By David Markham
We who work in the field of parks and recreation feel like we do a lot more than provide spaces and opportunities for people to have fun. We serve our communities in a variety of useful and important ways that touch on: facilitating health and wellness, community planning, preservation of habitat and the animals that live in the parks, environmental and historical education, provision of social services, inclusion advocation, and much, much more.
Just in time for Park and Recreation Month in July, and the related Park and Recreation Professionals Day on July 17, some Johnson County Park and Recreation District employees with a variety of job titles and duties from all over our agency recently took time to share their thoughts about what they do and its impact on our community.
“The best salespeople are the ones who believe in the product they are selling,” said Assistant Superintendent of Recreation Shannon Sonnier. “When it comes to parks and recreation, what is not to believe in? It is a great and unique opportunity to be able to dedicate your work and efforts towards something that benefits your community to such a large degree.”
“In my position I’m uniquely situated to play a part in a wide variety of opportunities offered by JCPRD,” added 50 Plus Centers Specialist Libby Scarborough. “Each day is sure to hold something new, exciting different, and/or challenging and some days hold all those things! It’s not hard to love what you do when you see firsthand the incredible, positive impact it has on those in your community. We all know 2020 has been unique and challenging in many ways. Even still, our team has consistently found ways to reinvent what we do and how we do it in order to provide the quality services our patrons have come to know, expect, and rely on. Even as we find it necessary to be physically apart, we’ve found ways to create community and remain connected.”
“I enjoy being outdoors and performing a job that provides both a service to my community and environmental benefits,” said Cedar Niles Senior Park Worker Ginger Werp. “Parks and green spaces are important for our wellbeing, and we have needed them now more than ever. It is important to provide our community a connection to nature and a place for all types of outdoor activities.”
“I enjoy seeing the diversity of our patrons and the different levels of abilities offered in our sports programs,” said Sports & Facilities North Manager Doug Hite. “I am proud of the number of people we influence in what we do every day, and helping to build memories for all ages.”
“Parks and recreation have been more important than ever the last few months as many people felt safe participating in individual or family outdoor activities,” said Marketing & Communications Coordinator Becky Burnside. “It also challenged our agency to come up with alternative programming options to keep our patrons engaged. Whether it was being able to enjoy the outdoors, or take part in a virtual program offering, we gave people opportunities to remain active and social – safely. It’s an amazing feeling to receive feedback from our patrons about how much these services mean to them.”
“The work we do positively affects everyone we serve,” said Wellness Manager Jill Leiker. “From our programs to our park land, we put our community first. We also provide low- or no-cost quality programming to ensure everyone who wants to participate can.”
“I love watching the kids when they discover a praying mantis or a snail and they get so excited,” said Senior Park Naturalist Molly Postlewait. “I like that I can facilitate an experience where people can grow and maybe get out of their comfort zones. I love that the kids are learning firsthand about what lives in the park. I also love seeing people I don’t even know walking through the park and they seem happy. The parks are a place of happiness. The parks are a place where people have some freedom and it’s free. They have freedom to explore, freedom to discover, and freedom to feel safe when they are having outdoor adventures. On the recreation side, it’s a place for people to learn new skills and to express their creativity in an environment they probably wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”
Since 1985, Americans have celebrated Park and Recreation Month in July to promote the importance parks and recreation has in health and well-being, conservation and social equity, and to recognize the more than 160,000 full-time park and recreation professionals, along with hundreds of thousands of part-time and seasonal workers and volunteers, that maintain our country’s local, state, and community parks.