Graham Melstrand by Graham Melstrand

For those Americans who lack optimal proximity to safe and appealing places to be physically active, there is a public-policy victory available for city councils, county commissions, and other local policymakers.  The win: fully open the doors to already existing community resources:  

  • Parks: Update permitting rules for local parks so that structured physical-activity experiences, led by paid professionals or volunteers, are at the very least permitted which is not the case in many locales. It would be even better to incentivize their use for purposes that bolster community health. Denver, CO and Santa Monica, CA are two examples of cities that have done this in recent years with success. 
  • School facilities:  Establish policies to make school resources such as playgrounds, fields and even gymnasiums available to community members during non-school hours.  Active Living Research published a detailed report on the need for the use of schools for this purpose. 

A  fellow physical activity advocate, ChangeLab Solutions, offers a shared-use playbook for opening public resources for the benefit of the community as a whole. This short minute-long video by the organization makes a compelling case for prioritizing shared-use policies. 

ACE knows that this is not an easy policy win, but believes it is an imperative. Hurdles such operating costs and staffing or volunteers needed to manage these new physical activity locations can prove challenging; however, making these existing locations assessible to members of the community would make a significant impact and reduce the number of physical activity deserts present, and ultimately provide more opportunities to get people moving. 



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