Essential Services

Recreation can be many things to many people and when you really stop and think about it, our job as public administrators in the recreation field can be pretty daunting trying to make sure there’s something for everybody.

But being everything to everybody is important, I would even venture to say critical, in these days as axes (not scalpels) are taken to budgets.

I’ve heard from recreation professionals across the country and there are some in dire straits, literally facing wholesale dismantling of their departments in the name of saving the budget for “essential” services.

I bristle when I hear that term “essential.” It automatically implies that if your work is not “essential,” then you are “non-essential.” That is simply not true of what the recreation field provides to Americans. Ever since our agrarian society turn urban and people began to live in close proximity to each other, the need for things-recreation has become just that, a need.

In fact, I think what we provide is so essential that I am starting an official drive to make the word “essential” an acronym, and I will assign a word to every letter of the word “essential.” If you have other words that apply to any of the letters, jump in and join the party. OK, here goes my first run at recreationalizing (I think I just coined that word too) the word “essential.”

E = Energy: the parks, places, activities, clubs, special events and camaraderie that parks departments provide to the community are what give energy to a place, makes it a home rather than just a place to hang your hat between commutes.

S = Special Memories: The things we provide and do go beyond just pleasure of the moment; we provide citizens the place, time and activity that make special memories to last a lifetime.

S = Sanctuary: In this crazy, commuting, road-rage, competitive world we all share, recreational parks, playgrounds, open space and quite corners of nature give sanctuary to people seeking a bit of time to themselves to get centered on what’s really important in life.

E = Environment: Recreation from the national level to local departments is a protector of the environment, from the parks and green space we oversee to the trails and wetlands we make available.

N = Normalcy: In a world filled with abnormalcy promoted by television, the internet and many other forms of mass communication, recreation professionals provide good, old-fashioned human activities - exercise, camaraderie, communing with nature – thus promoting normalcy.

T = Tangible: The services that recreation departments provide and promote result in tangible value to citizens: if you exercise, you get fit; if you walk the nature trail, you get relaxed; if your child joins a recreational sports league (not a “select” league) he or she will get playing time and enjoy the experience.

I = Individuality: Regardless of who you are – couch potato or sports star, ballerina or martial artist, youth or active adult, recreational services offers opportunities that will enable you to demonstrate your individuality by highlighting your unique skills.

A = Attitude: Participating in the types of activities, programs, events and groups that are offered through recreation can help form a positive attitude in young people and can help bolster the attitude of adults.

L = Laughter: is the best medicine and it is a rare recreational activity that does not feature laughter as an important part of the program, if not a central feature.

Whew! There, I did it. This was off the top of my head so I’m sure there are other words that can be developed to recreationalize this new ESSENTIAL acronym. Feel free to jump in and suggest some.

Randy Gaddo , a retired Marine, is Director of Leisure Services (parks, recreation, library) in Peachtree City, Ga. Contact him at (770) 631-2542 or e-mail