Once again, July is the nation's official Park and Recreation Month. And this year's theme is all about encouraging parks and the communities they serve to "Get Wild."
This month is a great time to put the spotlight on all the benefits parks and recreation provides. Improving health and wellness? Check! Improving conservation and connection with nature? Check! Providing a pathway to interact with others? Check! Offering a means of entry into a wide variety of sports, performing arts, crafts and other activities? Check!
You can sign up your park and recreation agency as an official Get Wild participant, register your wild events and check on what others are doing by visiting the National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) web site at www.nrpa.org.
In addition, ask your community members to come out and get involved. Have them take pictures or videos showing that they're wild about parks and recreation, and be sure to share them via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, your web site and more to help spread the word further.
Why not try to get more people outside and into your parks, onto your trails or pitching a tent at your campground? A recent Marketplace Morning Report on NPR (June 20, 2012) by Jeff Tyler emphasized the incredible economic impact of money spent on outdoor recreation.
According to the story, a recent Outdoor Industry Association report pegged American spending on outdoor recreation at $650 billion—more than is spent on pharmaceuticals, motor vehicles and household utilities every year. What's more, most of that money is funneled straight into local economies, on things like guides, hotel rooms and restaurants.
Tyler also stated that "…between 2006 and 2011, the outdoor recreation industry grew by an average of 6 percent a year."
Want some other ideas?
Ever tried geocaching? No? Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt employing GPS-enabled devices. Many local parks are already offering geocaching, and you can too. Find out more at www.nrpa.org.
You can encourage people to get wild about wildlife by hosting a walk or hike through a local park. You might even be able to enlist a local birdwatcher or wildlife expert to talk about the different species in the area. One of the local forest preserves in my area even hosts nighttime owl-watch walks.
Get wild in the water by hosting special events at your pool or aquatic facility. How about a dive-in movie? You could show wild movies highlighting the natural world, like "March of the Penguins," or wild adventures like "Jurassic Park."
Of course, you aren't limited to the great outdoors when encouraging your community members to get wild about your parks and facilities. Indoor programs can be pretty wild too. How about belly dancing (a current offering at my local recreation center)? What about wild fitness dance classes, like Zumba?
There's really no limit to the ways you can get people wild about parks and recreation this July.