By Austin Thomas, Marketing & Research Manager
What, in your mind, is the first sign that summer is on its way? Is it the newly born tobacco plants now nestled in the sandy soil, destined to flourish under the scorching sun of the coming months? Or is it the celebration of a college graduate, now moving into their next stage of life?
For quite a few parents like myself, the “beginning” of summer is marked by the opening of one of our community’s greatest kid-centric attractions: the Kiwanis Family Park Splash Pad. My daughter, who will turn four years old later this year, has the normal interests of most young children – two of which are playgrounds and water. Fortunately for her, and hundreds of other youngsters, the Splash Pad provides the perfect combination of both.
Opened in late 2019, the Splash Pad was a collaborative effort by both the City of Sanford and Lee County Government, working together to designate 14 acres of land at Kiwanis Family Park for redevelopment, with the Splash Pad being the center attraction. Rated for a capacity of 177 people, the Splash Pad is, seemingly, packed each weekend during its season (now through August 29, 2022).
With warmer weather quickly making its way to our area, and more people heading outdoors, the Splash Pad isn’t the only local amenity available to families with younger children. Over the past couple of years, the City of Sanford, the Town of Broadway, and Lee County Government have all made tremendous strides in improving numerous local parks.
Updated equipment, new features, and more inclusive options all create a recipe for increased enjoyment and leisure among children and parents alike. New swing-sets, lightning-fast merry-go-rounds, and slides that are “SUPER TALL”, according to my daughter Abby, bring delight to countless kids.
But beyond being a weekend activity for most families, why exactly are recreational parks so important?
According to the National Recreation and Park Association, parks and recreation have three values that make them essential services to communities: economic value, health and environmental benefits, and social importance.
ECONOMIC VALUE: Parks improve the local tax base and increase property values. It is proven that private property values increase the value of privately owned land the closer such land is to parks.
HEALTH/ENVIRONMENTAL BENEFITS: According to studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, creating, improving, and promoting places to be physically active can improve individual and community health and result in a 25 percent increase of residents who exercise at least three times per week.
SOCIAL IMPORTANCE: Parks are a tangible reflection of the quality of life in a community. They provide identity for citizens and are a major factor in the perception of quality of life in a given community. Parks and recreation services are often cited as one of the most important factors in surveys of how livable communities are.
So, the next time you drive by a park full of joyous kiddos, consider this: advancing quality of life in an area means making that community a destination location for all to live, work AND play. “Play,” is very much part of the formula for success!