Monday, June 13, 2016

Underutilization of Parks- Exclusion and Inclusion

Philadelphia has the largest in-city park system in the world, which can serve as a tremendous resource for social interaction, relaxation and recreation. Yet 72% of older Philadelphians report they had not gone to a public recreation facility in the past year.   link


 Philadelphia's findings are  not an aberration. A Rand Corporation study found that seniors seldom use Los Angeles

Why are seniors not using parks? One possibility comes from the authors of the book People Places they said   "The natural environment of a park is not enough to attract some elderly users, but a park with many activities can simulate social exchange and provide a sense of belonging"   link

 Seniors are not the only groups with issues that cause them not to use parks...
 Overall this is a great facility I just wish the community would use it for more activities other than the one concert in the park they have every summer because that's pretty much the only reason why I've ever gone herelink

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

Sixteen-year-old D’En Vargas suggested a multi-use basketball court to his group — an idea that wasn’t so warmly received.
“Without that, a lot of teens won’t come — they go to the park to play sports. It would be uniting us with everybody else,” said Vargas, who lives in Queens but spends a lot of time at his grandmother’s in Chelsea.
The debates were spirited — and not always satisfactory for everyone. D’en Vargas, 16, second from right, encountered staunch resistance against his idea for a multi-use sports field on the small plot. Photo by Yannic Rack.
The debates were spirited — and not always satisfactory for everyone. D’en Vargas, 16, second from right, encountered staunch resistance against his idea for a multi-use sports field on the small plot. Photo by Yannic Rack. Chelsea Now

This is more of an older group, so my opinion is currently being shot down,” he confided later. “But I’m still fighting for it.”
Not all of his fellow parks enthusiasts came equipped with a special wish list, however.

 Contemporary American playgrounds don’t hold or inspire older kids...More and more, preteens avoid the playground altogether, choosing instead to spend time indoors, most likely sitting in front of some kind of screen...What teen will go to the playground to play a game when he has better graphics at home on his computer or anywhere on his cell phone? The Science of Play


 What I think is happening is that many  of our parks  subtly    include and exclude use by many groups   through the features they offer and do not offer.  link

Defining Inclusion
I was talking to a senior who uses a wheelchair, she asked me if I could let her know if there were any inclusive playgrounds  in NYC. I asked her to define inclusive playground . She said a park that would have activities for her to participate in. I could not think of many parks in NYC  that are inclusive for her. 

 On Further thinking I came up with  a lot of "playgrounds" that might  have activities to meet her needs
-the libraries in her neighborhood
-the senior centers in her neighborhood
-the college in her neighborhood that offer senior scholar programs.

So there are a good number of locations  offering senior playspaces.... only they  are  not   NYC parks

If a "park" offers enough activities to attract you  to use it, then it  is an inclusive park for you, if not it isn't. Doesn't matter if 1 or  10,000 other people find activities  at that park that attract them to it, if it doesn't attract you, it fails your  inclusion test.

Think, what features would a park need to offer for so that you would want to use it on a regular basis?

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Piggybacking on Existing Parks Staff or Hire Part Times

As I said before, most  parks departments  are not  able to afford full time dedicated staff for Play Libraries .  There are other ways to staff a Play Library  in a park.

Bike lending at the Warren E Fox Nature Center
-In addition to their regular functions, staff at the Warren E Fox Nature Center  in  Estell Manor Park lend  bikes and helmets, softball equipment, volleyballs, frisbees, jump ropes, horseshoes and soccer balls.  link

 -About 50 parks in North Carolina lend fishing tackle(and at some sites adaptive fishing gear)  under the states Tackler Loan Program. The  N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission pays 75% of the cost of the gear. Someone at the commission got 50 parks in North Carolina  to lend fishing gear.  Great!. If you can loan fishing gear why can't you loan volleyballs or hula hoops?  I gave a call to one of the parks  who got the gear and asked if you can lend fishing gear any reason you can't lend other sports equipment. Answer was "I don't think so".

-Could maintenance staff at a park put out  movable loose equipment in  a park, and take it in at night? I talked to a parks maintenance supervisor who said yes. Ping Pong, pool, nok hockey and , foosball tables, exercise bikes, chairs, and  pianos,   are several movable objects that can be made available this way. (By locking this equipment to the ground   it can  help make sure the equipment dose not walk if unattended).

-Part Timers
 In NYC our parks department budget cannot pay for full time "animate Loose Parts"(aka recreation staff)  in our neighborhood parks. But where budgets permit I would think parks can hire part time employees to  man Play Libraries and lead  events  in parks  for the most popular day or days   of the week(Saturday and Sunday) .

 see -..Parks that lend recreation equipment  

Hudson Beach Loose PArk

At Hudson Beach  in NYC's Riverside Park a community group stores its Play Library equipment in a locker at the park, that they purchased and filled with equipment...

                                                             Play Library Locker

On weekends, during good weather the community group  opens the locker and creates a  Loose Park available to all at this location. Here are some of the items from this small locker in use...


                                                                   Hula Hoops