June is Parks and Rec Month

Carol Baldwin
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Wakaw Recorder

June is designated as Parks and Recreation Month and the designation is one small way to celebrate and recognize the many benefits of parks and outdoor recreation spaces.

All municipalities, First Nations, and other beneficiaries of funding from Sask Lotteries are encouraged by the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association (SPRA) to participate in recognizing Parks and Recreation Month.

Often the first thing that comes to mind when people are asked to identify types of recreation, is sport. However, recreation is defined in Webster’s New World Collegiate Dictionary as the “refreshment in body or mind, as after work, by some form of play, amusement, or relaxation; any form of play, amusement, or relaxation used for this purpose, as games, sports, or hobbies” or as “refreshment by means of some pastime, agreeable exercise, or the like; a pastime, diversion, exercise, or other resource affording relaxation and enjoyment.” Recreation involves places like arenas; curling rinks; swimming pools; multi-purpose sports centers; community centers; parks including sports fields, playparks, nature parks, outdoor sports facilities, and specialty areas. Also included in that list, are indoor and outdoor museums, musical venues, and places where people can participate and enjoy theatrical arts.

The Lakeland District for Sport, Culture and Recreation’s mandate is to be a leader in facilitating and sustaining Community Development for and with the communities within the district through those three separate, yet intertwined avenues which ultimately enhance the quality of life of the people living within those communities. Opportunities to engage in active, creative, and healthy lifestyles that embrace sport, culture, and all forms of recreation from participation in the arts to bird watching to gardening and botany are what draw people to communities and keep them there.

Parks are just one of many spaces that encourage recreation and are not in short supply in the Lakeland District, which includes a vast area reaching from Montreal Lake and Tobin Lake in the north, to Hague, Alvena, Cudworth, and Naicam in the south, and Big River, Leoville, and Spiritwood in the west, to the Manitoba/Saskatchewan border in the east. With National Parks, historical parks, provincial parks, regional parks, and local community parks, green spaces are available for everything from fishing to camping to exploring, and of course for playing by kids of all ages from zero to eighty and beyond. Cultural events like dance recitals, pow-wows, language camps, and music festivals all enhance the district’s diversity and encourage the inclusivity of all people.

The theme for Parks and Recreation Month is “Connect on Common Ground” and its message is meant to encourage people from all walks of life to connect with family and friends outside in parks and recreation spaces. Saskatchewan summers are short compared to other areas of the country and one of the best ways to keep it from seeming even shorter is to experience it outdoors.

Some messaging used throughout the Connect on Common Ground campaign includes “Nature is diverse. Outdoor spaces should be diverse too.” “Diversity in nature helps plants grow. Diversity in outdoor spaces helps us grow.”  “Parks are the heart of our communities in the summer.” and “Ancestral and contemporary Treaty relationships allow us to enjoy parks and recreational pursuits on the lands we share together.”

It is agreed that sport, physical activity, and recreation play crucial roles in fostering healthy individuals, inclusive communities, and a thriving economy, until now, economic assessments on their impact in Canada, have been limited, out-of-date, or inconsistent. The Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute (CFLRI) and the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA) partnered to provide innovative research, tools, and resources that demonstrate the multifaceted impact and value of the sports, physical activity, and recreation sector. Findings in the report “The Price of Inactivity: Measuring the Powerful Impact of Sport, Physical Activity, and Recreation in Canada,” show roughly half (51%) of Canadian adults (18 to 79 years) and 72% of children and youth (5 to 17 years) are not active enough to meet recommended physical activity guidelines. The association between regular physical activity and health has been well-established through research. Yet, the level of inactivity amongst Canadians has remained unchanged over the past few decades. (Canadian Fitness and Lifestyle Research Institute (CFLRI) and Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRA). 2023. The Price of Inactivity: Measuring the Powerful Impact of Sport, Physical Activity, and Recreation in Canada. CFLRI & CPRA. Ottawa, ON, Canada) Canada is not alone in this statistic as physical inactivity has become a global issue and is now one of the four leading risk factors of death worldwide.

There are many wellness benefits associated with getting outdoors. “The physiological response to being outside in nature is real, and it’s measurable,” said Michelle Kondo, a research social scientist with the USDA Forest Service’s Northern Research Station in a 2021 article, “There are many physical and psychological benefits of nature that scientists have observed, which can better help us understand how nature supports wellness in the body, mind, and community.”

Engaging with and participating in parks and recreation strengthens volunteer networks, builds community pride, and engages residents in community development, while also attracting new residents and businesses, which in turn, enhance property values. Parks, trails, and open spaces maintain clean air and water, ensuring ecological sustainability and preserving plant and animal biodiversity while providing opportunities to experience nature. Investment in parks and recreation programs not only increases tourism, but also reduces the costs of healthcare and social services for governments, municipalities, and employers. 

Being outside in green spaces supports an active and healthy lifestyle, which has been shown, to increase life expectancy, improve sleep quality, and reduce cancer risk. Studies also show that just being outside in nature is relaxing and reduces stress, cortisol levels, muscle tension, and heart rates – all of which are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Studies also show that being in nature can restore and strengthen mental capacities and increase focus and attention. So, ditch the treadmill and walk outside, take in an open-air concert, or get a team together and take up bunnuck (that has a steadily increasing number of tournaments cropping up). 

 While not all recreational activities available over the summer months have been advertised yet, several are listed on the community calendars in the local area. 

-Recreational activities in Wakaw include Tuesday afternoon adult bowling, yoga (Bare Foot Yoga), hockey summer training available on the synthetic ice surface at the Jubilee arena, three Walk-aw Days (June 1, July 13, and August 10), youth minor ball, and a slightly abbreviated version of Kids Club returns this year.

-Cudworth offers swimming lessons and public swimming with registration for lessons on June 7 – 9, chair yoga at St. Michael’s Haven that is open to the public, Great Western Days, the annual Bunnuck tournament, and of course the excursions on Wheatland Express Excursion Train.

-In Rosthern, the Rosthern Family Festival hosted by the MCC Clothes Basket and the Youth Farm Bible Camp (YFBC) is on June 22 as well as the Rosthern Ag Society Gymkhana (pre-registration is open until June 8), swimming lessons and public swimming, is available and registration for lessons opened May 22, in July at The Station Arts Centre, Channel Theatre’s presentation of “Where You Are” and a murder mystery dinner theatre, “Murder First Class” are featured, and again at the Rosthern Ag Society grounds the KCRA rodeo on July 27 – 28.

-Other cultural and recreational events include Moosefest on August 10th in Bellevue, Back to Batoche Days July 18 – 21, and Waldheim School of Dance Summer Dance program for ages three years to eighteen years, and with the nice moisture the area has received this spring there may be opportunities again this year to do some berry picking at Seager Wheeler Farm.

Whether it is at a park in town or exploring vast landscapes of national and provincial parks, there are benefits to be had, by stepping outside. Wellness is comprised of physical and mental health, as well as the health of communities. Engaging in sports, culture, or recreational activities can reduce adverse impacts on bodies and minds and help restore the natural balance that modern lifestyles sometimes lack. The ‘great’ outdoors is nature’s gift of wellness.