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Illinois Parks & Recreation
November / December 1995 Volume 26, Number 6

42 |  Illinois Parks & Recreation  |  November/December 1995

42 | Illinois Parks & Recreation | November/December 1995

Illinois Rural Recreation Development Project
by Jim Brademas, Ph.D.

The 1995 Illinois Rural Recreation Development Project (IRRDP) was designed to assist rural communities of under 5,000 population develop their recreation potential. Urban areas in Illinois have long enjoyed year-round public recreation programs. In rural communities, however, there is a lack of resources and professional leadership for the provision of general recreation services. The purpose of the Illinois Rural Recreation Development Project was to address the immediate unmet needs in small rural communities for summer recreation programs leading to long-term development for recreation services.

Pre-Program Planning
The W. K. Kellogg Foundation awarded a $76,761 grant to the University of Illinois, Office of Recreation and Tourism Development, to address these unmet needs in five small Illinois rural towns.

The members of the city councils of Gibson City, Homer, Newman, Greenup and Neoga voted unanimously to adopt the program for the summer of 1995. The criteria for participation included a contribution of $ 1,000 and housing for the five summer recreation directors, the formation of a Citizen Recreation Advisory Committee made up of a cross-section of community residents, and the recruitment of three youths between the ages of fourteen and sixteen who would serve as "Youth Recreation Leaders" assisting the recreation director.

Seven students from the Department of Leisure Studies were hired, five of whom were appointed as recreation directors, one as program manager and one as a research associate. Policy and procedure manuals were developed for both the recreation directors and the youth recreation leaders. Citizen Recreation Advisory Committee members filled out extensive inventories of the resources in their respective communities, detailing physical, program and volunteer resources.

Two five-day training programs, held on the University of Illinois campus, were developed for recreation directors and youth leaders. Eight recreation specialists from the Champaign and Urbana Park Districts volunteered their time to conduct the training session, which covered arts and crafts, special events, environmental education, sports, games and working with special populations. University faculty conducted sessions on risk management, financial accounting, living in a rural community and general policies and procedures. The American Red Cross conducted sessions on first aid and CPR. The youth leader training was conducted by the recreation directors and project staff.

Community Planning Recreation Directors were obligated to move to their cities four weeks prior to the beginning of the summer program to become familiar with the residents and available resources. The inventories compiled by the members of the advisory committees asked to define community needs and interests for a summer recreation program. Meetings were held with members of the advisory committees to review the inventories and to obtain first-hand information on needs and interests. Recreation directors met with students in the various schools to determine needs and interests. The training sessions and the specific summer recreation activities developed were centered around the results of these efforts.

The marketing of the program was done in several ways. In addition to the face-to-face meetings with the Citizen Recreation Advisory Committees and students, several weeks before the start of the program 3,000 registration forms were sent to

Illinois Parks & Recreation November/December 1995 43

parents through the local schools. The registration form contained a letter from the recreation director, a parent community recreation survey on their perception of recreation services, a two-page calendar of activities to be offered, a child registration form and a medical information form.

All local newspapers were contacted with full details on the summer program. Each newspaper was sent resumes on the recreation directors which were subsequently printed. During the course of the summer, extensive newspaper coverage was given to the program including weekly calendars of activities, stories and pictures of various activities. Radio was also used to publicize the program.

Community Support
In one town, two women volunteered their time to work with children every morning of the entire nine-week recreation program. Other adult volunteers taught tennis lessons, boat and gun safety and conducted storytelling. A number of contributions of goods and services and money were made in each city during the course of the summer. Banks, grocery stores, service clubs and individuals contributed money, food, supplies and equipment. Three city councils contributed an additional $1,000 and two contributed an additional $500 during the course of the summer.

Youth Recreation Leaders
One of the most interesting developments of the summer was the involvement of the youth recreation leaders. The leaders were paid a modest honorarium for a requirement of fifteen hours of work each week. However, their enthusiasm, energy and dedication extended far beyond the fifteen hour a week requirement, many of them working twenty-five and thirty hours. The summer recreation program would not have been the resounding success that it was without the work of the youth leaders. In several cities daily attendance reached sixty to eighty. One recreation director could not have carried on a program successfully with that many children. The youth leaders were absolutely essential to the program.

