IPO Logo Home Search Browse About IPO Staff Links
Beyond "Fun and Games"

Emerging Roles of Public Recreation

Case studies show how local recreation programs help prevent crime, drug abuse and disease, promote healthy choices for all ages, and improve communities and quality of life.

A new study released by the National Recreation and Park Association gives evidence that a collective answer for many serious social issues, including juvenile crime, can be found in local park districts and recreation departments. The study illustrates recreation-based programs that are successful at reducing crime, improving health and quality of life, and creating safer communities. In addition, the recreation programs profiled in the study are cost-effective and replicable for other communities around the country. Following are three of the 19 case studies including in NRPA's report


Champaign Park District, Champaign, Illinois. In 1990, the 14-square mile city of Champaign had a population of 65,503. The city is not expected to grow dramatically, with trends pointing to only a .6% annual growth rate. Census data also provide an interesting profile of this community. Over 20% of the entire population is below the age of 18 (and even that number may be skewed upward since it reflects University of Illinois students residing in census tracts) while nearly 23% of the population is over 65.

Champaign is unusual among many of the cities profiled in NRPA's report: only 2.7% of the families are headed by single adults and the number of households below the poverty rate is 18%. Despite what appears to be a positive demographic picture, many Champaign residents are "very close to the edge" officials say, especially when it comes to the ability of people to afford comprehensive medical services, including preventive health care.

1992 and continuing.

The cost of medical care emergency, general, and preventive continue to increase at rates higher than inflation. The lack of readily available information and consultation services exacerbates these costs and diminishes the overall health of individuals and communities.

It was evident in 1991 that the contiguous communities of Champaign and Urbana were in serious need of medical information and community health services. High medical costs, lack of health insurance, and the very logistics of getting to a doctor's office were causing more and more people to forego medical treatment. Absent community health awareness programs, parents often failed in their responsibilities for children's health, including immunizations. Other health and medical problems soon overcrowded and overworked the emergency rooms.

The Christie Clinic, a private regional medical facility, recognized the public's need for medical and health information and services. However, it lacked a central accessible location in which to provide them. The Champaign Park District, aware of the gap between the needs of the community and those of potential service providers, offered both a facility and service delivery system.

Illinois Parks & Recreation January/February 1995 33

Beyond "Fun and Games"

In partnership between the Champaign Park District and the Christie Clinic, the hospital donated funds for the purchase of equipment and supplies for a new facility the Springer Recreation Center. Programs now include an array of services and information, from wellness and fitness to clinical research. The following are among the programs:

Pediatrics: Lead Poisoning and Screening

Common Ear and Hearing Problems

Adolescents: Sports Injuries

Attention Deficit Disorder and Hyperactivity Disorder

Mental Health: Treating Depression

Identifying and Treating Eating Disorders

Adjusting to Your Child's Adulthood

Understanding Mental Illness

The partnership also encouraged the park district to provide additional prevention programs, including:

"Sisters" a program for teenage girls (13-18) through Planned Parenthood. It offers field trips, recreational sports, and other forms of recreation to this high risk population.

Mentorship in partnership with community schools, the park district makes available role models to youth-at-risk in the context of traditional recreation programs.

RESULTS Since the program's inception, Christie Clinic has enrolled more than 700 persons for programs and services. The initial partnership has encouraged two other area hospitals to join with Christie to offer programs at Springer Recreation Center. Covenant Medical Center had 200 participate in its initial programs, and Carle Clinic had 125.

COSTS The Christie Clinic pays an annual sum to the park district to operate the program at the Springer Recreation Center. All professional services and speakers are provided to the community at no charge.

CONTACT For further information, contact Jamie Sabbach, Facilities Coordinator, Springer Recreation Center, (217) 398-2376.


LOCATION The City of Columbia doubled in population in the past 30 years from 36,650 in 1960 to more than 72.000 today. Three institutions of higher education are located here, yet even with a highly educated population, 11 percent of Columbia's households earn less than $5,000 a year, and an additional 25 percent earn less than $15,000.

TIME IN OPERATION 1981 and continuing.

PROGRAM BACKGROUND Economic and entrepreneurial opportunity and support elude a great number of people, particularly youth, because many do not have appropriate education or training. Despite the presence of the University of Missouri and a number of successful businesses and industries, the summer of 1980 was particularly stressful. Unemployment and social unrest were high, and the termination of the federal Comprehensive Employment Training Assistance (CETA) program exacerbated the problem.

