Parks & Recreations: Cultivating Communities

When dissecting the factors that create a well-rounded community, one of the most accessible and family-oriented locales is public parks. As an area that is specifically designated for recreational use, parks are important in cultivating the culture in neighborhoods and can also be used to enrich the life around communities.

The concept of parks and recreation is defined by the Connecticut Recreation & Parks Association as “…resources are services provided for the purpose of leisure, entertainment, and recreational pursuits.” To get a better understanding of what goes into parks and recreation, John La Rock, the Community Service Director of Torrance, answered a few questions regarding the importance of having accessible public parks. 

The people behind the cultivation of these public areas are in different departments, each in charge of their own specific division. “The Community Services Department is made up of five divisions. These include the administrative division, the parks division, the accretion division, the cultural division, and the library division,” La Rock stated. “It’s my job to maintain the facilitation of all their operations in terms of budget and policy.” 

La Rock’s job as the director of Community Services is one that is heavily based on constantly interacting with his community and the people around him, which is also something that public parks encourage. When asked about the benefits of local parks, La Rock referred to his experiences working with the city of Torrance and reflected on how these areas benefit neighborhoods.

“…the wonderful kind of mixing pot of a public park in any city and certainly in Torrance is that it’s an opportunity for members of our community to really be amongst their neighbors and the guests who our city and to experience on a regular basis…” La Rock went on to mention an important factor of these public spaces: the variety in which these recreational areas can be utilized. 

The use of public outdoor spaces can be endless, especially in the amenities they offer. Outstretches of open land that doesn’t interfere with local infrastructure can encourage citizens of all ages to pursue a multitude of different activities. When speaking to La Rock about the spectrum of activities that a local park could offer, he mentions how these public spaces help create distinctiveness in communities and neighborhoods. 

“…the wonderful diversity that we enjoy in this city, at every level, whether that’s social, economic, gender, age, talent, etc. It really is the opportunity for people to gain perspective on the world in which they live in Torrance, in the country, in the world, but also have that be experienced in a positive manner because they’re having a wellness experience,” La Rock pointed out. 

According to the City Parks Alliance, “Physical activity can reduce or prevent many physical and mental health problems. Parks also reduce the costs of healthcare: maintaining a healthy weight saves $1,500 per person in healthcare costs per year.” While public parks are both beneficial in maintaining personal mental and physical wellbeing, they also are a crucial part of a neighborhood’s urban environment and ecosystem. 

In cities that are filled with buildings and properties, public parks offer a variety of factors that not only help to benefit communities but also enrich the neighborhood’s local ecosystem. Although the area is meant for recreational use, it is also an area where fauna and flora can prosper. Additionally, these public parks also help manage the health of these neighborhoods’ environments. 

The National Recreation and Parks Association gives examples of the ways parks preserve and maintain the quality of the environment, “Parks and protected public lands are proven to improve water quality, protect groundwater, prevent flooding, improve the quality of the air we breathe, provide vegetative buffers to development, produce habitat for wildlife…” Therefore, parks, no matter the size or capacity, help conserve the wildlife in communities. 

Neighborhoods can quickly become industrialized, especially in very populated cities. Therefore, the presence and existence of these private landscapes are vital to the growth of a well-rounded and cultivated community. The accessibility of public parks is not only beneficial to citizens’ mental and physical wellbeing but also is an area that promotes the conservation of environments and ecosystems. 

Around the Da Vinci community, there are a variety of accessible parks. Although everyone has differing modes of transportation, a local park near DVC is nothing short of a 15-minute walk or a 2-minute car drive. An area that may be familiar to students, Del-Aire park, is a notable example of a public park that offers a variety of different amenities to the local community. Not only does it offer a free space for recreational activities, but it is also an area accessible to all.