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7/9/2024 - HIGHLIGHT: July is National Parks and Recreation Month

Brushy Creek Municipal Utility District (BCMUD) resident David Zuhse and his two children, Evelyn and Owen, recently spent a Tuesday morning at Shirley McDonald Pond fishing, running around, and enjoying the natural beauty.

“The baby ducks are a highlight,” Zuhse said of the pond. “They’re adorable.”

His daughter, Evelyn, agreed and said she also loves the zipline at Pepper Rock Park, the BCMUD park closest to their home.

But really, the Shirley McDonald Pond and Pepper Rock Park are just two elements of the large and diverse parks and recreation system within BCMUD. Because July is National Parks and Recreation Month, we are celebrating all the things in life that are made better by parks and recreation.

“I have worked in parks and recreation for more than 20 years for several different entities, and the parks and recreation system at Brushy Creek MUD is one of best I've ever seen,” said Angela Niemiec, BCMUD Parks and Recreation Manager.

The stats back up Niemiec’s assertion. Within an area of a few square miles, the BCMUD parks and recreation system contains:

  • 300 acres of parkland
  • 11 parks
  • 8 playgrounds
  • 6 miles of trails
  • 4 swimming pools
  • 3 tennis courts
  • 3 volleyball courts
  • 5 pavilions
  • 32 Karst Caves
  • An 18-hole disc golf course
  • A 65,000-square-foot Community Center

Altogether, that amounts to about 13% of BCMUD land designated for parks and recreation, surpassing by several points the national average of 9.8% of parkland per U.S. city, according to 2023 data from the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.

Jing Hang, a BCMUD resident who has lived near Creekside Park for the last eight years, said the abundance of greenspace and parkland in the District makes a difference.

“[Creekside Park] is very close to our residence,” he said. “It’s within walking distance. But also, [the parks and green spaces] are very clean, and there are lots of walking trails. It’s very convenient.”

Beyond the trails and proximity to parks, Hang noted that the facilities at each park and pool are always clean and in good order, and added that every year he’s lived in BCMUD, the parks and recreation system has only improved.

Amy Slusarski, who lives in the Meadows at Brushy Creek, echoed Hang and said there is a great balance between the District’s greenspaces and the infrastructure that supports it.

“It’s easy to park to get to the trails, and the trails are always clean,” Slusarski said.

Anecdotal testimony from residents like Zuhse, Hang, and Slusarski is telling, but there is also more quantitative proof to highlight the top-tier status of the BCMUD parks and recreation system. Niemiec cited data from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) showing BCMUD exceeds several other national benchmarks, including:

To that end, here are some more facts compiled by the NRPA that help further explain the importance of robust park and recreation departments:

  • People living more than 1,000 yards from a green space have nearly 50% higher odds of experiencing stress than those living less than 300 meters from a green space.
  • Several studies confirm that proximity to nature is essential to proper human health and development.
  • Physician-diagnosed depression is 33% higher in residential areas with little to no green spaces compared with areas that contain many green spaces.
  • Use of green spaces is linked with decreased cholesterol and improved blood pressure.

Proximity to greenspace and top-notch recreation areas carries other benefits. Data compiled by the NRPA suggests that home valuations often decrease as distance from greenspaces increases.

Beyond health and prosperity, data from the City Parks Alliance states that land used for parks and recreation benefits communities in a host of other ways:

  • It helps strengthen local economies through additional opportunities for job creation.
  • It makes cities more resilient by bolstering infrastructure that mitigates flooding.
  • It reduces local crime statistics by fostering more community programming.
  • It helps clean the air by removing carbon dioxide through tree planting.

And speaking of community programming, Michelle Larson, a BCMUD resident for the last 18 years, said while she loves all of the park and recreation options in the District, she also loves all of the BCMUD programs and events that occur throughout the year.

“The 5Ks and the parades and all the other stuff [put on by BCMUD Parks and Recreation Department staff] that happens around the holidays and such is awesome,” Larson said. “I’ve done the Hairy Man 5K a couple of times.”

Ultimately, most research points to a connection between a healthy and diverse park and recreation system and overall well-being, and Niemiec summarized succinctly how that impacts BCMUD residents.

“Just about every BCMUD resident lives within a quick walk to one of our parks, trails, or recreation facilities,” Niemiec said. “This is a major hallmark of what makes communities great.”

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