Evaluation of the Program
Evaluation of the program was done on several levels. First, a post-program survey was mailed to the parents who registered their children. It was similar to the pre-program survey but included questions on their satisfaction with the summer program. Next, a household random sample survey was done in each community. This survey included the following four topics: recreation awareness and participation, feelings regarding community attachment and satisfaction, feelings regarding the importance and satisfaction regarding several elements of community life, and household demographic information.

Meet the 1995 Illinois Rural Recreation Development Project leadership: (standing l-r) Spencer Ely,
Bruce Takasaki, Becky Parkinson; (kneeling l-r) Jeff Wait, Project Director Dr. Jim Brademas, Brian
Meet the 1995 Illinois Rural Recreation Development Project leadership: (standing l-r) Spencer Ely, Bruce Takasaki, Becky Parkinson; (kneeling l-r) Jeff Wait, Project Director Dr. Jim Brademas, Brian Kroenig.

Citizen Recreation Advisory
Committee members filled out an evaluation form asking for their opinions on a number of different aspects of the program. The youth leaders were required to write an evaluation of their training program; submit goals and objectives and complete a five-page evaluation form at the end of the summer on their experience and on their progress in meeting their goals and objectives. The youth leaders were also evaluated on their performance by their recreation directors at mid-summer and again at the end of the summer. Last, recreation directors submitted an evaluation form which asked forty-eight questions related to their training, their understanding of the community, the performance of the youth leaders, working with community agencies and businesses, their perception of their job and suggestions for improvement of the program.

Implications for the Future
The members of every Citizen Recreation Advisory Committee voted to continue the program next year. Many testimonials were given on the success of the project by children and adults. Perhaps the following statement by Perry Albin, president of the Illini Development Corporation in Newman, Illinois, is most representative. In response to a question asking his opinion of the project, he stated, "It's just a foundation for community development that is a wonderful thing. We hope it will continue year to year, and we plan to support it locally."

One city is exploring the possibility of establishing a park district. Inquires have been received from several communities wanting to participate in this program.

There are 1,018 communities in Illinois with populations less than 5,000. The opportunity for expanded programming in rural areas appears to be unlimited. Funding remains a critical issue. The W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant was for one year. However, after viewing the program, the Kellogg representative offered the University of Illinois a continuation grant of $150,000 for two more years for retaining the five original cities and adding several more. Each city would have to contribute increased funds which they are willing to do. The critical point, however, is the need for the University of Illinois to contribute some matching funds.

Over the three years it is anticipated that the Kellogg Foundation's contribution will be $226,761 and the cities' approximately $100,000. Some funding has been secured for the university's share, and several additional funding sources are being explored at this time.

A video documentary on the Illinois Rural Recreation Development Project is available to rural communities interested in participating in the program and to universities for classroom use. Please write to Dr. Jim Brademas, University of llli-

44 Illinois Parks & Recreation November/December 1995

nois, 104 Huff Hall, 1206 S. Fourth Street, Champaign, IL 61820.

Professor Jim Brademas has served on the faculty of the Department of Leisure Studies at the University of Illinois for the past twenty-two years. He was the first superintendent of recreation for the Rock- ford Park District serving in that capacity from 1956 until 1960.

The author wishes to thank Rick Harwell of Clemson University and Jonelle Nuckolls of the University of Colorado at Boulder for their early and sustained advice on the Illinois Rural Recreation Development Project. Appreciation is also extended to the Illinois Association of Park Districts and the Illinois Conservation, Park and Recreation Foundation for their financial assistance with the project.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation was established in 1930 to "help people to help themselves." As a private grant-making organization, it provides seed money to organizations and institutions that have identified problems and designed constructive action programs aimed at solutions.

Leisure Research Symposium
Rural recreation trends will be discussed as part of the first Leisure Research Symposium--bringing together practitioners and educators for the purpose of sharing current and future research--held at the IAPD/IPRA Annual Conference on Friday, January 12, 1996, at the Hyatt Regency O'Hare. For more information, contact IAPD or IPRA.

community pride

Illinois Parks & Recreation * November/December 1995 45

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