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Feature Article - August 2011

Dealing With Disaster

Disaster Plans Are Vital for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facilities

By Deborah L. Vence


Hurricane Katrina slammed the city of New Orleans in August 2005 with disastrous effects—leaving more than 1,800 people dead and ultimately causing billions of dollars in damage. In 2010, the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico became the worst in U.S. history, threatening the future of wildlife there, as well as the economic prospects for tourism and fishing. And, earlier this year, an F5 tornado flattened Joplin, Mo., leaving more than 100 people dead and many of the city's residents homeless.

The magnitude of these disasters is overwhelming to say the least—affecting people, animals and local economies. But, what do catastrophes of this nature mean for the nation's parks? And, how can recreation, sports and fitness facilities deal with disasters?

"A critical thing to keep in mind is that Americans love their national parks. They visit them as a main recreational activity in their life. Whether it's the long-planned trip to Yellowstone Park in the family car, or the trip down the road to stop at the Statue of Liberty, Americans visit their national parks to get away from their daily life, to learn about their history and culture, and to find solitude. So, when our parks are affected by disaster, it has an effect on all Americans," said John Adornato, III, regional director in the Sun Coast Regional Office of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) in Hollywood, Fla.

The effects of such calamities on people and wildlife are extreme, but parks and recreation areas have suffered as well. Here, Recreation Management looks at how parks, and recreation, sports and fitness facilities can best deal with a disaster, and what some parks have been doing already to triumph over disaster.