March 29, 2011
Public park and recreation agencies and school districts in many areas have utilized Joint Use Agreements (JUA) for years. The National Policy & Legal Analysis Network to Prevent Childhood Obesity (NPLAN) "defines a JUA as a formal agreement between two separate government entities - stating terms and conditions for shared use of public property or facilities." Pooling of resources allows for more effective use of government dollars, which in today's economy takes on even greater meaning as well as a heightened sense of urgency. Groups advocating for physical activity have recently begun encouraging more towns, cities and counties to consider such agreements as a way to increase the number of physical activity opportunities for their residents.
Consider the following... School playgrounds are open to the community on weekends in San Francisco as a result of a joint use agreement between the school district and the city. The City of Seattle took things a bit further... they designed and implemented a program that centralized scheduling of both school and recreation facilities, which streamlined the reservation policy and increased access. In several communities, schools and cities have combined their resources to build new recreation facilities that serve the needs of both the schools and the community (NPLAN).
The National Physical Activity Plan includes JUAs as important strategies in both the Education sector and the Parks, Fitness Recreation and Sport (PFRS) sector. The Make the Move Report - 2010-2011 National Implementation of the U.S. Physical Activity Plan lists increasing the number of JUAs by 10% over the next 5 years as a priority for the PRFS sector. The President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition is co-leading this strategy with the National Recreation and Park Association.
I encourage advocates to look beyond government though for JUAs and to consider the possibility of public-private agreements. The Wheaton Park District used an innovative approach to increase their number of (much in demand) soccer fields. A large corporate campus sat at the edge of park district and had plenty of flat (this was Illinois!), green space that was there purely for its aesthetic value. The two organizations signed an agreement that stated the park district would mow the grass in return for its use as soccer fields evenings and weekends. I dare say there are many possibilities like this across the country.
Perhaps there is a private health club located near a school. Use of the club may be sparse during the day... what a great opportunity for a PE class! Maybe there's a camp nearby used only in the summer... strike a deal for use of its athletic facilities. Many places of worship even have recreational facilities. The possibilities are endless to increase spaces and places for people of all ages to engage in physical activity - if you just think the outside the box a bit!
What kinds of unique joint use agreements can you think of? Are there facilities in your own community that you could see working with to increase the opportunities for physical activity?