Friday, June 24, 2016

Parks make their mark

This week’s blog post from the SC Economic Developers Association points out some positive statistics related to the economic impact of national and state parks in South Carolina. In 2014, the state’s national parks had an economic impact of $105.9 million, while the state parks brought in $26.9 million in direct revenue alone.

Hartsville's Piratesville splash pad
These economic impact numbers grow further when you add city parks into the equation. While there is no central location that measures direct economic impact of city parks and recreation programs, we know that the traditional city parks with swings and slides have given way to handicap accessible parks, water pads, sports tournaments and trails that draw tourists and residents alike. 

Quidditch tournament in Rock Hill
Sports tourism is booming in city parks all over the state. Rock Hill’s velodrome is one of the latest additions to the growing number of sports tourism venues around the state. Emerging sports like Quidditch, pickleball, disc golf and ultimate Frisbee is also bring tourists and dollars into our cities with tournaments, while traditional youth and police sports leagues continue to grow. 

Walterboro's Wildlife Sanctuary
Passive parks that offer quiet greenspace offer even more opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy the outdoor amenities in South Carolina’s cities. From Greenville’s Falls Park to Walterboro’s Wildlife Sanctuary, there is something for everyone in the city-owned parks. 

Trails in urban areas as well as trails that run between cities are becoming increasingly popular. The City of Florence has a network of trails that runs throughout city, many of which connect city parks to one another. Plus, many segments of the Palmetto Trail run through South Carolina cities and towns.

The Swamp Rabbit Trail between Greenville and Trail and the Doodle Trail linking Easley and Pickens cater to bicyclists and walkers alike. Both of these trails were built on former rail beds connecting the two cities. 

Keeping parks clean and crime-free is a goal of all city park programs, but there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes to make this happen. Many cities rely on volunteers to help keep grounds clean, coach teams or tend gardens. In Charleston, for example, “park angels” volunteer to work with and learn from the city’s horticulturalist.

While this means more opportunities for residents to be involved in city programs, it also increases the potential for injury and liability claims. City officials manage these risks through training and background checks, so that residents and visitors enjoy these opportunities while ensuring these municipal assets don’t become municipal liabilities.

At the upcoming Annual Meeting in Charleston, there will be a breakout session examining trends in public recreation.

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