Build a park and/or playground.
Buckhannon’s Jawbone Park, with its farmers market and tree-lined square, used to be a crumbling, little-used parking lot. Community volunteers and the city workers transformed it: the Create Buckhannon group, city council, the Development Authority, civic groups, West Virginia Wesleyan students and churches.
West Virginia has wonderful large parks like Huntington’s Ritter Park or Oglebay Park. But this page is about creation of smaller community parks in communities that maybe can’t afford an elaborate park.
For Jawbone Park, Create Buckhannon members helped write a federal grant and donated architectural drawings. They secured enough community donations for 22 good-sized trees. “They were in the ground within another week,” said Create Buckhannon facilitator C.J. Rylands. “College students helped.”
The park is now home to the farmers market and “Festival Friday” music events. “That kind of public-private cooperation doesn’t happen often, but it should,” Rylands said.
About 95 miles away, the little town of Ronceverte (population about 1,800) created a 20-acre park complex along the river, with three ball fields, picnic shelters, concert pavilion, river access, tennis courts, and skate park. “Kids helped raise the money for the skate park,” said town planner Doug Hylton, a retiree who moved back to his hometown. “Now we’re trying to figure out how to build a pedestrian bridge across the railroad tracks so people can walk from the town center to the park.
“It’s enormously satisfying to work with people on creating these kinds of things for your community,” he said. “It’s good for our health, and it’s good for economic development.”
In Morgantown, Sam Zizzi, professor of exercise physiology agrees. “In Japan,” he said, “the government subsidizes parks as preventative medicine. They understand the health value of relaxing in a natural setting.”
Want more/better parks and playgrounds in your community?
Support and build on the parks you have:
- Parks and Recreation departments: Every town can’t have a Parks and Recreation department like Morgantown’s BOPARC, but the BOPARC Web site is a model: http://www.boparc.org
- Create “Friends of the park” groups:
- How to form a “friends of the park” group: http://www.nps.gov/partnerships/friends_groups_doc.htm
- Park Advocate Handbook / National Park and Recreation Association: http://www.nrpa.org/uploadedFiles/nrpa.org/Advocacy/Resources/Park-Advocate-Handbook-NRPA.pdf
The Buckhannon and Ronceverte parks are substantial undertakings, but:
- Park/playgrounds don’t have to be expensive. You can build a “natural playground” for less than $10,000, using natural materials and local volunteers. Here are some of dozens of volunteers helping build the natural playground and trail at Hamlin K-8 in Lincoln County. For more information about natural playgrounds, see http://keys4healthykids.com/new-page/ and http://www.naturalearning.org.
- Playgrounds don’t have to be outdoors. Here’s an indoor playground at the Charleston Town Center Mall, where kids climb over giant vegetables. Sponsored by Charleston Area Medical Center and KEYS 4HealthyKids. http://www.prweb.com/releases/2013/3/prweb10489442.htm PHOTO
- Parks don’t even have to be permanent. Every year, Parkersburg closes some streets to make space for pop-up parks, when the streets are filled with pedestrians, dancers, strollers and bikers. http://theopam.com/providers/291-parkersburg-park-day PIC
- Project for Public Spaces: lots of great ideas for everything from tiny parks to huge: http://www.pps.org/reference/reference-categories/parks-articles
- Partnerships for Parks: City Parks Foundation, NYC. A lot of good philosophy and ideas for park activities on this site: http://www.cityparksfoundation.org/partnerships-for-parks
- Natural Learning Initiative. North Carolina State has created a fabulous Web site for people who want to connect kids with nature via natural playgrounds or other means. http://www.naturalearning.org/
- National Physical Activity Plan, section on parks and recreation: Strategies and ways to think about park-building: http://www.physicalactivityplan.org/parks.php
- “Creating Sustainable Community Parks,” from Conservation Tools.org: http://conservationtools.org/guides/show/93-Creating-Sustainable-Community-Parks
- Kaboom! Fun playground site: Resources and grant possibilities. http://kaboom.org/
- American Planning Association: Great ideas about ways to use parks: https://www.planning.org/cityparks/briefingpapers/communityengagement.htm
- Type “build a community park” into a search engine. You’ll find lots of great stuff.
- Type “natural playgrounds” into a search engine > You’ll find many ideas.
Ideas for funding and practical help:
- Land & Water Conservation Fund, National Park Service: http://www.nps.gov/lwcf West Virginia has received about $36 million over the life of the fund. With sequester, the fund is on hold, but will presumably resume in the future.
- Trust for Public Land: http://www.tpl.org/about
- Center for City Park Excellence, Trust for Public Land: http://www.tpl.org/research/parks/ccpe.html
- Conservation Finance Center: http://www.tpl.org/services/conservation-finance
- Type “Funding parks and playgrounds” into a search engine to see what other places are doing.
- See Try This funding page. Scroll to end list of funding for specific projects.