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Parks and Recreation '94

Parks and Recreation '94
Radisson Hotel
Virginia Beach, VA
Becky Norton Dunlop

It is my pleasure to welcome you to parks and recreation ‘94 – a management conference. This is the 17th time that our Virginia department of conservation and recreation has teamed-up with Virginia Commonwealth University to provide this quality training program for Virginia’s parks and recreation professionals.

This year we are especially proud of the overall theme of looking to the future to determine what trends and changes are on the horizon. To be successful, we must be aware of those trends and issues, which will effect us in the future. This will enable us to better determine what facilities and services will be needed to serve the needs of 21st century Virginians.

Parks and recreation professionals have historically found ways to provide quality services with minimal resources. It is simply amazing that for fiscal year 1992, the per capita spending on parks and recreation by local governments in Virginia was $30.43. That means that for less than the cost of a cheap pair of sneakers. Your profession finds a way to provide the services that are so important to the quality of lives of our citizens. I applaud you for your accomplishments!

Recreation is an essential service to Virginia’s citizens. The benefits of these programs and services are numerous, including: health and fitness; human development; community involvement; ethnic and cultural harmony; strong families; productive work force; reduced crime; economic returns; and quality parks and open space.

Recreation helps people develop positive social values. The benefits of a strong, well-rounded leisure lifestyle can lead to improved health, stronger families and an overall higher quality of life. When offered positive alternative activities, children learn teamwork, discipline, self esteem and pride. Without recreational choices, kids often make choices that are detrimental to society and themselves. This is not to suggest that recreation holds the key to curing all social ills; however, I believe it plays a key role in the positive development of our young people. When compared to the $20,000 per year price tag to incarcerate a criminal, the cost of recreation programs is truly a sound investment.

Aside from the social benefits of recreation, there is strong evidence that investments in parks and recreation programs and facilities have a positive economic impact. From the obvious benefit to local businesses, as a result of large cultural and special events, to the trend of locating businesses in communities that have strong leisure opportunities, investing in parks and recreation services makes sound business sense. Parks, facilities and programs are essential ingredients of our state’s tourism industry, particularly museums, waterfront parks, beaches, golf courses, and zoos.

In these times of limited public dollars for parks and recreation programs and facilities, we must think creatively to continue these benefits to our citizens and communities. We must find avenues to access grants from private sources and the corporate world to fund the projects that have been discontinued due to decreased public funding. Corporations in the tidewater area could be solicited to provide funding for the former Chesapeake bay youth conservation corps program, or southwest Virginia companies could support the acquisition and development of lands for recreational purposes in that region. The challenges are enormous, but the possibilities are endless.

It is time that local agencies and state agencies come up with creative ways to cooperatively serve our clients. We must take down the territorial barriers that separate us and begin to work together on that which is most important: providing the best possible leisure services and facilities to our clients. In these times of budget reductions and downsizing, it is vital that you express to us what services from the state are most important to you and that you give us suggestions on how we can cooperatively meet your needs and those of your clients. We feel it is important that each of you contribute your thoughts and ideas concerning the services we offer you.

I fully recognize the importance of recreation programs to the commonwealth’s citizens. We are committed to providing you -local parks and recreation professionals- with the resources you need to provide a higher quality of life for your citizens. Whether it is the department of conservation and recreation, a state university, or your local cooperative extension service, the commonwealth of Virginia is seeking creative ways to make our limited resources stretch further to continue a tradition of excellent leisure opportunities for Virginians.

During the next two days you will have the opportunity to hear and share ideas with some nationally recognized speakers on strategic management, negotiation skills, revitalizing public service, and dynamic leadership. I urge you to immerse yourself in this experience, interact with the speakers and each other to gain the most from this learning opportunity.

Once again, welcome to parks and recreation 94! I look forward to a positive and productive relationship with Virginia’s parks and recreation professionals during my tenure as secretary for natural resources of the commonwealth of Virginia.