Allow me to cut to the chase: I believe recreation and leisure activities are essential – not discretionary – community functions and governing responsibilities, inclusive of sports, games, social activities, special events, participation in the cultural and fine arts, hobbies, social clubs and interest groups. Recreation provides much more than personal (physical, psychological, and emotional) and social benefits (connectedness and a sense of belonging). In point of fact, research has identified four major categories of benefits: individual, community, economic, and environmental. Research has also demonstrated that recreational activities are directly related to a higher quality of life within the general population. Thus governments at every level within our Country recognize that recreation and leisure constitute major forces of economic development and societal well-being, and reflect, in part, a community’s values and character.

Because recreation is a community resource, it should be strategically managed. Programs, activities and properties must be welcoming, accommodating and socially inclusive, and they must be goal oriented, that is, intended to efficiently and effectively achieve constructive and measured outcomes. Determining those outcomes requires intelligent analyses, critical thinking and problem-solving vis-à-vis the identified needs and interests of the participants and community at large. In addition to emerging needs and interests, support for recreational programs, activities and properties should also be based upon the documented positive benefits or value being or to be derived. In other words, each and all should be able to show how they are or will contribute to making Orchard Park a better place to live, learn, work and play.

Although I have solicited and conclude with the respective visions and priorities of their directors, we must keep in mind that recreation is much more than an outlet of the young or a means of pursuing interesting hobbies or social activities for seniors, even as the directors’ statements evidence.

See also my strategic plan, especially Goal 1 – Objective 3 and Goal 2 – Objective 4.

Next week – Smart Growth

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“The Orchard Park Senior Center …opened in October 1996 with the purpose, as stated in its mission statement, of ‘enhancing each senior’s life by offering quality programs, services and activities that contribute to each person’s mental, physical and social well being by reinforcing the belief that age has no boundaries and that each person has a vital role in his/her community.’ The Center offers wellness programs, fitness, educational, social programs, and services such as transportation, health screenings, tax preparation, safe driving programs, nutrition counseling, and a lunch program. Because of the success of these programs we have outgrown our current facility …to address the issue of space, The Senior Council (SCOP) is raising funds to procure a larger facility to better serve the many faceted needs of the aging population. In 2012 over 21,000 people used the Senior Center and over 10,000 meals were served …Providing services and programs at the Senior Center enables seniors to remain in their homes and participate and be a part of the community. When Baby Boomers retire the first place they turn to in learn about programs and services designed for seniors is their local Senior Center. They are looking for a place where they ‘belong,’ and where they can connect with their peers. That place is the Senior Center. (Anna Willems, Director, Orchard Park Senior Center)

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“As the saying goes, it takes a community to raise a child. The growth of Orchard Park Recreation over the last decade has been unprecedented. Through a simple philosophy of providing quality programs with well trained competent staff, this has translated into opportunities with great value thus reflecting the community’s tremendous support. We listen, reflect, change and implement the needs and wants of the community. As this trend of growth continues, our Town’s leadership must keep pace by adding and putting in place the resources needed to sustain the community’s quality of life. The residents and businesses of Orchard Park have always responded when asked to help. Collaborative initiatives will allow good things to happen.” (Ed Leak, Director, Recreation and Youth Activities, Orchard Park Recreation)