“Healthy Parks” Program Promotes Healthy Cities
by Thomas E. Robinson
Parks in the City of La Mirada, as well as other communities in Los Angeles County and throughout California, are playing a key role in the battle to reduce the alarming rise in numbers of unfit and obese children and adults.
While many passive recreation opportunities are available at local parks, a growing number of classes and programs that focus on active, healthy lifestyles are now being offered to individuals and families. Park resources are aimed at reversing the trend of overweight and out-of-shape youth by increasing opportunities to participate in fun activities that emphasize physical fitness. La Mirada’s parks and recreation facilities are becoming places where health-related services and educational information are readily available.
In January 2004, La Mirada participated in the Los Angeles County Parks Department’s second annual Parks Summit, where many of the 88 cities in the county and other park agencies came together to discuss improving recreational services available to the public. One presentation focused on the rising rates of obesity in the United States. In response, park professionals formulated a countywide effort to address this issue at the local level.
As a result, the City of La Mirada joined in “Healthy Parks” activities and dedicated April as “Healthy Parks: Promoting Fitness to Trim Obesity” month.
A number of city publications show local residents that they can achieve a healthy lifestyle by participating in the many fun and educational activities offered at their local parks. The quarterly newsletter La Mirada Living, which includes information on recreation classes, lists nearly 100 healthy activities and excursions for residents of all ages.
City officials believe there are important, long-term community benefits to be gained by encouraging healthy lifestyles — not the least of which is a potential decrease in the rate of childhood obesity and its negative health-related impacts.
“The increasing rate of obesity will have a significant impact on health services in the future,” says La Mirada City Manager Andrea Travis. “As a result of being overweight and unfit, many of today’s children will develop life-threatening diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”
Members of the La Mirada City Council have consistently supported programs, activities and facilities that promote physical fitness. City officials believe that maintaining healthy parks infrastructure is essential to the health of individuals and the community as a whole. In keeping with this philosophy, the city has continued to build on its park facilities and programs specifically aimed at improving health, including:
Construction has begun on a new La Mirada Regional Aquatics Center. The facility will include a 50-meter competition pool, a 25-yard instructional pool, a large therapeutic spa and a family-fun water park.
A variety of fitness equipment and a climbing wall are being added to the La Mirada Community Gymnasium.
A new hiking trail was built in the Coyote Hills as part of a new Centex Homes development on the east side of La Mirada. The trail is accessed via Clark Park in Fullerton. Hiking this trail is an excellent form of exercise and offers an opportunity to enjoy La Mirada’s natural environment and wildlife.
A variety of Healthy Parks activities have been included in the city’s Positive Alternatives and Recreation for Kids (PARK) program, which provides after-school recreation for local youth.
During the first year of the Healthy Parks program, a special event was held at La Mirada Community Gymnasium and La Mirada Regional Park. Scheduled in conjunction with others in Los Angeles County to create awareness of increasing obesity rates, the event provided active recreation opportunities. Featuring a one-mile walk/run and half-mile children’s fun run through La Mirada Regional Park, the event also offered activities such as fitness-related contests, health and fitness speakers, exercise class demonstrations, a mini-health fair, healthy food and entertainment.
Healthy Parks components have also been included in other special community events each year. Thousands of area residents explored displays by 19 health organizations participating in the annual “Celebration in the Park” event at La Mirada’s historic Neff Estate. Parks are also hosting smaller events that provide health information as part of community activities such as neighborhood cleanup days.
City staff is currently preparing La Mirada’s Social Services Model Plan, which will contain information about the health needs of area residents and the array of public and private services available to address those needs.
Nearly 1,000 youths are now participating each year in the city’s new instructional leagues in basketball and volleyball at the La Mirada Community Gymnasium. An estimated 5,000 youths play at various city and school district facilities in privately operated leagues in baseball, basketball, football, soccer and softball. These well-established groups were recently joined by a nonprofit swim team, the La Mirada Armada.
“It’s very important that La Mirada’s community parks provide areas for sports and games as well as promoting, educating and developing healthy minds and bodies,” says Travis.
For additional information on La Mirada’s Healthy Parks programs, contact the Community Services Department at (562) 943-0131 or visit www.cityoflamirada.org.