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The NC Recre8'er - is the Blog for NC Recreation and Parks Professionals. We will feature posts from NCRPA members and staff about all the latest news, insights and tips in our field and around the state. Topics will include but are not limited to: Health and Wellness, Outdoor Recreation, Athletics, Advocacy, Aquatics, Therapeutic Recreation, Special Events, Marketing, Parks and Greenways, Cultural Resources and more! If you are interested in being a guest blogger please contact Matt at NCRPA or 919-832-5868. The opinions of The NC Recre8'er (NCRPA) blog contributors don't necessarily reflect the editorial position of North Carolina Recreation and Park Association as a whole.


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April is National Gardening Month

Posted By Diquan Edmonds, North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, April 3, 2017
Updated: Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Happy April! If you did not know, April is National Garden Month. National Garden Month was first celebrated in April of 1987, with President Reagan signing it into a proclamation. The National Gardening Association encourages “everyone to grow gardens, give plants to others, and help beautify our communities.” This wellness blog will detail the importance of gardening, and give your department some great resources to consider using in starting or improving upon a community garden.

To many, gardening is very therapeutic. Research tends to back up this claim. According to the Michigan State University extension, “Gardening has emerged in recent years as a scientifically proven stress reliever.” Additionally, a study done by the Journal of Health Psychology determined gardening gave test subjects a higher decrease in stress levels than reading.

Gardening even has some surprising physical benefits! According to the NCRPA wellness toolkit, “An hour of light gardening can burn as many calories in the average adult as spending an hour walking 3.5 miles. Gardening can increase physical activity in children, and has also been linked to greater physical activity and life satisfaction in seniors.”

The CDC considers gardening a moderate level activity. “Gardening is an excellent way to get physical activity. Active people are less likely than inactive people to be obese or have high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, stroke, depression, colon cancer, and premature death.”

So far, we have discussed the physical and mental benefits of gardening, but what about all of the nutrition benefits from all of the fresh produce gardening produces? According to, the benefits of gardening are bountiful for the following reasons. First, the food produced from gardening is the freshest you can get. Additionally, people who garden generally eat more fruits and vegetables than people who do not garden.

Interested in starting a garden in your community? The following resources will give you a great start!

The NCRPA Wellness initiative has a variety of resources regarding starting, maintaining, or improving upon a garden in your community. First, check out this great resource on the NCRPA Toolkit. Additionally, our wellness webinar from February 2016 covered community gardens and offers a lot of good ideas regarding starting, maintaining, and programming from a community garden in Black Mountain, NC.

Additionally, consider this resource from the American Community Garden Association which details 10 Steps to starting a community garden.

Another piece of advice is to reach out to other recreation and park departments throughout the state to hear about their garden programs. There are a number of community gardening programs run by our agencies, and they can offer great advice.

If your department has a successful garden program, I’d love to know about it! Email me at

Until next time,


Tags:  community gardens  ncrpa  ncrpa wellness  Wellness 

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June is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month!

Posted By Matthew Carusona (He/Him/His), North Carolina Recreation and Park Association, Monday, June 13, 2016

Summer is here and the weather is warmer, especially this past weekend. Thankfully you can grab a fresh slice of orange or watermelon to cool you down! June is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month and this week’s blog will highlight a few resources to get more fruits and vegetable on your plate whether it be at home or at work as part of your programs!

Buy in Season, Buy Local: Have you ever wondered, what’s in season? Well the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services makes it easy with their NC Produce Availability Chart. This chart can be used for finding the freshest and best tasting produce available. Buying your produce at a local farmer’s market, or grocery store that sources locally further ensures your produce is fresh; better yet, see if you can buy direct from a local grower. Additionally extra fruit and vegetables can be frozen and used later for anything from smoothies to fruit desserts.

Grow a Garden: Teaching citizens about healthy eating is important, but they cannot put that knowledge into practice if they do not have access to healthy food outside of class. Community gardens are a fantastic way to promote healthy eating. They can help teach people where their food comes from, and give them a chance to connect with their neighbors. Gardens can be small or large, but even a small garden can have a large impact on the health of your community. Check out our Community Garden Page in the wellness toolkit for more info.

Set Healthy Snack Guidelines: Parks and recreation agencies provide a lot of programming for children. Often that programming involves food, which can often be unhealthy. Providing fresh produce can be a great way to keep things healthy and expose participants to different fresh fruits and vegetables. Our wellness toolkit has some great guidelines and resources for increasing healthy snacks and food in sports, camp, afterschool, and other programs. Check out our Healthy Snack Guideline Page in the wellness toolkit for more info.

Quick Ideas: While large-scale projects are great, don't be discouraged if you don't have the resources to tackle a large project right away. Here are some easy things you can do to promote fresh fruits and vegetables along with wellness in your agency right now!

  • Healthy snack day at community center (provide fresh fruit and vegetables to each participant, or work with a local vendor to have a fresh fruit and vegetables food week)
  • Short health lesson with a healthy snack, consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables in after-school programs.
  • Fresh fruit and vegetables at staff meetings.
  • Fruit Fridays! Bring a different fruit to staff one Friday each month for a snack. Include a healthy recipe if you wish.
  • Pick up veggies from the farmer’s market (or harvest them from your garden) to share with staff.
You can also check out our webinar: 10 Ways to Improve Wellness in Your Department Now!

