July is Parks and Recreation Month! This year more than ever, Parks and Recreation Month is important to observe and celebrate. Spending time outside has become more meaningful this summer—and more essential, as the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic has driven people into their homes for extended periods of quarantine and isolation. As America adjusts and attempts to find a healthy balance, the role of city parks and recreation departments has become more vital to communities.

Every day, in communities across the country, people head to community parks and recreation areas. Community parks benefit individuals and communities as a whole. Public parks provide an option for people in cities and suburbs to spend time outdoors in nature. Parks encourage physical activity within a community—a link has been found between the number of parks in a community and the number of people who keep fit: the more parks there are, the more likely people are to exercise. Those with maintained greenspaces, bluespaces such as beaches, and trails are extremely popular. They offer an assortment of recreation activities from plots of grass and open spots for fitness activities and exercise classes, to swimming and boating areas, to hiking routes. And those with playground equipment and sports fields are also highly regarded. They function as family meeting spots where children can enjoy playing together, on everything from swings to slides to skateboard ramps.

Further, community parks and recreational areas promote positive mental health and well-being. They provide exposure to nature in an outdoor setting, which has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, encourage calmness, increase resilience, and even improve creativity. Through access to nature, parks afford opportunities for mental restoration which is beneficial because it improves cognitive function, ability to focus, and attention span. Parks also promote engaging in periods of greater mindfulness and relaxation; and the exposure to natural light helps to improve or normalize sleep patterns.

The power of parks is extraordinary. Access to parks and recreation areas inspires and supports frequent connection to the natural world, which allows people to maintain and/or improve both their physical and mental health through participation in an active and intentional wholesome lifestyle.

The Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department provides access to over 190 well-maintained parks, as well as two beautiful bayfront beaches and multiple designated stretches of beach along the coast; it also operates a wide range of recreation facilities where people can enjoy a variety of events and activities year-round. Though the current COVID-19 pandemic has compelled government authorities to issue precautionary guidelines and rules for mitigating risk when visiting these community common areas, visitors are still being encouraged to get outside to enjoy many of these amazing locales and environments.

For more information on the parks and recreation options in the Corpus Christi, Texas area, including the most update information regarding adjusted hours and closures of facilities due to COVID-19, visit the Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Department webpage or Facebook page. Article by Erika Mehlhaff