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updated: 7/1/2013 3:18 PM

July is Park Month in the Fox Valley Park District

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It wasn't long ago when "staycations" were all the rage.

People quickly discovered they didn't have to spend big bucks or drive long distances to enjoy good times with family and friends. Taking a closer look nearby, we came to appreciate there really are a lot of fun things to do right outside the front door.

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So the Fox Valley Park District figured you'd enjoy living life like you're on vacation -- for an entire month. In conjunction with the National Recreation and Park Association, the park district is promoting July as Park and Recreation Month with 31 days of activities that can be enjoyed right here where we live.

Since 1985, America has celebrated this way each July. It's a great opportunity for residents to celebrate all that's good in our communities and gain a greater appreciation of what we collectively enjoy.

"Park and Recreation month spotlights all the great events, activities and facilities that bring us together and make our Fox Valley communities active and vibrant," said Laurie Hoffman, director of recreation and communications. "It also reminds us of the valuable benefits that parks and recreation provide."

This year, Fox Valley is also taking part in two nationwide promotions by NRPA -- the "10 Million Kids Outdoors" and "I Love My Park and Recreation" initiatives.

The park district will be running various contests, featuring comment cards in all its facilities for kids to share their favorite park and activities. Prize drawings will be held each week for those who enter, with online and social media contests happening as well.

The greatest objective behind all this is to reverse recent trends among today's children, who spend less time outdoors in nature than ever before.

A generation ago, 75 percent of American kids played outside daily; nowadays, only 25 percent do. Children are spending only a few minutes per day playing outdoors and -- in sharp contrast -- more than seven sedentary hours per day in front of electronic media.

With 164 parks, 45 miles of trails and 26 lakes amid 2,500 acres of park land and open space, the FVPD offers a wide variety of opportunities for outdoor recreation. And that's only the beginning.

With the Fox River as its centerpiece, the district owns and maintains 22 miles of shoreline parks and natural areas that are available for the public to enjoy.

There's plenty of room to play, with 93 playgrounds, 65 basketball courts and all sorts of summer camps -- not to mention 27 outdoor tennis courts for practice and matches, and two outdoor water parks to cool off.

Play organized sports? There's always a game going on with 84 soccer fields and 105 ball fields.

On top of those amenities are dozens of low-cost offerings and many more that are free, including Concerts in the Park, disc golf at Jericho Lake and many of the sights and sounds at Red Oak Nature Center.

So take a day or three this July to enjoy a little P & R. As they say, every day is a great day to have fun. At a time when most of us are over-scheduled, make sure your calendar has room to schedule a little fun.

Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Contact him at jlong@fvpd.net

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