Tags:  Community Gardens  Health  Health and Wellness  Health Eating  Healthy Cooking  healthy eating  Healthy Foods  Healthy Lifestyle  Healthy Living  Healthy Snacks  Healthy Snacks Program  Live Healthy  Local Vendors  ncrpa  Recreation  Snack Nation  Wellness  Wellness bulletin 

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Eat Smart: Black Mountain's Community Gardens

Posted By Colleen Dougherty, NC Recreation & Park Association, Monday, February 15, 2016
Updated: Friday, February 12, 2016

Happy Monday,

Last week we were lucky enough to have Jill Edwards, Black Mountain Recreation and Parks, host our February Wellness Webinar. She discussed their Eat Smart Black Mountain program. Black Mountain has been extremely successful in creating, and maintaining their community gardens, as well as offering healthy eating education. This week’s blog discusses Black Mountain’s community gardens concepts and ideas to aid your department in implementing similar programs.

Black Mountain’s Eat Smart program includes three community gardens, two youth gardens, a demonstration garden and their largest garden, the Dr. John Wilson Community Garden. Between these various gardens, the Black Mountain community has an estimated annual produce yield of roughly 13,000 pounds. The fruits grown include, but are not limited to: apples, blackberries, blueberries, pawpaws, strawberries, and watermelon. Some of the vegetables grown are: asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, kale, leeks, lettuce, onion, peppers, potatoes and spinach.

Their success with community gardens stems from the asset based community development (ABCD) concept. ABCD is a process by which neighborhood regeneration can be achieved by locating all of the available local assets and connecting them with one another in ways that multiply their effect. ABCD’s breakdown includes five categories: associations, individuals, institutions, local ecology and local economy. Briefly, associations include groups that are powered by individuals. Mainly focusing on how individuals can motivate groups of people to come together for a common goal and to empower communities to produce and eat healthier foods. Next, individuals, which includes residents and volunteers, also have a strong impact on creating and maintaining community gardens. Volunteers are the heart and soul of community projects, like gardens. Institutions, like businesses, non-profits, and public organizations can play a part in offering options and getting community members involved in these type of developments. The next category, local ecology, is what the land around you has to offer, it is important to understand what sort of fruits and vegetables can be grown around you. And lastly, the local economy, including arborist, garden shops and various sponsors, can establish local community goals and missions to inspire people to come together and grow a healthier community. Jill also discusses resources, such as American Community Garden Associations, NRPA Grow your Park, as well as our NCRPA Community Gardens page, which offers suggestions, tips and ideas when establishing your own community garden,

The Eat Smart Black Mountain program works to promote healthy eating and active living through hands-on gardening and nutritious programs.  If you missed out on this informative webinar, click the following Vimeo link to watch:

Lastly, NC Recre8’s statewide 5k is excited to announce registration is now live! The race will take place on Saturday, April 16, at various locations across North Carolina. Click the following link for more information and to check if there are any race locations by you:

If you would like to share your ideas regarding community gardens, please email us or submit them on the wellness site here: (,


Tags:  Community Gardens  Healthy Eating  Wellness 

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Growing Communities

Posted By Colleen Dougherty, NC Recreation & Park Association, Monday, January 25, 2016

Happy Monday,


I hope everyone is staying warm on this Monday! Amongst the cold, it is always great to discuss outdoor program opportunities for the warmer months ahead. This week’s blog will be focusing on community gardens. Before the start of spring, it is important to start planning how your department can promote a healthy community.


We have had plenty of blogs discussing how to teach people about eating healthy. But what about ways to increase your communities access to fresh and healthy fruits and vegetables? Community gardens are a fantastic way to promote healthy eating and to unite people with a common mission! Not only does community gardens teach people where their food comes from, but it also gives them a chance to connect with their neighbors and encourage children to get outside. Gardens can be all shapes and sizes, even a small garden can still create a large impact on the health of your community. Gardening not only produces fresh healthy food, but it also provides a place for people to engage in physical activity.  For more information, please check out our Community Gardens page.


Following the theme of community gardens, our next Wellness Webinar will be Tuesday, February 9th, hosted by Jill Edwards and Diana McCall, Black Mountain Recreation and Parks. Jill and Diana will be discussing their Eat Smart Black Mountain program. Black Mountain has been extremely successful in creating and maintaining their community gardens and offering healthy eating education. The Eat Smart Black Mountain program works to promote healthy eating and active living through hands-on gardening and nutritious programs. Register for the webinar to learn more how you can impact your community with a garden like Black Mountains:


If you have any then information or ideas on community gardens please email us or submit them on the wellness site here: (colleen@ncrpa.net



Tags:  Community Building  Community Gardens  Heal 

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Wellness Webinars in Review

Posted By Colleen Dougherty, NC Recreation & Park Association, Monday, May 11, 2015

Happy Monday,

Can you believe it’s almost summer? As summer approaches, it is a great opportunity to discuss some of the previous webinars the Wellness Initiative has hosted during the course of 2015. There is plenty of valuable information and ideas that could potentially kick start a new program within your department! The NCRPA vimeo page has all past webinars recorded for your convenience, hopefully they might spark some inspiration. 

