Park Hop: Pilot Evaluation of an Inter-Agency Collaboration to Promote Park Awareness, Visitation, and Physical Activity in Greenville County, SC
Keywords:park, awareness, visitation, physical activity, partnerships, youth
AbstractParks are important venues for physical activity (PA), but research indicates that they are underutilized by youth. The purpose of this paper is to describe the development and preliminary evaluation of Park Hop, an innovative collaboration of seven parks and recreation agencies to create an incentivized passport-style program to increase awareness, visitation, and active use of parks among youth in Greenville County, South Carolina. Park Hop occurred in summer 2013. It was developed within a family recreation program planning framework as a free, summer-long scavenger hunt designed to encourage children and their families to visit 17 selected parks and recreation facilities and answer clues at each location. The four overarching goals of Park Hop were to 1) increase parks usage and discovery, 2) foster awareness and appreciation for the wealth of parks in Greenville County, 3) increase time spent in PA during park visits, and 4) establish an annual tradition for all to enjoy. The pilot evaluation used multiple methods to collect information about program accessibility, enjoyment, ease of participation, park awareness and visitation, perceived changes in park enjoyment, and park-based PA. A total of 231 youth submitted completed Passports (M=7.0 years). All but one youth (99.6%) indicated that they visited at least one park for the first time as part of the program, with an average of 7.0 new parks visited per youth. Survey results indicated that youth averaged 87.1 minutes of PA on their last park visit, and the majority of parents said their child enjoyed participating (98%) and that they would participate again next year (95.1%). Park Hop successfully influenced park awareness and visitation (especially to new parks) among youth and effectively translated park awareness research into a sustainable initiative that positively influenced youth park-based PA. Further, Park Hop exemplifies a successful collaboration of multiple recreation agencies across Greenville County. Such partnerships may be critical during times of budgetary constraints while cross-promotion of all area parks offers a wider variety of opportunities to citizens. Implications of this program include the utility of collaboration between multiple parks and recreation departments, the pooling of resources for common goals, and partnering with local health agencies to strengthen the view of parks as community health resources. Overall, this summer-long program provided fun opportunities for families to explore local parks and engage with multiple parks and recreation agencies. With continuous expansion and improvement, such initiatives have the potential to improve use of parks and open spaces in an effort to reduce obesity amongst youth nationwide.
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