So this is my first ever blog. Buckle up kiddos, here we go!
The topic of discussion is coincidently a discussion paper. Towards a National Recreation Agenda: Working Together to Foster, Healthy Flourishing, and Sustainable Individuals, Communities and Environment. A bit of a mouthful, but don’t let that intimidate you – it’s definitely a read that anyone and everyone can relate to in one way or another.
Firstly, what is recreation? It’s when you play sports or get sweaty doing something, right? No. As discussed in our Kin 6300 class, recreation has the good or bad rep (depending on how you look at it) of being associated with playing sports or working out. Recreation is a giant umbrella with various activities under it, that don’t always have to be physical. The definition of public recreation in Canada given in the discussion paper states “recreation includes all those activities in which an individual chooses to participate, and includes sports, physical recreation programs, artistic and creative expressions, social and intellectual activities. Recreation is a fundamental human need and right and is essential to the psychological, social and well-being of each Canadian” (National Recreation Agenda Working Group, 2013). Now that I’ve obviously made a connection to every individual in this vast country, feel free to read on.
The 2011 National Recreation Summit triggered the development of a National Recreation Agenda that would examine and discuss challenges and opportunities facing public recreation so as to enhance the impact of recreation services (National Recreation Agenda Working Group, 2013). This paper served as a starting point for this much needed process. Once developed, it would be presented to federal, provincial and territorial ministers to seek support and facilitate further steps.
The discussion paper started out with a historical background on recreation dating all the way back to the 19th century. As interesting as it is, this historical connection also serves as an indicator of the importance of recreation in living a healthy and happy life. Fast forward to modern day, recreation has come a long, long way. Investments in recreation services has grown dramatically over the past several decades, to the point where municipal parks and recreation is now one of the largest of municipal government departments (National Recreation Agenda Working Group, 2013). So, what’s the problem, right? Because money fixes everything? Well, despite this investment, there are still plenty gaps across the country that need to be filled.
The first challenge identified is that recreation is perceived as a “soft service” (National Recreation Agenda Working Group, 2013). In other words, recreation is not considered as an essential, but rather as something that is extra and perhaps, nice to have. Recreation is not taken serious and the overall benefits are usually overlooked. Discussion on recreation at the minister level is like trying to take the kiddies to the adult table – they’re cute, get a courteous smile, patted on the head and sent back to the kiddie table. Hopefully, recreation people don’t hate me for saying that but believe me, I am with you and face the same struggles. It is not easy.
Other challenges identified by the National Recreation Agenda Working Group (2013) included:
- The fragmentation of effort and services – parallel departments are springing up, essentially seeking to meet the same goals that recreation has been working towards for years, but of course, not in the same way;
- Rising health challenges – sedentary lifestyles are on the rise and physical literacy in children is on the decline;
- Aging infrastructure – recreation infrastructure that has been previously put in place is now getting older with very little money to update them or to even keep them running;
- Moving upscale – programs are becoming more high maintenance and costly, for those running the programs and also, those participating in the programs;
- Demographic shifts in population – community demographics are changing, declining proportion of youth to an inclining proportion of the elderly;
- Climate change – winter weather is gradually becoming shorter and summer weather is gradually getting longer (on the larger scale, definitely not based on last winter!)
Once getting acquainted with the discussion at hand, our Kin class had tons to talk about!
One of the main themes our discussion touched on was the issue that recreation is somewhat looked down upon in the health field. Perhaps recreation is not directly health, but it most definitely and positively impacts all aspects of health and well-being – physical, mental and emotional. The discussion looked at recreation as being a proactive aid to health, rather than being a reactive approach. It was generally accepted in our class discussion that recreation and health go hand in hand and can achieve great measures if both sectors work together.
The National Recreation Agenda Working Group (2013) has included in their document suggestions for a national strategy. This framework was built on three components that are suggested to act as policy and decision making drivers – citizen building, community building, and environmental sustainability. Essentially, this is building on communities at every level. After reading through the given strategic approach, blueprint for action, and next steps sections, it was easy to identify main themes. The document overall suggests recreation make connections with others within and outside the field to form collaborative initiatives and partnerships. It also expresses the need to have an interactive communications strategy and to increase capacity resources for strategy management.
Generally, in the past, the recreation field has often voiced it’s concerns and needs to maximize the benefits, but has not always been seen as a priority at the national level. We hope that this process changes that. Another national recreation summit is scheduled for next month in Toronto. We wish the working group great success and look forward to following their progress.
As I’m concluding my first ever blog experience, I’ll leave you with some food for thought. The document had occasionally referred to including those on the margins of society. As I completely agree with them, but am not completely comfortable with that specific term, I think it’s an important factor in making this strategy meaningful and inclusive. I ask though, HOW?? It’s easy to say, but not that easy to do. I would suggest that maybe that be a next step to this process. Once the strategy is put in place, perhaps this working group can extend their national work to gather and share info on how best to reach out to those not participating in recreation. That would make for a much healthier and productive nation, meaning us recreation folk have done our jobs right!