Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

February 2018

Parks for Inclusion Initiative Aims to Expand Reach to All Americans

By Dave Ramont

Local parks and recreation destinations and programs offer many benefits to communities, and the nonprofit National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is dedicated to ensuring that all Americans have access to these benefits. And now, they've launched the Parks for Inclusion initiative, which supports physical enhancements within park environments, policy development and program implementation strategies. These various programs and enhancements will not only serve those with physical and cognitive disabilities, but also the LGBTQ community, racial and ethnic minorities and new Americans.

The Parks for Inclusion initiative seeks to increase access to health opportunities for 1 million people by Sept. 30, 2020. As part of this plan, NRPA has partnered with the Lakeshore Foundation to provide $1,000 grants to four parks and recreation agencies to create a project aimed at promoting inclusion at their sites. The agencies were encouraged to submit proposals for programs or projects that would showcase innovative ways to expand opportunities for those with physical and cognitive disabilities. And now, the four winning submissions have been announced, with recipients implementing their projects by Jan. 31, 2018.

Winners include Philadelphia Parks & Recreation in Pennsylvania for their "Grow up Green Club," an inclusive program for preschool children. Kids on the autism spectrum will join other kids as they explore backyard nature, experiencing dirt and water, sun and wind. The goal is to develop the program into lesson plans and provide training, so that the program can be easily replicated. It's based on their successful Grow up Green Tot program.

The "Learn to Ride Adaptive" bike program will be implemented by the McBeth Recreation Center in Austin, Texas. An adaptive cycle will be purchased with the grant money, to be used by McBeth Adult Day Program participants, Special Olympic athletes and community members with cognitive and physical disabilities. The project will take place at the McBeth Center, as well as Zilker Park and other Austin trails.

Mobile-sensory spaces called "Sense Tents" will be implemented by the parks and recreation board in Minneapolis, to be utilized by park users with physical and cognitive disabilities. The project seeks to provide a calming area for people who may need relief while at parks events, with the space providing items to regulate the senses. The goal is to allow all Minneapolis park users the opportunity to experience the space, which will be brought to various parks and events.

The "Playing Together Project," developed by the city of Prichard, Ala., allows access to the intergenerational community gardens at Shirley M. Shark Historic Park. The newly-designed park features innovations involving the use of mobile park ramps and adaptive signage, which allows access to the community gardens to those with physical and cognitive disabilities. Providing access to other recreational programs within the city will be part of the project as well.

Final stories and pictures of the winning projects will be shared on NRPA's Success Story database.

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