The Regional Review

Volume II - No. 5

May, 1939

Water as a Recreational Resource, by Nelson Dangremond

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of water as a recreational resource. Millions of vacation travelers select the area which they will visit almost solely upon the basis of facilities offered for direct participation in such activities as swimming, boating and fishing. Others find that the enjoyment which they derive from activities to which water is not essential is enhanced nevertheless by its cool, damp smell, its sparkling surface or its music at a cascade. Many of the most popular trails and motor drives are those which follow the seashore, lake side or stream bank. The scenic value of water has been a theme of verse and song since man became articulate.

While it is evident that the presence of water is sufficient to draw large numbers of participants wherever it is offered under attractive conditions, the appeal can be greatly increased by a well planned program of activities featuring informal games, educational projects and special events. If properly directed, such a program not only will add materially to the enjoyment of an outing by those who participate, but it likewise will expand the recreational interests of park visitors by offering them an opportunity to acquire skills in new activities. The area which gives an opportunity for instruction in diving, swimming and life-saving, which teaches the visitor how to handle boats and canoes or how to cast adroitly, and then stimulates him to put that knowledge to use by exercising it in a lively game or contest, may become a center of leisure time influence for the entire section of the state which it serves.

The smaller attendance on week days offers an opportunity for classes in the various techniques of water sports and water safety, thus materially stimulating individual knowledge and skills. Space permits the mention of only a few of the activities which may be included in such a program. The "learn-to-swim" campaign long has been a favorite method used by municipalities and even commercial aquatic resorts to popularize water activities. They know that the person taught to swim generally be comes a steady patron. Free instruction in swimming and diving, with awards for those who pass the various tests, followed by contests which enable the beginners to try out their newly acquired skills, are popular methods. Such a project may be a cooperative undertaking of all aquatic resorts of a locality, each contributing something to the total knowledge of water activities and each gaining by increased public interest.

Closely allied with the "learn-to-swim" campaign is a life-saving school which includes instruction and examination in life-saving and the organization of a volunteer life-saving corps for emergencies and for life-saving exhibitions. Volunteers may be encouraged to assist the regular waterfront staff by notices posted at the bathhouse or on the beach requesting all visiting life-savers to report to the head life guard for assignment to a specific duty in case of an emergency. This will require a prearranged schedule of duties which can be filled in when volunteers report their presence. Needless to say, the volunteer life-saving corps can be a valuable asset to an area by stimulating interest in life saving, increasing waterfront protection and creating public confidence. A properly handled exhibition of waterfront safety is popular with spectators, has substantial educational merit and tends to lessen water accidents by calling public attention to the dangers involved in water activities.

Games in the water amuse participants and spectators alike and have an instructional value which cannot be overlooked. Informal water games, such as dodge ball, catching fish, tunnel racing, tug-of-war and follow-the-leader, are great favorites, particularly with children. A game of water baseball when only a few swimmers are present appeals to youths and adults as well, while the more vigorous may prefer a hard-fought game of water polo.

Most people like to go boating but few really know how to handle a boat, fewer still a canoe. A class in boating during the slack periods of the week will enhance greatly the pleasure derived by participants and will increase skill in managing water craft, create good will and contribute to the saving of human lives by helping to eliminate boating mishaps. Aquatic pageants and regattas, crew racing, and such stunts as tilting contests are well tried methods of stimulating interest in the use of water craft for recreation.

While an area which can offer good fishing will get all the fishermen it can accommodate, there are certain related activities that may serve as added attractions. Instruction in casting and casting tournaments have proved popular, while the nature study program can contribute to the fisherman's chances of success by giving him a few pointers on fish habits.

It is a well known fact that a majority of those who flock to beaches and swimming pools spend the largest part of their time on the beach, where they derive their satisfaction from relaxation and participation in beach activities. The beach becomes, therefore, an important factor in the planning of a water recreation program. A little stimulation on the part of the waterfront director and a judicious use of volunteer leaders is generally sufficient to keep a wide range of activities going. If physical limitations make for a confined waterfront development, there should be provided nearby play areas for such activities as volley ball, badminton, horseshoes, soft ball and trials of skill. A small children's play and wading area, enclosed by a low fence, provides a safe place where parents my leave their children while enjoying other activities.

The value of a waterfront development in catering to the needs of the visiting public will be enhanced by judicious use of existing facilities and the proper type of leadership available for carrying out a varied program. The most useful waterfront development will provide a well rounded variety of facilities for active recreation by all age groups. Adequate paid and volunteer leadership in waterfront and related activities not only will facilitate maximum use of an area to the greatest advantage of the park, but it also will encourage better public appreciation and respect for the area.

sketch of sporting competition

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Date: 04-Jul-2002