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

Feature Story

September 2021

Partnerships Between Parks & Schools Provide More Equitable Access

A recent survey from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) showed strong support for partnerships between local schools and parks and recreation agencies to ensure equitable access to open spaces and facilities. Recent research from the Trust for Public Land shows where such partnerships might be most beneficial.

Such partnerships provide community members the ability to use amenities like school playgrounds and sports fields on school grounds outside of school hours or school-sponsored activities. More than three in five U.S. adults say these partnerships are extremely or very important, with the strongest support coming from parents (73%), those identifying as Hispanic (72%), millennials (70%) and those identifying as Black or African-American (69%).

"Educators and park and recreation professionals share a common goal—to support community members by providing increased physical activity opportunities that improve mental and physical health and well-being," said Kevin Roth, NRPA vice president of research, evaluation and technology. "By working together and combining resources, we can strengthen and expand the number of quality recreation opportunities available to the community."

NRPA supports efforts that increase public access to parks, nature, green spaces and other physical activity options, including promoting joint use agreements between park and recreation departments and local schools.

Further support comes from the Trust for Public Land, which recently released a report on how transforming underused asphalt schoolyards into vibrant public parks that stay open to neighbors after school and on weekends brings significant health, equity and education benefits to students and communities. TPL noted that opening all public schools to local communities during non-school hours would give nearly 20 million additional people in the United States, including 5.2 million children, access to park space within a 10-minute walk of their home.

"The schoolyard is an often-overlooked component of community infrastructure that is packed with potential," said TPL CEO and President Diane Regas. "Together, we can address the unhealthy state of the nation's schoolyards so that students have access to opportunities for recreation, outdoor learning and physical activity, setting them up for a lifetime of success. And transforming schoolyards into shared public parks is also a common-sense, cost-effective solution to America's park-equity problem—filling a void for communities by providing new access to public greenspace."

Experts at TPL combed through data from tens of thousands of districts, examining water quality, urban heat, physical activity levels, mental health and vulnerable populations to compile a list of 45 large school districts in nine regions with at least 10,000 students that most urgently need—and could benefit from—the Community Schoolyards model, including Billings, Mont.; Cheyenne, Wyo.; Cape Coral, Fla.; and Augusta-Richmond County in Georgia.

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