To respond, a steering committee evaluated the unemployment problems facing the city's youth. Led by park and recreation director Richard Green, the committee agreed that new strategies were needed to provide employment options to Columbia's youth.

The park and recreation agency launched a pilot program in March 1981 Career Awareness and Related Experience (CARE). Grants totalling $ 150,000 from the city council and the board of education helped fund the first 10-week program for 150 economically disadvantaged Columbians, aged 15 to 20.

CARE is a total community program drawing on both the public and private sector. Wages are paid by the city, and partners in both the private and public sectors provide job-site supervision. Participants develop job skills and explore career interests through training and meaningful work experiences with local businesses. The park and recreation agency annually recognizes local businesses, stressing that they must remain full partners.

The initial steering committee continues to provide support: University of Missouri, Columbia Housing Authority. The Front Door, Columbia Career Center, Human Development Corporation, The Job Center, Columbia City Council, and Columbia Public Schools.

34 Illinois Parks & Recreation January/February 1995

Beyond "Fun and Games"

RESULTS CARE has encouraged a city-wide working alliance. During the past 12 years (including 13 summer programs), there have been 1,440 participants. Of these, 1,050 remained with CARE for at least one year. Nearly 400 were employed by the program for the maximum two years. Of the 1,440 participants, 80 percent have successfully completed the program by entering the work force and/or continuing education.

During the two year program, CARE participants earned $4.25/hour for up to 175 hours of work and 30 hours of education.

COST The program cost $234,605, or $1,875 per person per year.

CONTACT For further information, contact Jack Kling, Columbia Park and Recreation Department, (314) 874-6300.


LOCATION Winton Hills Community, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, Cincinnati, Ohio.

TIME IN OPERATION 1993 and continuing.

PROGRAM BACKGROUND The Cincinnati Post has called Winton Hills a "cluster of crime ridden public housing units ruled by territorial drug dealers." The mean household income is $12,939. Sixty percent of households have children under the age of 18. More than 2,800 children and 70 percent (4,682) of all residents fall below the poverty line.

This bleak picture was compounded in 1992-93 when Winton Hills experienced repeated acts of "urban terrorism" committed by teens and young adults. Above and beyond the disturbing day-to-day violence and drug dealing, residents watched as 80 law enforcement officers swept into Winton Terrace. The massive drug bust resulted in seven arrests. The three-month undercover operation was a response to more than 70 resident complaints. Six months later, in the middle of a crowded crosswalk three young men jumped from a van and gunned down a 20-year-old man. The following day, a newspaper reporter and his photographer were shot. The community had had enough.

With a one-time $50,000 city allocation, the mayor directed the Cincinnati Recreation Commission to launch a series of consensus-building meetings with residents at the Winton Hills Community Center, a public recreation facility. The aim was to find a way to reduce or stop the violence and illegal drug trafficking.

The consensus plan that emerged from community input identified the recreation center as the focal point for a specially designed 13-weekend program including education, social, and recreation services. These included drug awareness, tutoring and mentoring, education, field trips, sports and other supervised recreation programs. Recreation services at several other centers were expanded to include late-evening and weekend basketball, drill teams, girls sports, boxing, and sewing classes, among others.

Collaborating on the program were the Citizen's Committee On Youth, community churches, United Way organizations, Cincinnati Police, Cincinnati Health Department, Cincinnati Human Services, Cincinnati Human Relations Commission, and Cincinnati Metropolitan Housing Authority.

RESULTS The Friday/Saturday late-evening recreation program hosted visits during the initial 13-week period. During the same period, the number of criminal incidents dropped 24 percent, from 645 to 491. City and federal officials directly attribute this to the Winton Hills late-evening recreation initiative.

COST The initial program allocation was $50,000. The late- evening recreation program component is $10,240, or $0.56 per person.

CONTACT For further information, contact Jess Parrett, Public Affairs, Cincinnati Recreation Commission, (513) 352- 4044.

The Study "Beyond Fun and Games: Emerging Roles of Public Recreation" was undertaken by the ational Recreation and Parks Association. Copies of the study are $12 for NRPA members or $16 for nonmembers. To order, contact Jonathan Howard, NRPA, (703) 820-4940.

Illinois Parks & Recreation January/February 1995 35

|Home| |Search| |Back to Periodicals Available| |Table of Contents| |Back to Illinois Parks & Recreaction 1995|
Illinois Periodicals Online (IPO) is a digital imaging project at the Northern Illinois University Libraries funded by the Illinois State Library
Sam S. Manivong, Illinois Periodicals Online Coordinator