RECREATION, SPORTS & LEISURE
Springfield and Greene County have an abundance of recreation, sports and leisure options, including public libraries, playgrounds, trails, natural areas, sports leagues and facilities, golf courses, and recreation centers. The Springfield-Greene County Library District and the Springfield-Greene County Park Board strive to make services accessible to a broad population of residents. Libraries and parks consistently earn top ratings in citizen surveys. Program participation remained strong through the recession and continues to grow.
The Springfield-Greene County Library District, a Community Focus Report (CFR) blue ribbon since 2011, includes 10 branches and the Mobile Library. Daily preschool storytimes focus on early-childhood literacy at the branches. Tween and teen activities encourage creative expression. Online research sites provide foreign language instruction, homework help, continuing education, and research. All ages are welcome in the Summer Reading Program, live concerts, book discussions, and art exhibits. The branches are a comfortable place for study and exploration, complete with free Wi-Fi and public computers.
Springfield's spirit of collaboration is at the core of the community's recreation, sports and leisure opportunities. The Park Board alone has an ongoing partnership with some 300 local nonprofit groups, businesses and institutions, providing important community connections. Without these collaborative relationships, many programs, events and facilities would simply not be possible.
Schools and universities are important parks partners. The SPARC School-Park program serves hundreds of school-age children with safe, affordable and fun before/after-school programs, sports leagues and summer day camps, staffed by the Park Board and held at Springfield Public School (SPS) sites. SPS sports teams, as well as teams from Missouri State University, Drury University and Evangel University, regularly practice and play at Killian, Meador and Cooper sports complexes and Mediacom Ice Park.
"Friends" groups provide invaluable volunteer and financial support for libraries and parks. Friends of the Library promotes a positive relationship between the Library and the community. Friends of the Zoo assists with operations, park development, education programs and field conservation support at Dickerson Park Zoo. Friends of the Garden helps build, maintain and advocate for the Springfield Botanical Gardens at Nathanael Greene/Close Memorial Park.
The Park Board partners with the Springfield Sister Cities Association for the Cherry Blossom Kite Festival and Japanese Fall Festival, the Developmental Center of the Ozarks and Ozarks Food Harvest for the Thanksgiving Day Turkey Trot, Springfield Regional Arts Council for Artsfest, the Downtown Springfield Association for Concerts at Founders Park, and Community Partnership of the Ozarks for National Night Out.
Donors and sponsors play a key role. Rotary Club of Springfield Southeast continues to support Jordan Valley Park. Donations from Bobby and Betty Allison have funded improvements at Miracle League Field, Rivercut Golf Course, Westport School-Park, and Hailey's Playground.
Volunteers are the backbone of many programs and events (see Citizen Participation section). In 2014, the Park Board screened 1,049 volunteers, including youth sports coaches, zoo volunteers, senior program providers, and gardeners. Combined, these volunteers reported more than 73,000 hours of service. According to the Independent Sector, volunteer service is worth $21.17/hour in Missouri, which makes parks' 2014 volunteer services worth more than $1.5 million.
Parks and Open Space
The Park Board operates 102 sites, ranging from neighborhood playgrounds to multi-use recreational facilities. The system includes four golf courses, three family centers, an accredited zoo, a farm park, a botanical center, several sports and athletic complexes, two indoor aquatics centers, six outdoor pools, an ice park, an equestrian center, multiple School-Park sites, and more than 100 miles of recreational trails (including 68 miles of greenways).
The Park Board celebrated its centennial in 2013, marking 100 years since Springfield voters first committed to funding parks. Community support and active use of parks facilities, combined with dedicated stewardship and expansion, have created one of the best public parks systems in the country.
Parks received high marks in the 2014 City of Springfield Community Survey (pdf). Citizens responded particularly favorably when rating maintenance, cleanliness and location of parks, as well as walking and biking trails.
Revenue from two county-wide parks sales taxes funded a decade of rapid capital expansion, tapering off in 2012, after these taxes sunset. Since 2013, the Park Board has celebrated the completion of David C. Murray Trailhead, Doling Lake restoration, Lake Drummond Spillway reconstruction, Fassnight Creek and Ward Branch Greenway expansions, Davis House and Indoor Archery Center, Talmage Trail, Westport School-Park, and Hailey's Playground. The Park Board also is committed to historic neighborhood revitalization, including recent improvements at Watkins and Washington parks.
