The warmth of summer tempts us outdoors when July approaches, and with it comes the celebration of National Park and Recreation Month. It urges us to experience the various benefits of nature while recognizing the vital role park and recreation professionals play. Read on to learn why we should experience and protect green spaces.
Featured in: July - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.
History and Background of National Park and Recreation Month
In July 1985, the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), a champion for public parks, recreation, and conservation, sought to inspire healthier, more vibrant communities. So, they designated one week of July to celebrate the National Park and Recreation Month. However, the rising popularity of outdoor activities and growing appreciation for nature's wonders prompted an expansion in 2009
Over the years, the month-long celebration has seen several significant milestones. In 2015, the "Park Champion" initiative was born. It gives local park and recreation advocates with substantial contributions the recognition they deserve.
In 2017, the NRPA and The Walt Disney Company combined efforts to enhance local parks with the "Meet Me at the Park" campaign. This campaign offered cities an opportunity to win a $20,000 grant.
In 2019, Park and Recreation Professionals Day, occurring every third Friday of July, started to celebrate the park staff providing essential services continuously.
Each year, the celebration takes on a new theme, focusing on various facets of the cause. In 2020, as the world grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic, the chosen theme, "We Are Parks and Recreation," offered a heartfelt tribute to park and recreation professionals.
In 2023, the theme is “Where Community Grows,” emphasizing the roles of parks in bringing communities together. The message of belongingness is also the central theme for 2024, “Where Community Grows.”
Related Read: National Forest Week.
The Cause and Its Challenges
Parks and recreational facilities in our communities are more than just patches of green or playgrounds. They keep us connected to nature and build healthier, more resilient communities.
However, due to indoor activities and a sedentary lifestyle, many people, especially the younger generation, should be using these spaces more.
Additionally, these community spaces are facing a funding crisis. Without enough resources, they're falling into disrepair, and as they deteriorate, park usage declines.
It's also not always easy for everyone to reach these green spaces, especially in urban areas. Distance, lack of transportation, and safety concerns can make a simple park visit daunting.
Lastly, climate change is turning up the heat on these challenges. A study said it affects 80% of the 417 national parks across the United States1. Sure, this messes with the park's ecosystems and wildlife, but it also makes outdoor activities less appealing.
Related read: 10 Reasons To Get Outdoors And Enjoy Nature.
Efforts and Initiatives
This celebration, supported by champion organizations, helps spotlight our shared outdoor spaces. Among these organizations, the National Recreation and Park Association shows exemplary commitment.
The NRPA furthers its cause through various effective programs, including those that promote health and wellness. They actively champion physical activities in parks and recreational centers, enhancing community health. Additionally, they also support conservation initiatives.
On the government side, National Park Services manages over 428 sites, covering more than 85 million acres across the U.S. and its territories. Their mission extends beyond ensuring smooth visitor experiences. It also includes preserving fauna, flora, and historic landscapes for future generations.
How to Get Involved and Support the Cause
There are several ways to celebrate National Park and Recreation Month. Park marathons, contests for all ages, and other local events are some of the fun activities you can participate in.
Continue the outdoor fun all year round by visiting the nearest community parks or recreation centers more often. Enjoy camping, taking a scenic hike, or participating in outdoor sports. Every visit emphasizes the value of these recreational spaces. Feel free to share some of our forest quotes to inspire your socials.
Next, engage in volunteer activities. It can involve teaching, trail cleanup, or park maintenance. Be one of the Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) through this link from National Park Services.
You can also donate to NRPA or National Park Services. Even small financial contributions can have a significant impact not only on the parks but also on the dedicated professionals taking care of these green spaces.
Celebrate Park and Recreation Month every April to support the cause of conserving valuable green spaces across the United States. Getting involved can be as simple as small, consistent contributions. With efforts ranging from volunteering to enjoying a quiet walk, every act cements our shared commitment.
Remember, by safeguarding these open spaces, we ensure that future generations can easily access the natural beauty of our planet.
National Park and Recreation Month FAQs
National Park and Recreation Month is celebrated every July. It's a dedicated period to draw attention to the vital role parks and recreational areas play in societal well-being and environmental health. It also recognizes the people responsible for managing these places.
There are over 400 parks across the United States, managed by the National Park Service. They range from the famed Yellowstone National Park to the historic Gettysburg National Military Park.
Celebrating National Park and Recreation Month can range from visiting local parks to participating in volunteer activities. Also, one can contribute by donating towards conservation efforts organized by groups like the NRPA and National Park Services.
González, P., Wang, F., Notaro, M., Vimont, D. J., & Williams, J. W. (2018). Disproportionate magnitude of climate change in United States national parks. Environmental Research Letters, 13(10), 104001.