The City of Sparks Parks and Recreation Department has 64 current or future parks under its jurisdiction. The city continues looking for ways to fund new parks and maintain old ones, but some help has arrived in the form of the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation (TMPF), a non-profit organization designed to draw local residents to community parks to (re)discover their scenery and benefits.
The TMPF received its 501(c)(3) classification in January and began rolling out its programs and free events in April, which included the Truckee Meadows Trail Challenge, Discover Your Parks series and the upcoming Fall Wildlife Movie Premieres. Each program is designed to “provide awareness and appreciation” for Washoe County, Sparks and Reno parks, according to TMPF Executive Director Nathan Daniel.
“One of the overarching goals that we have is raising awareness of the amenities that are here,” Daniel said Friday. “We have all these facilities in Sparks, and these parks are all over the place, and they are great opportunities for people to experience nature to get the physical benefits and the mental health benefits of being outside, which can be underestimated and people don’t even know about some of these facilities.”
The Truckee Meadows Trails Challenge offers a chance to conquer all of the region's trails through detailed maps and progressive levels of length and difficulty. Daniel said 75 people have already signed up and he called the program the TMPF’s “flagship program” to build on in the future.
The Discover Your Parks series provides guided one-hour, one-mile tours through several Reno and Sparks parks where residents can learn about the natural history, and the plant and animal communities, of each. The Thursday evening weekly program features seven parks this summer season and runs through August 29.
The Sparks Heritage Museum and Cultural Center will host the premiere of “Free as a Bird” on Sept. 12, highlighting thousands of resident and migrant birds setting sail for the winter. Daniel said those birds will be making a move very soon and can be enjoyed from many local parks. He added that the premiere is more than just a 30-minute film viewing for the Sparks Parks and Recreation Department.
“It happens fast, but it is awesome to see and it is a great free way to get outside and see tons of different species I guarantee you have never seen before,” Daniel said. “You will see a lot of cool stuff that is new to you and not there year-round. It is a great way for people to come out, see the movie, and then we will talk to them about the different animals. We are hoping people will then come talk to us about issues and how they feel about the parks.
“It gives the parks staff a forum to talk openly with the community.”
Daniel said the Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative is the infrastructure for the TMPF based on the idea of promoting health and well-being of individuals using community parks, which then motivates them to take interest in those parks and address any issues to the TMPF. Daniel said the help and support of the City of Sparks, City of Reno and Washoe County parks departments has been tremendous.
“It’s fantastic,” Daniel said of the local government support. “Back in the beginning, we talked with the parks staff and made sure they saw the value in what we were doing and what our mission was. If they didn’t see the value in it, we would have re-evaluated. On the contrary, they definitely saw the value and they were there to support us from the get go.”
Daniel said given the youth of the TMPF organization, it is still looking to fill out its advisory board with community members who are enthusiastic about parks. He added that the future will hopefully bring more collaboration with local businesses and non-profits to expand the programs, outreach and community involvement.
“Every park has value,” Daniel said, “Some of those smaller parks (neighborhood and pocket parks) are still green space around neighborhoods and that provides value and raises the standard of living in that area. Those are places where people can go into and just be outside.
“Just being out and being around green space is invaluable.”More information about the Truckee Meadows Parks Foundation is available at www.tmparksfoundation.org.