night Out in the Parks (NOITP). “Through Night Out, neighbors dance, laugh and sing together, proving that the arts are a catalyst and that active parks create safer communities,” states Peggy Stewart, assistant director – culture, arts and nature.

NRPA’s 2018 Innovation in


From movies and dance, to theater and storytelling, NOITP has grown over the past six years to include more than 2,000

cultural events and activities at parks across the 77 community areas and in all 50 wards. The NOITP event series, which started as a summer initiative, extended its cultural programming year-round, giving ev-


Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks


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ery resident and visitor ample opportunities to enjoy performances and experience the parks. With free and affordable programs, unique facilities and quality performances happening just blocks from their homes, Chicagoans can explore all the city has to offer.

Night Out in the Parks provides a platform for local artists to share their talent in their own communities and across the city.

Marketing the events has been key to NOITP’s success. In addition to flyers and word-of-mouth, a My Chi Parks mobile app was developed to provide up-to-date information for every program and park citywide. The mobile app has more than 135,000 downloads, making it the most widely downloaded municipal app in the country, and provides instant access to every NOITP event across the city. “Reaching a diverse group of artists, Night Out has helped parks get on the map with the artist community. In its sixth year, artists are using parks and recreation as spaces to create art and build community. Many partners incorporate community members in the production and process as well,” explains Krista Bryski Richard, special events manager. The following sample of NOITP events shows the wide range of programming: • Natural areas and green spaces hosted Erica Mott’s Elemental at Palmisano Park, a multimedia performance based on the collected stories of Bridgeport residents, and Najla Yatkins’ Dance in Osaka Garden in Jackson Park, where she worked with residents from the community to create a new work inspired by the garden. • Collaboraction, Chicago’s social issue-driven contemporary theatre, presented PEACEBOOK, a new collaborative citywide festival of theatre, dance, music, visual art and spoken work — all focused on cultivating peace in Chicago. Collab

oraction seeks to increase the peace, art, love, hope and fun in Chicago. Afternoons included free community lunch, live music, performances, inspirational speakers and a town hall discussion. In its seven events across the city, it hired 255 artists, including Step Alive, a 20-member, teen South Side dance ensemble. • Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks has engaged thousands of Chicagoans in the thrilling and timeless stories of William Shakespeare. It showcased hundreds of local artists through opening acts at each performance and worked alongside community members, young and old, to help cultivate new audiences from each neighborhood.

NOITP provides families, friends and couples with ample options to enjoy cultural events and activities.

Thirty-thousand patrons saw “Romeo and Juliet” in the parks last summer, with 35 percent seeing Shakespeare for the first time. “I believe that Chicago Park District through Night Out in the Parks has a distinct opportunity to ease tension and to bring different races and cultures together through hosting more events that facilitate cultural exchange and share cultural differences,” says NOIP intern Daris Jasper. “The parks are the perfect place to host events for the public to bring different cultures together in a safe environment. The parks also impact the careers of Chicago art-

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Movies in the Parks is a popular program in the Chicago Park District and has been for nearly 20 years.

ists, from visual, performance/ theatre, dance and music, CPD does so much to have a positive effect on artists’ visibility and development. Night Out also presents to local businesses opportunities to partner or sponsor the events that take place, resulting in increased revenue and a chance to market to the public,” Jasper adds. Because of NOITP, Chicagoans are using parks to create art and build community. Each year patrons, artists and partners are surveyed so the program can continue to adapt and change to the needs and interests across the city. For more information, visit night-out-in-the-parks.


Learn the skills necessary to be a great leader, with the flexibility of easy-to-manage online courses. NRPA’s Leadership Certificate navigates through the latest in leadership principles, including four courses on Strategic Thinking, Human Capital Management, Operational Leadership, and Diversity and Cultural Awareness. Whether you come from a large or small agency, the NRPA Leadership Certificate will prepare you to handle any decision that comes your way.


