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Polco News & Knowledge

How a Focus on Recreation for All Led To Increased Resident Satisfaction in Morristown

-By Julia Steege-Reimann-

“Morristown is fortunate to be in a very beautiful part of the country that allows outdoor recreation nearly year-round. Citizens are able to utilize our parks not just during the summer, but well into the fall and winter months,” said Michele Parvin, Accountant-Grants Coordinator for Morristown, Tennessee.

Just having beautiful year-round weather wasn’t enough for Morristown’s leaders though when it came to their investment in recreation. They wanted to make sure residents of all ages and abilities could enjoy a variety of recreation and wellness opportunities. In recent years, Morristown has put a focus on providing a diverse range of parks and programming. 

“Having a variety of parks and programs allows us to appeal to a broader demographic,” said Parvin. 

These efforts have paid off. The City regularly conducts The National Community Survey (The NCS) to gather feedback from residents. Data from the survey show that Morristown’s residents have become happier with the City’s recreation and wellness opportunities between 2018 and 2019. 

Chart showing Morristown's Transformation in Recreation and Wellness

“I commend Morristown for putting in a strong effort in making recreation opportunities accessible to more people,” said Damema Mann, Director of National Engagement for Polco.

Morristown’s efforts led to a 2020 Voice of the People Award for Transformation in Recreation and Wellness. This is the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents. The award is presented by Polco / National Research Center (NRC) and the International City & County Management Association (ICMA). This award acknowledges local governments that make significant improvements on The NCS ratings and that take the best actions on behalf of their communities.

Damema Mann presenting Morristown, Tennessee with their Voice of the People Award

Recreation for All

“The Morristown Parks & Recreation Department hosts events and offers leagues that appeal to people of all athletic abilities, ages, and interests. From leisurely activities like concerts in the park to active athletics leagues and children’s activities, there is something for everyone to enjoy,” said Parvin.

Recently Morristown has improved the variety of offerings to be able to provide recreation for more residents.

For example, The City recently developed a downtown Heritage Park by taking the dilapidated property of former Morristown College and turning it into a 52-acre park with walking trails and greenspaces. A historical replica of the college’s colonnades was reconstructed to pay homage to the history of the black educational institution.

“The development of Heritage Park as a more “passive” park helped fill a gap in our park system by offering a more relaxing, contemplative space, which nicely balances with the active sports complexes and playgrounds found at many of our other facilities,” said Parvin.

The City has made other efforts to expand recreation to more people. They recently received a grant to construct a new dog park. They have made major Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements to several parks to make more areas of their parks accessible to those in need of handicapped access. Last, they have expanded adult sports leagues by introducing unique and fun athletics such as pickleball and kickball. This has led to a large increase in participation.

In addition to expanding recreation opportunities, Morristown has recently teamed up with a local health initiative to help promote healthy and active lifestyles. 

As part of this initiative, the City hosts several team walking challenges, biking events, and fitness classes at local parks throughout the year. 

Looking Towards The Future

As Morristown looks to the future, they are excited to continue to expand health and wellness opportunities for their residents. As part of this expansion, they plan to break ground on the construction of a new community center. The new center will offer athletic facilities, fitness rooms, swimming pools, and more.

“Recreation is a huge element to quality of life for our citizens. It is integral that we continue to provide opportunities to improve the health and wellness of Morristown residents,” said Parvin.

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