The area surrounding the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail in Spartanburg, South Carolina, is considered a ‘high need play desert.’ The term, defined by the national play-focused organization, KaBOOM!, translates as areas where low-income children do not have accessible opportunities to play in their local city. Demographics, walkable areas, playspace quality, obesity, child care facilities, and other factors are taken into consideration to identify where these play deserts exist.
Studies show play spaces, such as parks and recreational facilities, are integral to healthy lifestyles and help encourage creativity in children. A study published by Active Living Research, an arm of Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, stated that "children with better access to parks and recreational resources are less likely to experience significant increases in attained BMI." The American Academy of Pediatrics highlights play as critical to healthy brain development, as it “allows children to use their creativity while developing their imagination, dexterity, and physical, cognitive, and emotional strength.”
Partners for Active Living deeply understands the physical need for creative play outlets in our local community. The organization works to address the root causes of cardiovascular disease by focusing on policies, programs, and partnership in three core areas: childhood obesity prevention, trails and parks, and walking and bicycling throughout Spartanburg.
As a recipient of our 2016 Community Impact Campaign, during which Milliken raised more than $500,000 for select nonprofits, we’re excited to share that their portion of the funds raised will support new park amenities on the Mary Black Foundation Rail Trail. The seven-acre community park and gathering space for Spartanburg County residents, particularly families and youth in urban areas, is one of Spartanburg's most popular recreation and physical activity destinations. With 65,000 users a year, the two-mile rail-to-trail conversion is a recreation and activity hub with a skate park, dog park, and bicycle sharing system.
The planned park amenities include fitness stations, paved trails, an athletic field, amphitheater and green space with and more than 60 new trees. Milliken donations will go toward the majority of currently unfunded amenities, including a treehouse park, NFL Play 60 obstacle adventure playground, mountain biking trails, and Rail Trail restroom facilities.
The park and surrounding gathering space will serve as an outlet for families, especially with older children, to gather together in a safe and healthy environment.
We believe in investing in youth and in the communities in which they live to foster these healthy environments and to fill in these play desert gaps. We are proud to support Partners for Active Living as they encourage a healthier, more active generation of children in the Spartanburg community by creating a safe, accessible, and fun place for families to gather and play.
To learn more about Partners for Active Living, visit www.active-living.org.