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Three New Designs for Early Childhood Play


his September, Vortex Aquatic Structures introduced three new designs for early childhood play: Water Journey™ Pico, Alto and Hop. Recognizing the power of nature and water’s malleability is what prompted Vortex to develop Water Journey™. With this family of unique designs, children can manipulate different water currents to create play experiences that continuously shift and reshape. The three new experiences are designed especially for toddlers and preschoolers. Catering to the 2- to 5-year-old age group, Water Journey™ Pico, Alto and Hop zero in on a crucial period of childhood development. All three play events have been meticulously designed to help develop the emotional, cognitive and motor skills of newcomers to the world of play.


Sitting 18 inches from surface level, Pico streams water down small indentations, encouraging little ones to touch. As children interact with the rocky walls and its interactive accessories, they manipulate the way the current moves.


Sitting 23 inches high, Alto features even more surface area. Its cascading walls are designed with deeper indentations for a highly tactile, river-like experience that’s fully interactive.


When skipped and stepped on, these textured stones spray their soft jets of water higher into the sky. The amount of pressure applied determines spray intensity. Hop also interacts directly with Alto No3 by adjusting the flow of its geysering summit. 877.586.7839

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The Transformative Nature of Parks


ow do you begin to reduce the level of violence, the rate of obesity and the number of systems-involved youth in communities with high rates of poverty? The Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation’s (DPR) Parks After Dark (PAD) program, launched in 2010 as the prevention component of the county’s Gang Violence Reduction Initiative, is one way that’s seeing measurable success.

A Collaborative Effort For low-income communities, parks are often the sole resource for recreation and social engagement. However, they are often underutilized because of a fear of violence, which inhibits active living efforts and leads to physical and mental health problems and chronic disease. By transforming parks into safe, welcoming spaces where participants can build social connections; engage in free, high-quality programming; and

NRPA’s 2018 Innovation in

HaErdAWLTinH n




Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation


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Parks After Dark provides opportunities for families and neighbors to spend quality time together and develop positive relationships.

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access important services and resources, PAD is addressing these and other health and social inequities. PAD is a collaborative effort spearheaded by the DPR, with strong support from several community partners, including the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, the Chief Executive Office, Sheriff ’s Department, Department of Mental Health, Department of Public Health, Department of Workforce Development, Aging and Commu-

PAD provides a mix of entertainment, physical activity programming, and health and social services that attract families and youth.

nity Services, Probation Department, Department of Children and Family Services and many other government and community-based organizations. The DPR is responsible for PAD’s oversight and administration: providing facilities for programming; developing, coordinating and implementing programming; and leading media efforts. Each year, the agency has effectively communicated the value of the program to its partners and helped them see the alignment of the program’s goals with the missions and values of their own organizations; thereby, garnering the funding and in-kind support needed to sustain, expand and enhance the program. As detailed in the July 2018 Parks After Dark Evaluation Report (http://healthpolicy.ucla. edu/publications/Documents/ P D F / 2 0 1 8 / PA D - r e p o r t jul2018.pdf), prepared by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research Health Economics and Evaluation Research Program: “Cross sector collaboration is inherent in the implementation of PAD and is particularly supported by the new PAD Coordinator [a full-time position staffed last year to provide yearround program support and bridge communication between partner organizations and various stakeholders] and through activities such as stakeholder engagement meetings and the community resource fair.”

The PAD Program Each summer, for eight weeks, the DPR extends hours of park operation and provides opportunities for youth and their families to participate in the following: • Recreational activities (e.g., team sports, dance and swimming) that increase active living efforts. • Educational programming (e.g., financial literacy, healthy cooking and computer courses) that enhance knowledge and foster the development of important skills. • Employment and volunteer opportunities that provide training experience and enhance soft skills. • Entertainment/cultural programming (e.g., movies, concerts and talent shows) that facilitate family and neighborhood bonding. • Resource fairs where numerous government and community-based organizations con-

nect participants to health, social and legal resources. Los Angeles County Sheriff ’s Deputies patrol PAD events and engage in activities alongside participants, ensuring safety and creating positive interactions between law enforcement and the community. Free meals, family games and more are provided. Initially, PAD launched in three LA County parks. In 2017, the program was successfully expanded to 23 parks and, this year, the program ran from June 14 to August 4 at 33 parks countywide. Also this year, a PAD winter season will be offered for the first time at 33 parks countywide to coincide with holiday breaks at area schools. “Parks After Dark builds resilient communities across Los Angeles County,” says John Wicker, DPR’s director. “Parks After Dark creates safe havens

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vides access to health and social services that promote communitywide healing.” PAD is organized around six goals: (1) increase access to quality recreational programming and innovative services, (2) increase collaboration among different stakeholders, (3) decrease community violence and increase perceptions of safety, (4) increase physical activity and decrease chronic disease risk, (5) improve social cohesion and community well-being and (6) achieve cost savings.


