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Scroll to end of the article for the original Parks and Recreation cast photo and the local take from Recreation Services. (L-R: Lynn Pegg as Leslie Knope, Mac Stanley as Andy Dwyer, Peyton O'Conner as Ann Perkins, Adam Zinke as Ben Wyatt, Karla Furnari as April Ludgate, and Christo Bubenik as Tom Haverford)
Parks are at the center of so many experiences and memories – moments that park and recreation professionals make happen. The U.S. House of Representatives has designated July as Park and Recreation Month, specifically emphasizing the outsized role parks have played during the COVID-19 pandemic in regards to public health, personal wellness, and community resiliency. In Buncombe County, we believe parks are open spaces to exercise for no or little cost, places for hurried individuals to reconnect with nature, and community gathering spots to connect with neighbors and preserve culture.
“Over the past several months, many community members found a new appreciation for the essential spaces we manage and the vital programs we provide,” says Peyton O’Conner, Recreation Services Director. “Parks are more than just playgrounds and sports fields. In addition to providing safe public spaces for people to remain active as everything else shut down, my team partnered with other departments on ways to adapt our facilities to play a role in our community’s emergency response to the pandemic. This includes testing and vaccine distribution sites with Health and Human Services, temporary field hospitals with Emergency Services (that weren’t needed, thankfully), and outdoor programs with Public Libraries. We hope to expand on these partnerships by establishing a ParkRx program with Public Health, opening a Latinx and Hispanic famers market in the fall with help from Communications and Public Engagement and other partners, and focusing on proven, cost effective and sustainable environmental solutions to climate change with Soil & Water Conservation.”
Even though parks, recreation, and active living are essential, core services helping Buncombe County deliver on the promises of the Buncombe 2025 plan, our in-house professionals like to have fun. (Come on, a big part of parks is getting to play!) As Park and Recreation Month comes to a close, the Recreation Services administration team decided to recreate a Parks and Recreation cast photo.
Why is July designated as Park and Recreation Month?
- Equitable and accessible parks, recreation, and active living opportunities are essential to communities and neighborhoods throughout Buncombe County.
- Buncombe County Recreation Services promotes community resiliency and wellness by providing better mental health, improved physical health, and increased physical activity by providing safe multigenerational spaces for popular sports, adaptive and inclusive play, greenways and hiking trails, swimming pools, and many other activities designed to promote active lifestyles.
- Parks, recreation, and active living programming and education activities are critical to childhood development and foster mountain spirit, imagination and creativity, healthy habits, teamwork, social equity, emotional stability, mutual trust, and environmental responsibility.
- Buncombe County’s park system drives economic opportunity by expanding the local tax base through support of the outdoor recreation economy, increased tourism, attraction and retention of businesses, and direct employment of 11 full-time employees.
- Parks and recreation programs build healthy, active communities that aid in the prevention of chronic disease, provide therapeutic recreation services for those who are mentally or physically disabled, counter social isolation by connecting people with nature and each other, and also improve the mental and emotional health of all citizens.
- Well-placed, greener parks are essential and adaptable infrastructure that makes our area resilient in the face of natural disasters and climate change, providing cost-effective and sustainable environmental solutions while preserving the culture, beauty, and well-being of our region.
- Parks and natural leisure areas improve water quality, protect groundwater, prevent flooding, preserve ecological splendor, improve the quality of the air we breathe, provide vegetative buffers to development, and produce habitat for wildlife.
- Buncombe County Recreation Services is a core pillar in addressing the Buncombe 2025 focus areas of an educated and capable community, environmental and energy stewardship, resident well-being, and a vibrant economy, as well as the foundational values of respect, integrity, collaboration, honesty, and equity.
- In Buncombe County, we believe parks and recreation have the transformative power to connect communities, preserve culture, and change lives.
- Buncombe County Recreation Services team members have proven themselves to be indispensable community-centered professionals dedicated to serving the public by quickly adapting during times of community crisis and leveraging a diverse portfolio of skills. In 2020, our team learned to drive ambulances, answered 911 calls, worked on the public health messaging team, delivered food to help our community stay home and stay safe, and worked in the County’s Emergency Operations Center and vaccination site.
- Buncombe County recognizes the many benefits derived from providing essential services to the community through parks and recreation resources.
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Thanks to Cataldo Perrone, Buncombe County Information & Communications Supervisor, and Doni Palma-Roberto, CAYLA intern, for our take on the photo. Original photo courtesy of NBCUniversal Television Distribution.