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Neighbors of Kane County

Geneva Park District brings many benefits to life in this community

May 14, 2015 12:39PM ● By Tim
(This article is reprinted from your Neighbors of Geneva magazine.  There are two corrections. From May 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, Geneva Park District awarded over $16,000 in scholarships; not $76,000 as reported in the magazine.  Annually, horticulturists at the Wheeler Park Greenhouse raise over 15,000 flowers and plants; not 75,000 as reported in the magazine.)

Wikipedia sums it up pretty well: “Recreation is an activity of leisure, leisure being discretionary time. The need to do something for recreation is an essential element of human biology and psychology. Recreational activities are often done for enjoyment, amusement, or pleasure and are considered to be ‘fun.’ ” Every family household, community organization and even businesses, try to incorporate “fun,” or recreation, somewhere into their routine.  Recreation is so important to the community that there is an organization who’s sole purpose is to provide, foster and promote recreation: the Geneva Park District.

 With over 700 acres across 50 parks, and countless other assets in the community, such as Stone Creek Mini Golf, the Butterfly House, Sunset Pool, the historic Peck House, Sunset Community Center, Stephen D. Persinger Recreation Center, Community Gardens at Prairie Green, and the newly acquired Playhouse 38, the park district and its programs provide real benefits to residents.

Economic benefits 

According to the National Recreation and Park Association, properties less than 600 feet from parks show as much as a20% increase in tax valuation when compared to similar houses further away from parks. From May 1, 2012 through April 30, 2013, Geneva Park District awarded over $16,000* in scholarships providing recreational opportunities to individuals in need. Proceeds from the annual Harvest Hustle 5K as well as a donation from Cadence Health, now Northwestern Medicine,® made these funds available. Partnerships with local businesses and governmental agencies to provide residents with a many recreational outlets while benefiting local commerce.

For the past two years, the Geneva Park District has demonstrated superior fiscal responsibility in being awarded the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting by the Government Finance Officer’s Association of United States and Canada. This award recognizes efforts to prepare a comprehensive annual financial report that goes above and beyond minimum requirements of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. Geneva Park District’s bond rating was upgraded by Standard & Poor’s to AA+. This enhanced rating has assisted in the refinancing of current debt, which has saved the district over $700,000 over the past four years and is anticipated to save an additional $400,000 within the next year.

Environmental benefits

 Over 700 acres of preserved open space provide safe habitats for a variety of plants, animals, insects and birds, attracting bald eagles, sand hill cranes, milkweed plants, brown bats, and red foxes in their own backyard. Nurturing a life-long connection to nature helps ensure the future of global environment’s health. Trees and plants have the ability to remove air pollutants and improve air quality, helping our residents avoid the costs associated with air pollution. Annually, horticulturists at the Wheeler Park Greenhouse raise over 15,000* flowers and plants, used throughout the parks. The district also planted over 75 trees throughout over the past year. According to the American Forestry Association, one tree provides $273 in environmental benefits each year, meaning the 75 newly planted trees saved over $20,475 this year.

At this year’s Earth Day Celebration at Peck Farm Park, participants recycled four tons of paper. According to the EPA, four tons of recycled paper saves 28,000 gallons of water, 73.2 cubic yards of landfill space, reduces greenhouse gas emissions by four metric tons of carbon equivalent and reserves enough energy to power the average American home for two years. Additionally, through the Kids Around the World organization, Geneva Park District donated old playground equipment from Deerpath, Lions, and Fargo Parks to underprivileged areas in Africa as an environmentally responsible way to provide recreation to communities outside our own.

 Community benefits

Parks create strong communities. University of Illinois research found residents living near parks are more familiar with their neighbors and express greater feelings of safety and community than residents lacking nearby green spaces. “Social capital,” like that provided by parks, is a stronger predictor of perceived quality of life than income or education levels. Communities with high “social capital” are likely to have higher educational achievement, better-performing governmental institutions, faster economic growth, less crime and violence and improved health conditions. This year over 300 volunteers committed countless hours to Geneva parks and recreation programs. A few notable volunteer groups include the Geneva and Batavia High School Key Clubs, Geneva Park District Foundation, Boy Scout Troop #37, and City of Geneva Natural Resource Committee. Parks and recreation jobs provide valuable work experience to bright and talented individuals as they continue to explore professional careers. Geneva Park District employs approximately 39 full-time, 150 part-time and 250 seasonal employees. Many of the part time and seasonal employees are local teenagers and young adults. Parks offer opportunities for people of all ages to communicate, compete, interact, learn and grow. Research by Mecklenburg County Park & Recreation shows students who participate in at least one hour of extracurricular activities per week are 49% less likely to use drugs and 37% less likely to become teen parents. Geneva’s recreational programs enroll over 1,700 toddlers, youth and teens per year.

 With the addition of new cultural arts programs at Playhouse 38, Geneva Park District hopes to increase their impact upon the academic and social development of local children, teens and adults. Cultural arts programs stimulate and develop imagination and critical thinking while refining cognitive and creative skills. Cultural arts also nurture important values including team-building skills, respect for alternative viewpoints, and an appreciation for different cultures and traditions. Whether behind the scenes or on stage, children learn a sense of discipline, craftsmanship and goal setting as they diligently rehearse scenes for a big performance. According to Americans for the Arts, young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days each week through at least one year are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. Additionally, the impact of Adult Community Theatre brings business to the area, enriching the lives of those who participate while providing the community with “social capital.”

Health benefits

According to the National Recreation and Park Association’s 2010 research report, the prevalence of depression was 33% less in neighborhoods with the most green space compared to those with the least green space. Annually, the Park District’s fitness classes attract over 3,500 participants who reduce stress while burning calories. Residents residing near parks and open spaces are approximately two to three times more likely to take a walk than those without parks near their homes. Simply walking 10,000 steps per day is shown to reduce the incidence of heart disease, lower high blood pressure and decrease symptoms of depression. The 2013 Mile Club program tracked over 83,000 miles.

The health benefits provided by parks and recreation also hold an economic value. By promoting physical activity, parks are one of the most effective ways to control the approximately $147 billion direct and indirect costs of the obesity epidemic. One study showed children living within a half mile of a park or playground are five times more likely to be a healthy weight. Research shows that adults who exercise moderately in parks experience an average of $351 in healthcare savings each year. In Geneva Park District fitness facilities over 4,800 active members stay active in the pursuit of healthy lifestyles, saving a total of nearly $1.7 million dollars each year. If you include the 200,000 visitors to Peck Farm Park and the Fox River Trail, Geneva Parks the impact on healthcare savings is very impressive.

In Geneva, the impact of parks and recreation is powerful. This year, Geneva was ranked the #7 small town to raise children in Illinois by Bloomberg’s Businessweek. Without a doubt, the many parks, facilities, open spaces, and recreational programs provided by the Geneva Park District make this town a pretty neat place to live…for small kids and big kids alike.