This article is part of a series featuring the 2014 Voice of the People Award winners.
Physical health is an important foundation for the wellbeing of residents and ultimately a vibrant community. Parks and recreation departments play an important role in providing residents opportunities for exercise and time enjoying the outdoors. Elk Grove, CA and Peoria, AZ were selected as winners of the 2014 Voice of the People Awards for Transformation in Parks & Recreation.
Elk Grove’s city council set a goal of focusing on promoting Elk Grove as a recreational and cultural center that attracts visitors while also enriching the lives of its residents. The city began a major outreach campaign titled Join the Movement which featured tips, activities and events promoting recreation opportunities in Elk Grove with the goal of enriching the health of residents and supporting the local business community. Elk Grove works closely with the Cosumnes Community Services District (CCSD) which encompasses roughly 157 square miles, 92 parks, 18 miles of trails, two community centers, four recreation centers and two aquatics complexes. The CCSD distributes an activity guide three times per year which provides an overview of recreation activities.
In 2011, Elk Grove joined the Healthy Eating Active Living Cities Campaign (H.E.A.L.) which provides training and technical assistance to help city officials craft policy focused on improving communities’ physical activity and retail food environments. Furthering the city’s healthy lifestyles, the City of Elk Grove Trails Committee focuses on reviewing development projects to ensure continuity between existing and planned trails, bikeways and pedestrian areas; a major success story is the online Elk Grove Bike Map and May bike month.
One state over, in Arizona, the City of Peoria shows impressive citizen engagement and overwhelming support for the city’s parks, recreation and wellness programs; the city attributes this to the role that city parks, recreation and wellness opportunities have helped residents meet their individual health and fitness goals by providing access and opportunities to all residents. Peoria is home to two large community parks equipped with ballfields, large playgrounds, splash pads and urban fishing lakes as well as 35 neighborhood city parks. Additionally, the city manages 25 miles of hiking and biking trails, 15 miles of which run uninterrupted along the New River corridor. The City of Peoria’s newest master plan, currently in development, aims to preserve the high quality of life, facilities, programs and other recreation opportunities as the city grows. Areas of city focus are preventative care, education and broad access to parks and recreational and fitness programs.
As health, wellness and recreation become even more recognized as contributors to a high quality of life, cities are taking the lead to provide more access and opportunities to their residents. The rewards of these programs benefit everyone and make communities great places to live.