Committed To “Greener Days And Healthier Ways”

Pick up a newspaper or watch any of the 24-hour news channels long enough and you’re sure to find a story about how Michigan has been–and continues to be–one of the economically hardest-hit areas in the current recession. The restructuring of the auto industry, unemployment, declining property values and home foreclosures are only a few of the tough challenges facing residents. Local governments and the public sector continue to face wave after wave of budget cuts to important and essential services, like police and fire, public works and parks and recreation. How can a department survive these difficult times and convince local officials and community residents that it offers services worth saving? It can do this with a little creativity and some old-fashioned problem-solving.

In February 2010, Canton Leisure Services employees attended an educational session at the Michigan Recreation & Park Association’s Annual Conference. Surrounded by hundreds of fellow professionals who are equally committed to saving recreation agencies across the state, Dr. John Crompton, Professor of Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences at Texas A&M University, spoke about the importance of positioning ourselves as more than simply the experts in playground games and swim classes. Sadly, this is a lesson that many of us have learned the hard way over the last several years. More importantly, Dr. Crompton noted that any organization must position itself as an absolutely essential service and devote most of its time, energy and resources to address issues considered most important to the health and happiness of the residents. Gone are the days of trying to be everything to everyone … we must be more than fun and games. We must strategically decide to be community problem solvers!

Inspired by Dr. Crompton’s words, staff members returned to work energized and committed to this new way of thinking! We held meetings and involved staff at every level, and looked for input from recent community-wide survey and focus groups. After much talking and listening, we were able to identify a lengthy list of issues that were clearly important to residents. While we would have liked to tackle them all, we knew that in order to employ the new strategy, we needed to identify only one or two that were at the top of the community’s list. From this evaluation, a new strategy and a new marketing campaign were born! “Greener Days and Healthier Ways” was coming to Canton!

Environmental education, conservation and advocacy have always been a priority for the department and for the field. Offering programs, classes and opportunities to residents to live longer, healthier, more-active lifestyles has been on the agenda all along. We now recognize that both childhood and adult obesity have reached epic proportions, creating health issues for families and driving up the cost of health insurance … and we are here to help. We now know that carbon emissions and rapidly filling landfills are frightening concerns for parents who worry about the planet their children will inherit … and we are here to help. We are saying it loudly and proudly.

How Do We Help?

First, we didn’t create all new programs and events to meet these highlighted priorities. We did, however, creatively tweak the way we communicated the benefits of existing programs. Following are snapshots of some of the programs and events that best help demonstrate a commitment to “Greener Days and Healthier Ways.”

Random Acts Of Fitness

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