Community & Parks: A Breath of Fresh Air

by Heather Grubb, Events Manager, Department of Recreation and Parks

A study by Penn State University showed significant correlations between reduced stress, lowered blood pressure, and perceived physical health to the length of visits at parks. They provide places for health and well-being that are accessible by persons of all ages and abilities, especially to those with disabilities. During this stressful health crisis, parks, trails, and open spaces have been vital. While it is common to see families picnicking, kicking the soccer ball, fishing, and flying kites throughout the park system when the weather allows, during the current “Stay at Home Order” more of the public seems to be taking advantage of outdoor amenities. Parks are essential places for communities to recreate, refresh, and reconnect with one another.

Parks can also provide a sense of public pride and cohesion to every community. Before the pandemic, parks were filled with a variety of planned community events and large gatherings.  Recreation and Parks has transitioned some of these happenings to virtual experiences since they cannot be held in the traditional sense. 

For example, Memorial Day was celebrated very differently this year, but we were committed to making sure it was no less impactful. We invited the community to join us, virtually, in honoring our fallen service members and their families’ sacrifice.  The Wear Blue: Run to Remember campaign allows for remembrance through active, purposeful steps of a run or walk anywhere you feel comfortable: a local park, trail, or neighborhood just outside your door.  For more information visit wear blue: run to remember.

Other events were more easily adapted and able to remain fresh air experiences to enjoy. One of these experiences is the Dorey Park Farmers Market. Founded in 2018, as a partnership between The Dorey Farmers Market, Inc. and Henrico County Recreation & Parks, it is located adjacent to the recreation center at Dorey Park. The market aims to provide Henrico citizens with easy access to fresh and nutritious local produce, and other high-quality products produced by local farms and small businesses.  The farmer’s market is typically open in-person every Saturday, June-October. However, recognizing the need to revamp the conventional open-air market style, the organizers of the market opened early and began offering online ordering and a drive through pick up for people to receive their fresh, local produce. 

During this time, Henrico Recreation and Parks has also coordinated and scheduled food truck stops at Henrico parks. Select time slots are offered over the weekend for Henrico-based trucks to serve visitors at Dorey Park and Deep Run Park. Patrons can take advantage of an accessible meal while also encouraging our local restaurant industry. 

These services and the infrastructure managed by recreation and parks are necessary for maintaining the health and well-being of the public, especially in such times as this.

As the weather warms, people grow antsy from being indoors, and more research supports a lower risk of transmission outdoors, parks and open spaces will continue to soar in popularity and use, perhaps more so than ever before.