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Summertime Ooooohhs!

A disproportionately large share of our best memories happen in parks

The first unmistakable signs of summery weather—warm temperatures already at breakfast time, passersby in short sleeves, sounds of squeeling kids coming in through open windows—are greeted here in Minneapolis with an exuberance reserved for Super Bolw victories in other cities. This gentle delirium overtook us last week when temperatures hit the 70s. Appointments were abruptly cancelled and offices grow empty throughout the afternoon as everyone conspired to spend as much time out-of-doors as possible.

Sooner or later most of us wound up at one of the local parks—a great example of the commons close to people’s hearts and homes. Impromptu whiffle ball and soccer games took root. Bicyclists packed onto lakeside trails as if it was 5 p.m. on an L.A. freeway. Lovers lolled at the foot of nearly every tree—arms, legs and lips entwined. At the local delis, there was a run on potato salad, coleslaw, fried chicken, carrot sticks, potato chips, lemonade and bratwurst for thousands of picnics-in-the-park.

This marks the opening stanza of summertime fun, an eruption of high spirits that goes on until frigid winds blow in with equal suddenness some day in November. Through the warm months, Minneapolis’s parks become the local version of a New England town square, Italian piazza or Asian marketplace. They’re the places we naturally gravitate, certain that we’ll run into neighbors and friends.

For almost everyone north of Texas, summer makes up a disproportionate share of our best memories—many of which unfold on the playgrounds, ballfields, swimming pools, flower gardens and benches of city parks. You might list memories as a key product of park and recreation programs. The personal well-being and happiness of the community is greatly enhanced because we enjoy these public places that belong to all where everyone can gather to feel part of something bigger than themselves.

It’s a point worth raising at the next public hearing about the park budget, even if quantifiable data is hard to come by. The whole room will nod in agreement, with smiles breaking out and happy sighs filling the air.

Adapted from an article first appearing the magazine Parks & Recreation published by the “National Recreation and Parks Association”:http://www.nrpa.org/