Estimated Cost Savings from PAD (2017 Dollars)

Heart disease






and what areas are still a work in progress. With regard to Goal 4 for example, the report, which is based on 2017 data, shows: “Participants rated arts and entertainment programs as their favorite activity (38%), followed by physical activity (29%); these were also the most highly attended activities.” Of the estimated 6,029 unique survey respondents, 61 percent reported at least 30 minutes of physical activity three or more days a week, the majority of which was at PAD. The most popular types of physical activity were walking club (26 percent), team sports (24 percent) and exercise classes (20 percent). Using the Integrated Transport Health Impact Model (ITHIM), the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimated the potential overall cost savings attributable to physical activity during PAD — based on the survey data that indicated 55 percent of PAD participants attended PAD at least once a week and engaged in physical activity at least once a week, and that weekly physical activity afforded by PAD continued for the entire year — at $1,078,000 in direct and indirect costs in 2017.






Colon and rectum cancer


Breast cancer




PAD demonstrates that expanding and enriching the use of parks — and turning them into safe places — provides a high-impact way to advance health equity. As a result of its success, PAD has been incorporated into the initiatives and strategic plans of many organizations, including the Department of Public Health’s

Arts and entertainment programs are the favorite PAD activity, followed by physical activity.

and community hubs that bring neighbors and law enforcement together. This program also pro-

An Innovative Approach to Improving Health The previously mentioned Parks After Dark Evaluation Report provides the measurable data that reveals where the program has been successful

Exhibit 63: Estimated PAD Cost Savings in 2017 due to Physical Activity

Source: Calculated based on attributable share of PAD from ITHIM on Cost of Illness. Note: Estimated savings are based on the assumption that 55 percent of PAD participants attend PAD and participate in physical activity weekly, as indicated in the 2017 PAD participant surveys, and that weekly physical activity afforded by PAD continued for the entire year. ITHIM assumes participation in physical activity at PAD once a week for an entire year. 16

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Chronic Disease and Violence Prevention Strategic Plan, LA Health Agency Strategic Priorities, Office of Child Protection’s Strategic Plan and the Social Equity for Boys & Men of Color’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative. This year, DMH and the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) provided funding to expand the program to additional seasons (i.e., winter and spring) and to 8–10 additional sites. “We partner with numerous county departments and community-based organizations to provide an incredible array of free, fun and outcome-based programming and services for youth and families,” Wicker says. “PAD also provides a comprehensive and collaborative approach to fostering social cohesion, reducing crime rates, creating safe park environments,

and enhancing health.” By working with an array of partners, DPR can identify and leverage critical social, health, economic and legal resources that are often lacking in underserved communities. Effective service delivery, provided through these partnerships, makes PAD a noteworthy example of how it’s possible to achieve much greater collective impact than would be possible by any one organization working in isolation. Perhaps the most sustainable, long-lasting impact is the program’s approach to Goal 5: Increasing Social Cohesion and Family Bonding. As a DPR staff member relates: “The PAD program is the most creative way I have ever seen to get the community families together outside of their homes and enjoy just being together. PAD gave the kids in

Providing increased access to physical activity and decreasing chronic disease are among of the main goals of PAD.

the community a safe environment to play and participate in activities. Personally, being able to provide the community members with much needed information and seeing them and their families smile when they left the registration table made it totally worth it.”