The first webinar of the year in late January featured Matt Carusona and myself. We discussed 8 programs for 2015. The webinar shared program ideas and activities that could be implemented year-round. Some ideas included: an outdoor family scavenger hunt, boot camp or yoga in the park, running groups, and beach workouts. If you need more ideas or inspiration for summer programs then you can view the webinar here:  

Our February webinar featured Scott Knox from Morrisville Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources. Scott provided information regarding run groups and training for a 5k race. Scott went over key points, such as getting started, who to reach out to in your community, and vital information for organizing run groups and 5K training. If you want to learn more about run groups, you can view a video of Scotts Webinar here: 

The March webinar featured Ellis Hamburger who works on the Communications Team at Snapchat, Inc. Ellis hosted an informative webinar discussing the importance of physical activity for our overall health. Ellis discussed smartphone apps that provide us with the tools and inspiration to remind us to be more active and health aware. To learn more about other apps that inspire and support a healthier, more activity lifestyle please click the following link to listen to Ellis’s webinar:

During our most recent webinar, Beth Farrell of Thomasville Parks and Recreation, discussed the positive contributions to a community when implementing a community garden. Community Garden’s bring together the youth, adults, and seniors in the community, working together to create healthier eating options. Ultimately, it encourages exercise and healthy food access. If you would like to hear more from Beth regarding community gardens, then please click the following link to view her webinar:

Please stay tuned for the next webinar, May 27th at 1:00pm. Remember webinars occur the last Wednesday of every month from 1:00pm-2:00pm. Please mark it in your calendar, it is an opportunity to listen to departments across the state share program ideas and initiatives which ultimately benefit us all.

If you would like to host a webinar or have a question regarding future webinars, then please email us or submit them on the wellness site here: (,


Tags:  5k Training  Community Gardens  Healthy Living  Webinars  Wellness 

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Planting Seeds for Success

Posted By Colleen Dougherty, NC Recreation & Park Association, Monday, May 4, 2015

Happy Monday,

Last Wednesday we had the privilege of hearing Beth Farrell from Thomasville Parks and Recreation to present our monthly webinar. The discussion was focused on the challenges and success of community gardens. Last May, NCRPA partnered with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) foundation to provide Health Eating Equipment grants to park and recreation agencies across the state. Thomasville was one of the departments to receive funds for equipment to create a community garden at Memorial Park.

Beth’s webinar discussed the positive contributions to a community when implementing a community garden. One of the key components when establishing a community garden is promoting community building. It brings together the youth, adults, and seniors in the community, working together to create healthier eating options. Ultimately, it also encourages exercise and healthy food access. One of the highest impacts on the community includes the educational component of establishing a community garden. A good program to grow from your community gardens is youth afterschool programs. Involving these programs gives youth the opportunity to learn healthy cooking techniques and expose them to a variety of fresh vegetables.

If you would like to hear more from Beth you can view her webinar regarding community garden benefits, please click the following link:

For more information regarding community gardens, then please refer to NCRPA’s Community Gardens webpage. Remember, gardens can be small or large, no matter the size they can have a large impact on the health of your community.

If you would like to share your community garden ideas or information, then please email us or submit them on the wellness site here: (,


Tags:  BCBSNC  Community Building  Community Gardens  Healthy Eating  Thomasville Parks and Recreation 

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Creating Health and Well-being

Posted By Colleen Dougherty, NC Recreation & Park Association, Monday, March 23, 2015


As I continue my graduate work at NC State, I cannot help but notice the similarities of my research in-connection with my work for the NCRPA Wellness Initiative. Currently I just finished an informative book called Restorative Commons: Creating Health and Well-being through Urban Landscapes, edited by Lindsay Campbell and Ann Wiesen.

Briefly, this book aims to discuss that the world’s population has shifted to more urban than rural. Because of this shift, the importance of finding ways for humans to stay in contact with the natural environment has increased. The authors discuss that parks, community gardens, botanical gardens, urban gardens, and public housing campuses offer opportunities for restoring both social and health function in urban regions. The book also discusses the positive benefits of nature, which help the improvement of mood, reduction of stress, and decreases the chance of chronic diseases. Furthermore, children’s activity in nature’s surroundings can encourage exploration and building which contribute to positive decision-making, creativity and problem-solving.

This resourceful book reinforces the importance of community gardens and accessible greenways in our communities. Our past blogs have discussed that contact with the natural environment can include physical activity, such as walking, running, and gardening or passive, which is viewing only.  Visit the NCRPA Community Gardens for ideas on establishing a garden within your community. Physical Activity in Gardening is another resource containing information describing examples of “aerobic” and “weight-bearing” activities of routine gardening. Remember to share information within your community regarding parks and walking/running path locations, especially now that the weather is warmer.

Get active outdoors this spring!

Have ideas? Please email us or submit them on the wellness site here:




Tags:  Community Gardens  Recreation  Restorative Commons  Well-being  Wellness  Youth Development 

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