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Parks and recreation services are essential, as is support for them

Published: Monday, July 1, 2013 6:00 a.m. CST
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Gary Major is executive director of the West Chicago Park District.

For years, parks and recreation has existed with the perception of providing services that are great to have, fun and relatively inexpensive.

Here in Illinois, parks and recreation services are widespread and comprehensive. This is almost entirely due to the emphasis placed on this discipline through the existence of park districts. Illinois definitely is the leader in the country for parks and recreation agency models.

However, the parks and recreation agencies still suffer from the age-old notion that these services are nice, but maybe not necessary.

Look at education: The first areas to be cut for financial reasons are things such as art, music, athletics and physical education. Why? Because they are not seen as “essential services.”

Certainly police, fire and schools are recognized as “essential.” And when legislators make decisions, this regard affects how monies are distributed.

The time know has come to realize the reality parks and recreation agencies provide essential services. These disciplines provide core values and characteristics to the fabric of a culture. The benefits of the programs and services are actually key for proper community development.

Community benefits are classified into three categories: economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and alleviation of social problems.

Open space, dynamic facilities and community relationships are fostered through effective parks and recreation services. It is time for the public to recognize the “essential” quality brought to a community through parks and recreation departments and support these through legislative and participative manners.

Gary Major is the executive director of the West Chicago Park District.

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