Benefits of Recreational Facilities

In about two weeks, residents of Whitfield County will have the opportunity to vote on a Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, or SPLOST.

Currently, Whitfield County is one of only seven counties in the state of Georgia that does not have a SPLOST in place. Among the many projects to be supported if this proposed SPLOST is passed are enhancements to the emergency response system, improvements to our library, and improvements to our local parks and recreational areas.

And while the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership (NGHP) doesn’t take an official position on the passage of this proposition, we clearly see the benefits – especially for a healthier and safer community – that many of these proposed projects would provide.

If we look at the SPLOST proposal through a health lens, we may ask the question, how does it help the health of our community?

Obviously, the proposed Digital Emergency Response Communications System/Mobile CAD system for public safety personnel would be a major aid to first responders, potentially decreasing the response time during emergency calls and most likely decreasing the possibility of negative outcomes.

Improvements to the recreational facilities and the creation of a new park on the south side of the county are good for us because these are amenities that promote physical activity and healthy lifestyles. Studies have shown that people are more likely to engage in exercise in an environment in which they feel safe. Area parks provide that feeling of safety and community.

The proposed SPLOST would invest in major improvements to Lakeshore Park, Dawnville Park, Pleasant Grove Park and the Edwards Park gymnasium; the creation of a bike path in Rocky Face and a multi-use trail in Westside Park; and land acquisition for a new recreation park on the south side of the county.

There is undoubtedly a connection between exercise and good health, both physical and mental. And according to many recent studies, there’s an economic benefit to those communities that provide exceptional recreational services for their residents.

The New York Academy of Medicine recently reported that the correlation between health and economic development is undeniable, citing that half of the overall economic growth in the U.S. during the 20th century is linked to improvements in population health.

A community that maintains a balanced system of parks, gymnasiums, and recreation areas serving all of its residents typically sees a big return on its investments. In a nutshell, the article argues, healthier communities promote healthier local economies.

Unfortunately, in many communities, funds for such “amenities” as parks and recreational facilities, which promote healthy lifestyle activities, are among the first items to be cut from local budgets when those budgets become lean.

But it’s pretty obvious that investing in parks and recreation sites for a community’s residents can lead to a healthier region in general, as its residents are empowered to make healthy lifestyle choices.

In good health,

Greg Dent