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Remember when you were younger and you spent full days at the park? Maybe you would go fishing, skip rocks in the pond, or just barbecue. When my children were young, we used to go to our town park nearly every day in the summer. It was a safe place with everything from a pool to a lake to a great big hill that the kids would roll down like logs over and over again.
There were basketball and tennis courts but of course, for kids the big attraction was the pool. It wasn't free but for $100 for a season, approximately a dollar a day, the family could enjoy themselves.
Over the years, cities have invested billions of dollars in parks upgrading facilities and adding safety conscious equipment. In recent years, though, many families have forgotten the neighborhood park. Why go to the park when there is a 16 screen movie theater beckoning your children with a movie about Meatballs falling from the sky? Or sometimes it is just easier to give your kids the Nintendo DS and let them play for hours. The park has some advantages that these other things don't.
First, many children today just don't get the exercise that they need. Schools have cut back or eliminated Physical Education classes and the TV and computers increasingly restrict their activity. My kids were very active and looking back at some of those old photos, they were about the skinniest little kids you could imagine. But in the 70s, every kid in the neighborhood was skinny--the product of home cooked healthy meals and lots and lots of exercise. The park gives them a place to run around and be kids and get hours and hours of free or low cost exercise.
Second, parks are a great place to meet your neighbors or people in your town. We spend so much time working today that we seldom have chances to meet new people. Adults have opportunities to converse over picnic tables while children can have unstructured time to just be children and enjoy trying out the swings, the slides, even a sandbox or play with a ball or frisbee. Maybe its just my bias, but the people that you meet in parks seem to be far more genuine and interested in you than the one's that you might meet at the next social gala. Many of society's elite won't step inside a park for some unknown and probably silly reason.