Monday, September 21, 2015

Fun without Food

 I talked to a youth at Union Square Park in NYC who told me, “there's benches for the seniors and a playground for the little kids but nothing for us.”

We want to make sure that we have enough variety in the park so that people don't need to leave in the middle of their activity to grab something to eat or drink," a Trust spokeswoman said Wednesday. "This is about making the Hudson River Park experience even better for our visitors."

The Problem:

Many conservancy parks and BID plazas offer adults  a great variety  of  "Food as Recreation" choices, but offer little more then a  place to sit  as an  alternative to Food Recreation.

If you want to have fun eating, they make it as easy as possible.

If you want to have fun without eating you gotta "bring your own" fun

This is a problem. Why?  Because the United States has an obesity crisis and offering  no alternatives to food as recreation in our parks  helps make that crisis worse.

from fitCity 7
You would think our parks and other pubic spaces would be part of the solution as opposed to part of the problem.

Recently I talked to a parks  designer about food recreation and the lack of alternatives in the space he was designing. He then pointed out to me a playing field behind the eatery he was proposing.   No this is not an equivalent item.  . The eatery allows you to buy and eat while on the premise, a very convenient situation. To use the playing field you have to bring your own recreation equipment to the premise and then use the equipment , a very inconvenient situation.

The solution:

If a Park or BID Plaza offers staffed Food Parkhouses (aka food concessions) offering food as fun,  it should also be required to offer a staffed  "Fun without Food" Parkhouse.
The parkhouse-

-Can be a standalone one in the park
-can be having the food concession lend recreation equipment as part of its contract
-can be located in a library, when the library is adjacent to the park

The best solutions would be a standalone staffed parkhouse.


Stand Alone Parkhouse

To see what a really good staffed parkhouse looks like take a trip to Rockefeller Park, a New York State Park in Battery Park  City. They are open to the end of October.

Restaurant as parkhouse
Some restaurants also offer board games and other recreation objects...why not parks concessions?

Tony's Darts Away

9. Tony's Darts Away
You probably already know about Tony's, the low-key bar that supplies Burbank with California craft beers and vegan sausages. You can usually find a seat on the patio, and Tony's/ Golden Road Brewing owner Tony Yanow himself might come around and ask how your Heal The Bay IPA is tasting. Inside though, things are a bit different.
Thanks to a fat stack of board games on a book shelf against one wall, most of the tables are engaged in rousing play. Battleship is a favorite, as is Scrabble, chess and nearly any variation of most card games. The attitude is always friendly, if competitive, and Tony's even hosts day-long gaming sessions for hardcore players. If you need to shake off a bad Battleship sinking, hit the pool table at the back of the room. link

Library as Parkhouse

 “Our Library checks out basketballs to be used on the courts near the library.  We also have frisbees, jump ropes and hacky sacks available to borrow. The balls have been replaced many times through the years and have resulted in much good will with the kids after school. When they (the kids!) start bouncing off the walls, we suggest they bounce a basketball instead.”  link

 By lending recreation equipment a library adjacent to  a park can assume the function of recreation equipment parkhouse for that park. A stream of funding for the recreation collection can be set up to come from some of the park  concession revenue.
To see  examples of Library as Parkhouse check out this post.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Partnering Libraries and Parks to better meet Community Recreation Needs for All Ages and Abilities

-When I was a child, I would go to our neighborhood park  and ask the Park Ranger to borrow balls and games that were stored in the parkhouse . Having a park where recreational equipment can be borrowed is great, but due to budget issues, parks generally can't afford to do this anymore.

There is another way...

-As it turns out it's often the case that a library and park are  near  to each other...

-Libraries are already really  really good at lending objects to use in these parks, but those objects are currently usually  limited to books and other information oriented materials. 

-What if a library nearby  a park would also lend sports equipment?

For libraries on a budget the cost to create such a collection can be minimal. The above set of items cost under $30.   Where more money is available , a larger collection can  offer a greater variety of recreation equipment.

-And what if  parks would post banners  letting park goers know that the nearby library  lends recreation  equipment?

Cost of the banners can be minimal too, this 3 foot by 2 foot banner cost under $20

-Though only a small number of libraries in the United States  lend sporting equipment, the concept is far more common  elsewhere.  For example in  Southern Australia, a high proportion of their 130 libraries lend sporting equipment.

In Tallinn, Estonia sports equipment is available at 7 of the libraries  17 branches

-If libraries loaned sports equipment and if parks advertised this equipment:

Libraries would gain new patrons to borrow sports equipment, and  this can also lead to  increased book borrowing

Parks would attract more usage by having recreation activities available for neighborhood residents of all ages and abilities

-As  libraries transform to deal with the internet age, lending recreation equipment can be  one way to help make sure  libraries remain relevant in the future.
Eli Neiburger, deputy director  Ann Arbor District Library

- If libraries and nearby parks reach out to each other and  ask the question  "How can we work together to better serve community  physical literacychildhood reading literacy  and other needs ",  they will find new and wonderful ways to collaborate...

Ping Pong
Sacramento's Belle Cooledge Library lends Ping Pong paddles for use in adjacent Belle Cooledge Park. The paddles were donated by one of their city council members. They currently circulate around 52 times a year.  If the library and park collaborated by  adding signage in the park,  it would increase circulation of the library's ping pong  paddles and increase usage of  the parks ping pong table... a win win for both. 
(simulated sign at Belle Cooledge Park)

Outdoor Reading Room
Little Free Libraries Arrive in Pasco
"The county has officially kicked off a Little Free Libraries program courtesy of a collaboration between the parks and recreation department and the library system...The program is currently available at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park, 10500 Wilderness Park Blvd., and Key Vista Nature Park, 2700 Baillies Bluff Road. Locations will soon open at Crews Lake Wilderness Park and Withlacoochee River Park, the county said". link

Concerts and Field Trips

In Marcellus, NY after Marcellus Free Library  installed  a Little Free Library  in Marcellus Park, this opened the door for more cooperation. Now...

-A bluegrass  concert by Causual Plaid  at  Marcellus Free  Library was paid for by Marcellus Park

-Once a week, the Marcellus Park kids play program now takes a field trip to Marcellus Free Library to learn reading skills.

Sports Equipment for Check-out
 “Our Library checks out basketballs to be used on the courts near the library.  We also have frisbees, jump ropes and hacky sacks available to borrow. The balls have been replaced many times through the years and have resulted in much good will with the kids after school. When they (the kids!) start bouncing off the walls, we suggest they bounce a basketball instead. We don’t require a card, just something of value like a backpack, instrument, cell phone, laptop. This is never a problem because the kids are only too happy to off load their stuff and let us keep an eye on it.”  link

A banner that could hang in this Maine library and its nearby  park

Special Needs
 Many “special needs” recreation  items need not be special, they just need to be available . For example Scrabble and books for wheelchair bound, puppets and Lego  for autism, a hula hoop for the blind. FatBrain toys offers ideas like these for many special needs. Items not only need to be available, people must also know the items are available, hence the need for parks to advertise the availability of equipment at nearby libraries

A  inclusive recreation banner idea to hang in a park near a library


Also see:

 Survey of Libraries that Loan Sports Equipment

A Simple  Model for Sports Equipment Loan at Libraries
Partnering Libraries and Parks to make  Inclusive Recreation More Affordable
Theft, Breakage and Liability Issues
Cost of Stocking a Sports Library 
Community Advertising - Marketing Library Parks Partnerships 
 Examples of Libraries Parks Partnerships