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Thinking Out Of The Box

Municipal parks and recreation departments play an important role in community building. They offer a place for people to gather and meet others with similar interests and offer opportunities to stay in shape or learn new skills. The pandemic has closed recreation centers’ physical spaces, but not stopped them from serving their communities. We spoke to the staff of the Leland Parks and Recreation Department about how it has adapted to continue to offer the community opportunities for fun and personal growth.

In what ways has the COVID situation affected your department? How have you overcome the challenges?

The current situation has unfortunately put a hold on the programs and events we had originally planned for spring and summer, which are typically are busiest seasons for things like concerts, Movies in the Park, and other activities. In response to COVID-19, the department quickly reassessed how we offer programs and looked at ways we could continue to engage and connect our community through programs during this time.

What do you see as the importance of keeping connected with the community? How does it help during this?

Parks and Recreation is all about helping build community. Staying connected with our community allows us to continue to better serve them currently and in the future and, hopefully, it provides a sense of comfort and connection to our residents during this time of social isolation.

What opportunities are out there for residents through the recreation department? Both those that have been ongoing and new plans, like Recreation in a Box?

Staff has been working hard to create new programs for our community since most of our ongoing programs and events have been put on hold. We are excited to start a youth online running program, an e-sports Rocket League tournament, a trivia night on Facebook, and Recreation in a Box. To register for any of these programs, visit the Town’s website at and click on the Parks and Recreation page listed under Services.

Can you tell us all about the Recreation in a Box program?

We have created Recreation in a Box to encourage our community to be engaged, creative and active! There will be two boxes available - one filled with art and movement activities and the other filled with a wider variety of activities, ranging from nature- and science-based activities to fitness and movement activities. Each box will provide activity descriptions, as well as additional activities to help utilize leftover supplies.

How did you come up with these ideas? Do you collaborate with a wider community of town recreation staffs or do you brainstorm in house only?

We are fortunate that the field of Parks and Recreation is a very supportive community. We are connected to other departments across the state, as well as nationally. Sometimes we take ideas from other departments and make them fit our community and, other times, we have a great idea come up in a staff meeting that we believe can become something exciting for our community.

What has the response from the community been like? Have people been happy to keep some connection?

Obviously, physical contact with our residents has been limited during this time, but we have had a tremendous response from residents through our social media outlets. In addition to the activities we have planned, we have tried to maintain comprehensive and updated lists of a variety of free programs from other organizations and groups, whether it be virtual tours of art museums and zoos, online fitness classes or educational enrichment for children and adults.

What we’ve heard from many in our community through social media is that they’re grateful to have a quick list of resources to access to keep busy and active during isolation. Sharing information on things like “virtual field trips” to locales around the globe also gives the community a chance to share their real-life travel experiences and further connect to their fellow residents.

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