October 9, 2014
The 2014 NCRPA Annual Conference held in Historic Downtown Wilmington was a success! Professionals, students, university faculty, retired members and others gathered from across North Carolina to learn, network and honor distinguished colleagues. The educational sessions covered topics from youth programming, social media, workplace productivity, sports, wellness within the community and much more. A presentation given by Dr. Candice Bruton, UNC-Greensboro,Park Audit Tools: Measuring Park Amenities that Promote Physical Activity, was one topic of particular interest in connection with the Wellness Initiative. The objective of the presentation was to discuss the connection of park access and amenities which creates more usage of park systems and ultimately improves health of individuals.
Dr. Bruton began her presentation by sharing Eight Ways Parks Improve Your Health, a short video created by The Trust for Public Land. The video highlights how the average person does not attain their daily exercise needs and how access to parks can reverse this trend. However, the challenge is to establish more quality and aesthetically pleasing parks to encourage the participation of the community. The Community Park Audit Tool (CPAT) is a system used to observe and evaluate parks for their potential to promote physical activity. Items evaluated as part of the audit include: size, attractiveness, paths, accessibility, gardens, open spaces and wooded area areas. There are more than 20 audit tool resources to evaluate park environments; more information can be found on the Active Living Research website which discusses Tools and Measures: Community Park Audit Tool (CPAT).
What are the benefits of evaluating your park systems? By establishing a baseline evaluation will allow practitioners to acknowledge the changes and priorities in their parks. Perhaps some changes include creating more walking or bicycle paths, creating a community garden, or offering more sport fields for public use. Studies have found positive feedback associated with parks, such as the more parks in a community the more people exercise, usage rises when accessibility to parks increase, and people have reported greater mental and physical satisfaction in their daily lives. It is safe to say that improving the overall quality and quantity of parks will generate physical engagement and healthier lifestyles within the community.
Ideas to get started within your community? You can refer back to the NCRPA Wellness Initiative
for ideas on implementation and assessing pedestrian and bike access to parks. Or research about community gardens, to generate aesthetically pleasing environments, which in-return promotes physical activity. Just by starting a small project can help lead to increased satisfaction levels and physical activity within your community park systems.
If you have ideas or planned projects for your park systems then please email us or submit them on the wellness site here: (firstname.lastname@example.org,http://www.ncrpa.net/?Wellnesssub)
Until next time,
Graduate Assistant,NC Recreation & Park Association
883 Washington St, Raleigh, NC27605