Improvements at Miracle League Field, Lake Country Soccer, Ward Branch Greenway, and Dickerson Park Zoo are planned in 2015-16.
Historic Timmons Temple recently relocated to Silver Springs Park. The nonprofit group Save Timmons Temple raised funds to move the church, and continues fundraising for remodeling. When complete, the Park Board will operate Timmons Temple as an event center.
Trails and Waterways
Here in the Show-Me State, we're fortunate to have a wealth of opportunities for outdoor recreation that we value deeply ... not only for what they do to improve our economy and quality of life, but for their role in preserving an outdoor heritage that is a fundamental part of our identity as Missourians.
MISSOURI GOV. JAY NIXON
ADDRESSING THE MISSOURI PARK AND RECREATION ASSOCIATION IN SPRINGFIELD, FEB. 25, 2015
Ozark Greenways trails are busy with walkers, runners and cyclists. The nonprofit Ozark Greenways has now developed 68 of the 120 miles originally identified for the community's trail system, including recent expansions at the South Dry Sac Greenway, Fassnight Creek Greenway, Ward Branch Greenway, and sections of the Cherokee Trail of Tears.
Greenway trails were further enhanced with development of The LINK (see Transportation section), a north-south on-street route for walking and bicycling, linking greenways, neighborhoods and activity centers. Development of Two Rivers Bike Park near Nixa has also buoyed cycling and bike tourism in the area.
Ozark Greenways was instrumental in Missouri's designation as "Best Trails State" in 2013 by national nonprofit American Trails.
Sports tourism brings thousands of visitors to Springfield every year. The Park Board, in partnership with the Springfield Sports Commission, hosts more than 50 national, regional and state tournaments a year, including softball, baseball, soccer, hockey, tennis, volleyball, basketball, cross-country, golf and more. Tournaments bring youth, college and adult athletes—as well as coaches and families—to Springfield hotels, restaurants, stores, and attractions, generating more than $15 million a year.
Professional sports also attract visitors. Home teams include Springfield Cardinals AA minor league baseball, Springfield Lasers World TeamTennis and Springfield Express Junior-A hockey. Combined with three universities and the Greater Springfield Community Olympic Development Program, Springfield residents and visitors enjoy year-round sports while contributing to the local economy.
Springfield's obesity rate has been a red flag since the 2007 CFR (see Community Health section). Obesity is a complex community problem, involving education and outreach, health care, access to fresh and healthy foods, and increased physical activity.
The Healthy Living Alliance (HLA), founded in 2011 and involving more than 30 agencies, made inroads in addressing obesity, including the Local Sprouts farm-to-childcare food collaborative and the Walkable Neighborhood Project. Initial federal funding for HLA has now expired, but the Community Partnership of the Ozarks has absorbed some HLA programs.
The American Heart Association continues to promote Walk Springfield, a user-generated list of mapped walking routes. Walkers may select routes online, track mileage and add new routes. The program is highlighted every April on National Walking Day.
Combating obesity is a driving force for the Park Board, particularly through family centers, sports leagues, children's activities, and Greenway trails.
Preserving Green Space
Preserving land for future parks and wildlife is a long-term concern, a red flag since the 2011 CFR. Specific recommendations are included in Field Guide 2030, in both its Recreation & Leisure and Growth Management & Land Use sections. It is essential to set aside land in new neighborhoods and retail centers for future parks and stormwater management needs.
The Park Board is entirely self-funded through dedicated parks tax revenue and user fees. Parks receives no funding from the City of Springfield, Greene County or the State of Missouri.
Continuity of parks funding has been a red flag since the 2009 CFR—three years before the sunset of the 2006 Parks Sales Tax, which funded significant parks and stormwater capital improvements. Since the sunset, parks growth has slowed considerably.
Until new funding becomes available, the second half of the 20-year Parks Master Plan (pdf) and Field Guide 2030 recommendations remain on hold. Lack of funding also leaves parks without matching funds for grant opportunities.