Providing park and recreation services is a core responsibility for most local governments. Recreation centers are a great opportunity to engage, educate, and entertain, and they become especially popular during the summer when temperatures are on the rise and kids are out of school. The benefits of recreation centers go beyond summer fun though, and in a very serious way. According to the National Recreation and Park Association, developing recreation centers can also improve public safety. Fort Myers, Fla. saw a 28% decrease in juvenile arrests after building a new youth recreation center with recreational and academic programs. A similar decline occurred in Phoenix, Ariz. when officials decided to extend summer hours of existing recreation areas. Police calls reporting juvenile criminal activity dropped by as much as 55%. Following a spike in violence last summer, Columbus, Ohio has developed a recreation center program to help keep the youth of the community out of trouble and out of harm’s way.
In one way or another, recreation centers have a role in improving a surprising number of aspects of the community. The real estate market reflects the value of these assets. The National Recreation and Park Association have found that properties in Philadelphia, Penn. within 500 feet of parks or recreation centers are 5% more valuable on than those farther away. These facilities also create unique opportunities for philanthropic ventures, like the Columbia, S.C. program in which perfectly usable but outdated computers are recycled, refurbished and donated to recreation centers for all the community to use.
In many communities, recreation centers are also a way for residents to stay in shape without costly gym memberships. In Salt Lake County, Utah local leaders have been promoting their recreation centers in an effort to combat the high percentage of obesity in the community. Recreation centers can even promote fitness in untraditional ways. For example, in Tampa Bay, Fla. the Florida School of Judo operates through local YCMA’s to teach individuals of all ages Judo a sport of martial arts and discipline.
The practice of managing recreation centers also provides local government leaders the opportunity to engage directly with the community at all steps in the process while developing centers and their programs. The same way many communities seek citizen input on budgets is how Harford County, Md. will be addressing upcoming changes to their Parks and Recreation Land Preservation, Parks and Recreation Plan.
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