A packed room was on hand to learn how parks and recreation can play an important role in creating a sense of place and enhancing the quality of life for residents--and just as importantly, how to find creative funding and form cooperative efforts to build and maintain these assets that are often the place where visitors and newcomers alike develop some of their strongest impressions of a community and its liveability. 

Understanding your demographics is key in knowing the changing needs of residents, such as the "silver tsunami" of aging Baby Boomers, who are reaching retirement age between 2011-2029. This new generation of seniors is younger, healthier and more active, and interested in living somewhere they can pursue an active social life, from pickleball leagues to trails and bike paths.

Embracing a community's cultural diversity can also help officials identify new recreational needs such as Canton's building of two cricket fields in response to residents' interest in a sport that is nontraditional in the US.

Dog parks are a hot new trend and are a fantastic opportunity to encourage community engagement. Their real purpose is adult socialization among a new generation of dog owners who are passionate about their pets and want to include them in their social life. Due to the enthusiastic grassroots support of pet owners in the community, Canton built a first-class new dog park without a single tax dollar.

Parks and recreational facilities can also help create a sense of place, such as the way Charlotte, NC has parlayed its recreational assets into an image as a national whitewater center.

The workshop was just one of the great preconference sessions at the League's Capital Conference. To see more photos from this and other events, visit the League's flickr page.

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