NRPA Best in Innovation Award

Congratulations to the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation, the 2018 recipient of NRPA’s Best in Innovation Award for its Parks After Dark program! This award recognizes the best of the best in park and recreation innovation. The winner in each of the four innovation categories was put to a public vote to determine which of the four would receive the Best in Innovation Award. To see a video about the Parks After Dark program, visit

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Parks & Recreation


Embracing Innovative Park Design Along the Connecticut River


he Town of Glastonbury, Connecticut, home to the oldest continuously operating ferry in the United States, dating back to 1655, borders 9 miles of the Connecticut River. For centuries, the river has been part of this community’s lifeblood, but for more than 30 years there was virtually no public river access for active and passive recreational opportunities. Additionally, the area where Riverfront Park stands today was previously occupied by a deteriorating, environmentally contaminated, abandoned oil storage and distribution facility.

NRPA’s 2018 Innovation in



Glastonbury Riverfront Park – Town of Glastonbury, Glastonbury, Connecticut


Parks & Recreation

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For a community that’s reported to have long ago “accepted the philosophy that all work and no play wears on the mind and body” and that places “a strong emphasis on school and recreational sports,” it’s no surprise that the need for river access was a well-documented

Glastonbury’s Riverside Park features a lighted baseball field, lacrosse and soccer fields, public boat launch, boathouse, banquet facility, playground, ice skating, a dog park and hiking/ walking trails with a beautiful view of the Connecticut River.

Revenue generated from rentals for events held in the second-story banquet hall of the Riverfront Park boathouse helps to offset costs for park operations and maintenance.

“The Riverfront Park achieves a community goal identified over 30 years ago. Located within walking distance of the central business district, senior housing, the public library and residential neighborhoods, the park offers important access to the Connecticut River and recreational opportunities for visitors of all ages and interests,” says Town Manager Richard J. Johnson. He continues: “Glastonbury is indeed fortunate to benefit from the sense of community brought by the improvements cited herein, along with the adjacent Riverfront Community & Senior Center and Phase 1 park improvements. We are


objective in the Town’s Plan of Conservation & Development, Plan of Development for Parks & Recreation and in the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP), as well as for its emergency first responders. To address this community need, the town developed a strategic and complex plan for the development of a riverfront park. Glastonbury Riverfront Park came to fruition through innovative land acquisitions, $13 million in public financing, more than $450,000 in partner contributions, community engagement and successful partnerships with local, state and federal entities. In addition to remediating the abandoned oil facility, over time, Glastonbury acquired seven individual parcels of land, and relocated a major road to create a contiguous land area suitable for the park. Through public forums, Glastonbury incorporated program elements that addressed community needs, as well as state and regional priorities for outdoor recreation. Innovative park design elements included: • Strategic placement of park amenities to support the successful coexistence of active and passive recreational activities. • Leveraging the natural topography to incorporate an ice-skating rink. • Using a subsurface parking lot material to maintain the greenery. • Preserving a brownstone foundation linked to Glastonbury’s history in the shipping industry.

thankful to all who made this vision a reality.” In its completed state, Glastonbury Riverfront Park now serves as a community focal point for recreation. Its amenities include a public boat launch; shoreline and dock access for fishing, wildlife observation and general enjoyment; a boathouse with storage for rowing shells, facilities for the high school crew team, a waterfront banquet facility and public restrooms; a lighted outdoor basketball court; a handicapped accessible playground and picnic pavilion; multipurpose trails and river walk; an outdoor ice-skating area; a public fountain; a space for community

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Parks & Recreation



In addition to water-related activities and sports fields, playgrounds, picnic areas and walking trails are popular amenities the community enjoys.

events; and strong links to the central business community. Glastonbury acquired a $2.2 million state grant to fund a second-story banquet hall in the boathouse. This addition supports the self-sustaining business model for the park and, by introducing an event and banquet facility manager and marketing and communications specialist to town staff, revenues generated through event rentals are successfully offsetting costs for park operations and maintenance. Inventive funding methods also included Glastonbury’s first Gift Catalog to solicit $87,000 in individual donations for specific park amenities; revenuesharing contracts with cater-

ers, audio-visual providers and equipment rentals that are yielding favorable results; and a revenue-sharing partnership with L.L. Bean for riverfront recreation programs. The success realized through this project has become a model for other town operations. “Glastonbury has a long history of establishing successful partnerships with individuals and community groups in support of a variety of projects and programs. This often includes effective relationships with state and federal entities offering grant programs. The Riverfront Park is a great example of the benefits of engaging all stakeholders in such initiatives,” Johnson explains.


