(Peoria, IL) On Monday, April 30 Hanna City and Dunlap hosted University of Illinois Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism community recreation planning class. The exhibition was part of Rural Peoria Coalition of Municipalities and Township (RPCCMT), a public engagement effort to improve the vitality of smaller towns through community-driven projects. RPCCMT has recently obtained its nonprofit status and has identified recreational planning as its first project. This recreation planning project illustrates some of the ways RPCCMT plans to support mutually beneficial community development initiatives for rural communities.
U of I students from Professor Lara Browning's recreation planning studio, along with University of Illinois Extension have been working alongside community leaders from Dunlap and Hanna City to develop an outdoor recreation plan for each of the communities. The plans will assist in creating a strategic vision for recreational services.
Just as water, sewer, and public safety are considered essential public services, parks are vitally important to establishing and maintaining the quality of life in a community. Studies show that well-planned parks and recreation systems can serve as a catalyst for economic development. Access to parks and recreation facilities and active transportation infrastructure can increase property values, foster job creation, and provide a foundation for place-based economic development.
The connection between the city and the university, facilitated by University of Illinois Extension, Fulton-Mason-Peoria-Tazewell Unit, demonstrates the benefits for both students and community members when they engage in complex issues together. "The students gain so much from these interactions. They talk to people from all walks of life – neighborhood residents, local engineers and architects – people they don't usually hear from as a part of their classwork," says Extension Educator Kathie Brown. "I think that's the piece where Extension can enrich the campus experience in so many ways, because of this collaborative engagement with the community."