Three Cheers for Local Parks & Rec Departments This Summer!
June 24, 2024
Sarah Hubbart

July is Park and Recreation Month, a great time to recognize how these local gathering spaces make their communities better places to live, work, and play. This month celebrates the more than 160,000 full-time park and recreation professionals and the hundreds of thousands of part-time employees and volunteers who help maintain state, local, and community parks across the country.

"Park and Recreation Month is about recognizing and celebrating everyone who helps maintain local and state parks—including the significant impact of volunteers,” said Jon Eick, director of marketing and engagement strategy for the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). “This year’s theme, 'Where You Belong,' reminds us why local parks and recreation truly embodies the essence of belonging.” 

What Do Parks and Rec Departments Do?

According to NRPA, more than 280 million people in the United States visited a local park or recreation facility at least once during the past year. These spaces provide opportunities to enjoy nature and connect community members to programs and services that improve health outcomes and enhance our quality of life.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many cities and towns across the country kept parks, trails, and green spaces open to provide safe places for Americans to exercise, spend time with family, and enjoy nature while social distancing. Besides promoting physical health, these community gems also support mental health as well. An NRPA poll found that 92% of adults say they experience a positive mental health boost after spending time at their local parks.

An infographic illustrating how spending time in parks elicits positive feelings

In addition to maintaining trails and playgrounds, parks and rec department employees facilitate many different programs, including community gardens, after-school activities, and nutrition education. Nearly three in five park and recreation agencies provide science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM)-specific programs to community members. Parks are also important for reducing violence, fostering positive social interactions, and building a sense of community.

Volunteer At Your Local Park

Are you looking to work or volunteer with your local parks and recreation department this summer? July sees parks and rec departments gearing up for busy summers full of camps for children, sports clinics, swim lessons, softball leagues, gardening seminars, educational workshops, and more. Check your community’s website for currently available programming schedules and ways to get involved.

“We encourage those of all ages and abilities to reach out to their local park and recreation agency to learn more about how they can help make a difference in their local community—this July and beyond," said Eick.

As local park budgets are stretched further and further, parks and rec departments often rely on non-profit community partners such as “friends of the park” groups for volunteers and financial support. Connect with your local parks and rec departments to learn about current volunteer opportunities or to take the lead on filling a new need you see in the park. Trail clean-ups, playground maintenance, and planting trees or removing invasive species are common volunteer activities. 

Learn More About Parks and Recreation This July

Summer is the perfect time to get started volunteering. Access NEEF’s environmental education resources to learn more about getting involved in supporting your local parks and rec department.