Oglebay Resort and Conference Center Wheeling, West Virginia

Find out more at NRPA.ORG/REVENUE-SCHOOL 20

Parks & Recreation

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Swamped with Fun


ring the magic of play and imagination to your park with the marsh-themed steel playground! From conquering the lily pad spiral climber to exploring the frog crawl-through panel, children will be swamped with fun. This themed structure features unique design elements, including a tree roof, marsh grass panels, cattail post toppers and log steppers. This playground will make a great addition to any play space! Complement the theme with independent play pieces, such as the alligator or trout spring rider. 866.574.9181 W W W. PA R K S A N D R E C R E AT I O N . O R G | 2 0 1 8 I M A G I N AT I O N G U I D E |

Parks & Recreation



Stunning Shade Systems Canopies Highlight New Waterfront Park


hade Systems is proud to have provided the shade structures at Sullivan Park for the city of Deerfield Beach, Florida. Once an isolated and underutilized 3-acre waterfront site, Sullivan Park was recently revitalized into a vibrant Intracoastal recreational area that’s accessible by car or boat. To attract attention to the exciting new park, Shade Systems, Inc. (Ocala, Florida) worked with landscape architects Kirk Olney and Randy Hollingsworth of Bermello Ajamil & Partners, to produce a network of multifunctional canopy systems, creating a dramatic visual focal point on the waterfront. The monumental Rivergum Green and Desert Sand shade structures above the playgrounds and picnic area contribute to the impressive view, framing spectacular viewpoints of the park from the water as well as the roadways, while also providing visitors with much needed shade shelter from the heat and protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Parents and children alike love the presence of colorful shade canopies above the playgrounds and seating areas that provide cooling comfort and shade, allowing them to enjoy more time in the park in the summer sun. The visual appeal and smart functionality of Shade Systems structures share dual importance. The shade canopies


Parks & Recreation

keep playground and seating areas cool. Playground equipment exposed to direct sun can reach 160 degrees and children’s skin can burn at a temperature of 140 degrees in a matter of seconds. During a metered temperature reading while under shade canopies, the temperature was a comfortable 82 degrees, which was in contrast to a reading of playground equipment exposed to the sun at a scorching 143 degrees. Park officials also greatly appreciate Shade Systems’ innovative fastening systems for efficient canopy removal and re-attachment, a feature that recently proved invaluable during Hurricane Irma preparation and recovery. All Shade Systems fabric shade structures feature CoolNet™ shade fabrics available in a variety of durable colors. ‘Sail’ and Multi-Level ‘Sail’ shade designs can be customized in an endless configuration of shapes and sizes. Shade Systems also offers electrical accommodations for night lighting for more dramatic evening appeal, adding focus to the area, while also reinforcing environmental safety. Shade Systems carries an extensive line of fabric shade structures and components, umbrellas, canopies and sun shelters to cover playgrounds, bleachers, dugouts, sports fields, pool areas, waterplay and waterpark areas, concessions, parking areas and other outdoor spaces where protection is needed from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Visit Shade Systems on the web at www.shadesystemsinc. com to explore quality sun protection products and see how environments can be transformed during the day and into evening hours. In All Aspects: Beauty, Functionality, Safety and Efficiency... Shade Systems Has You Covered!


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It’s Your Time to Shine

Get Recognition with an NRPA Award: Innovation Awards - Honor agencies improving their communities in inspirational ways. Spotlight Awards - Honor individuals for their commitment to the field. Scholarships & Fellowships - Give up-and-coming professionals access to the NRPA Annual Conference.

Submissions will be accepted January 7 – March 29

Preparing Park and Recreation Leaders For the Challenges of Tomorrow Hyatt Lodge | Oak Brook, Illinois | August 18–22, 2019

Apply Today at

Parks & Recreation 2018 Imagination Guide  
Parks & Recreation 2018 Imagination Guide