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Why parks are good for community

Tehachapi Valley Recreation and Park District

I grew up in a small town very similar to Tehachapi. As a kid in Kernville, I felt the importance of having local parks and recreation opportunities.

A healthy representation of parks and recreational facilities brings health to a community, a stronger economy, higher property values and an increased quality of life.

Kernville wasn't Tehachapi, and I feel so fortunate to not only be a resident of this beautiful community, but to work for the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District so I can help the community feel nurtured and entertained by our local parks and recreation. This could be a routine gig -- sign documents, prepare and manage the budget, sign checks, make some appearances, go home, repeat. But I am choosing to embrace something much bigger, with the hope that the community will unite and bring some exciting and beneficial opportunities to our current and future parks and rec footprint.

Educating is far more important than campaigning. This column is meant to educate the community about our local parks and rec department and the exciting opportunities that will continue to enhance our beautiful Tehachapi, like the $43 million bond measure you'll see on the Nov. 6 ballot. I understand the concern and uncertainty that surrounds the bond. That is why I wanted to write this column. Let's keep an open and healthy dialogue going. I believe creating community is the best way we can all leave a legacy in Tehachapi. But we need to work together.

Parks are a palpable view of the quality of life in a community. Many studies conducted by the National Recreation and Parks Association show that the quality and accessibility to parks are often cited as one of the most important factors that build a livable community.

NRPA reports ongoing studies over the past decade, conducted by the Trust for Public Land, state that "voter approval rates for bond measures to acquire parks and conserve open space exceeds 75 percent. Clearly, the majority of the public views parks as an essential priority for government spending."

No matter age, race or economic status, parks are a built-in community gathering place for families, social groups and individuals. There have been many surveys and studies conducted across the U.S. that have found links to park health and a reduction of crime in communities.

"Community involvement in neighborhood parks is associated with lower levels of crime and vandalism. Access to parks and recreation opportunities has been strongly linked to reductions in crime and to reduced juvenile delinquency," according to the NRPA.

But for these things to be true, a community needs to take pride and put effort into these parks. They can't be outdated or ignored or often the opposite effects will be seen. Just as it takes effort to make the economy or safety of a community thrive, local parks need to be nurtured. And when they are properly cared for, every aspect of a community improves.

"Parks have a value to communities that transcend the amount of dollars invested or the revenues gained from fees. Parks provide a sense of public pride and cohesion to every community," NRPA states.

Tehachapi is already thriving and home to beautiful parks and open spaces. But if we don't improve them and invest in keeping them alive, they'll stop caring for us, too. It is our responsibility to keep our local parks growing with us. If we do, we'll all benefit from the increased quality of life and comfort they provide.

Prior to the November election, I'll write more about the promise of the bond measure, the benefits parks and recreation have on our economy, our health, our property values and our overall quality of life.

Michelle Vance is the District Manager of the Tehachapi Valley Recreation & Park District. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree in public administration from Cal State Bakersfield and has lived in Tehachapi for 26 years.