A bold ideology to unite us

Despite today’s polarizing political climate, and our prickly tendency to bicker, I hereby declare a bold ideology that unites us in agreement:

• That when you visit a park, it is clean, safe, and ready to use.

• That when your family goes swimming, the lifeguards are well-trained and the water quality is optimal.

• That when your child or grandchild visits the playground, you know it is maintained to all safety standards.

• That when your loved one with a disability wants to camp, swim, paddle or fish, all facilities are well-marked, well-maintained and easily accessible.

• That when you attend a public festival, all safety and security systems are capable and functioning.

• That when your elderly kin look for enriching and companionable activities, they can always find them.

• That when your children attend day camp, you are certain of their safe and appropriate physical, cognitive and social development.

• That when you visit urban woodlands, gardens and greenspaces, the attractive assets are well-cared for and healthy.

• That when your teens participate in youth sports, they thrive in the coaching, playing, and growing.

• That when you want to bike to the park, grocery store, library or work, you are able to make those connections, free from all hazards.

What we commonly concede is what we all want, deserve, and expect from our public park and recreation services.

None of these life-enriching services, however, ever happens without trained, responsible and dedicated park and recreation professionals.

On July 19, Pennsylvania is celebrating the first-ever Park and Recreation Professionals Day.

Pennsylvanians are blessed to own more than 6,000 community parks and 12,000 miles of trails in every nook and county, and 121 (award-winning!) state parks, with one within 25 miles of nearly every resident. And along with them are countless playgrounds, pools, beaches, campsites, marinas, picnic areas, athletic fields, skate parks, dog parks, festival venues, gardens, visitor centers, historic and cultural attractions, and many other recreational facilities and amenities.

Both the Pennsylvania Senate and House of Representatives have passed Resolutions recognizing July 19 in the Commonwealth as Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Professionals Day.

In them, they affirm that “Park and recreation professionals bring life-enriching services to citizens of all ages and abilities, work to keep facilities clean, safe and ready to use, strengthen community cohesion and resiliency, connect people with nature and each other, develop and manage a wide range of public programming, and provide and promote opportunities for healthy living, social equity and environmental sustainability.”

According to Census Bureau data, nearly 8,000 full- and part-time recreation and park employees work in Pennsylvania serving its 12.8 million residents. Complemented by thousands of volunteers who serve on boards, committees, trails, friends and neighborhood groups, these dedicated individuals contribute significantly to the health, wellbeing, and quality of life for all ages.

This third Friday in July, visit a favorite or nearby park to bask in all its many benefits, as well as show a little appreciation to the programmers, managers, maintainers, landscapers, facilitators, lifeguards, coaches, event organizers and caretakers who enhance the experience for all of us.

Perhaps we can further agree on this: that July 19 is a good time to recognize our park and recreation professionals for the great value they provide every day to our citizens and communities.

Tim Herd is CEO of the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society.