Parks, Trails, and Fond Memories
by Kelsi Gambill, MSPR, Communications, and Marketing Manager | photo by Maighen Kaye Photo
June is here, and school’s out for the summer (or close to it)! As an adult, I look back with nostalgia on summertime, including trips to Billings to visit extended family. These trips are filled with fond memories of ice cream at Softie’s and countless hours in the park down the street from my grandma’s house. From the swings and slides to the merry-go-round and endless games of duck-duck-goose, my cousins, siblings, and I played freely, letting our imaginations wander.
Parks provide a plethora of benefits for adults, children, and their companion animals. They spark children’s imaginations with unstructured play and offer the chance to unplug and reconnect with nature. These designated spaces promote community wellness and offer opportunities for connection. Parks also fill a crucial role in our natural and built environments.
Do you have fond childhood memories of visiting a park or hiking a trail with family members? Maybe it’s picnics with loved ones, watching a play, or even Shakespeare in the Park as it came to town. As the city looks towards making a major investment in parks this fall, it’s worth pausing to appreciate the organizations doing the work and tireless efforts being made on our parks and trails.
The benefits of parks are seemingly endless, as trees and green spaces clean the air, improve public health, increase water quality, prevent flooding, provide wildlife habitat, increase property value, and more. Parks, trails, and related amenities are some factors that people looking to relocate are seeking. But parks aren’t just for those looking to relocate. According to the City’s Parks and Recreation Department, most of Billings’ residents are park users, with 86 percent reporting that they visit at least annually.
Billings is home to landscapes that will entice people of all ages to explore its trails, parks, and neighboring mountain passes. The city alone has over 2,700 acres of parkland, countless miles of trails, 39 playgrounds, 24 park shelters, six neighborhood centers, 24 tennis courts, 25 basketball courts, two outdoor pools, two wading pools, and five spray parks. Let’s not forget two dog parks and additional community amenities, including batting cages at Stewart Park, a skate park, community gardens, public golf course, and the second Miracle Field in the entire state of Montana, Landon’s Miracle Field. Find your local park or discover a new one using the Billings Parks and Recreation park finder at www.billingsparks.org/park-finder.
It may seem like Billings is well set up for outdoor enthusiasts, and it truly is, but as our city continues to grow, our parks and trails need to keep pace. Several local organizations are focusing on enhancing parks and trails, and promoting healthy lifestyles.
Billings TrailNet and the Billings Chamber’s Trails Committee are dedicated to supporting trail use and recreation throughout our community, with a vision of safe biking and walking paths for daily activity. Learn more and get involved at www.BillingsTrailNet.org.
Community enhancement through public parks and recreational opportunities is at the forefront of the Partners for Parks Foundation, formerly known as the “Billings Parks and Preservation Foundation.” Partners for Parks believes that better parks result in a better Billings and encourages anyone who wants to improve our parks system to get involved at www.PfpBillings.org.
Billings Parks: Programs, Preservation, and Growth
Enjoying our city parks is something I, like most of us, take for granted. So how does our Magic City keep up with two dog parks, 2,700 acres of park land (roughly half developed and half undeveloped), 38 playgrounds, 24 shelters, six neighborhood centers, 24 tennis courts, 25 basketball courts, two pools, two spray parks, two wading pools, 50 miles of trails, a cemetery, batting cages, and a golf course (whew!)?
Learning Through Play with Billings Parks & Rec and the YMCA
The good news is that the summer slide is preventable. Billings offers summer programming that is both entertaining and high-quality, with thoughtfully developed schedules executed to ensure children are building on their academics, even when they don't realize it.