Free Reading for All!

HeaderMost of us have fond memories of loved ones reading to us when we were younger. Some might even remember the excitement of learning to read on their own and would return the favor! However, with infinite information and entertainment literally at our finger tips, it is easy to see why reading books (real, physical books) has become something of the past.  Unfortunately, not everyone has access to e-readers, the internet, or even an actual library to check out and read books whenever one wants, and even those who do have access rarely take advantage of it. Whatever it is  that has made us forget about this basic form of entertainment, there are some employees of the City of Roanoke who are working diligently to bring it back and make books easily available to citizens in all corners of the city through the Little Free Libraries program.

The Little Free Libraries program began in Hudson Wisconsin in 2009. A man named Todd Bol wanted to honor his late mother, a school teacher and an avid reader. Thus, he built a small replica of a school house, put it in his yard, and filled it with books for all of his neighbors to share– the idea of Little Free Libraries was born.

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A committee comprising employees and members from Economic Development, the Arts Commission, Neighborhood Services, Parks and Recreation, and Roanoke City Public Libraries are working together to bring more Little Free Libraries to the area and make literacy more accessible to the citizens of the city. The group is starting with six kiosks in various neighborhoods and parks. The kiosks, which are old, coin-operated newspaper racks donated by the Roanoke Times, will be decorated by area artists. Once they are completed, they will be placed around the city and filled with books for anyone who would like to borrow them. Each Little Free Library has a steward to help maintain the structure and let the committee know if it is running low on books or is in need of repair. The committee’s hope is that people will not only take books and bring them back when they’re finished, but that people will share some of their own books that they loved. The plan is to have the Little Free Libraries in place and fully stocked by the spring of 2016.

If you’re looking for something to pass the time, expand your horizons, or just read to a little one, stop by one of the little free libraries and get back to your reading roots.

Alternative Active Living

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Americans are becoming more and more sedentary. Our lives are busy, and technology has taken the place of human labor or distracted us from doing the things we all know are important, like exercising. In fact, we are inactive to the point that almost 36% of Americans are considered obese, and according to the CDC, 80% are not getting the recommended amount of exercise weekly.

According to the American Osteopathic Association, leading a sedentary lifestyle is as dangerous, if not more so, than smoking. Sitting all day and not being active can lead to increased anxiety, depression, higher blood pressure, decreased mobility of the joints and spine, obesity and loss of muscle mass.

We are animals designed to be in motion, our bodies are adaptable and we change to fit the conditions we find ourselves in most often. If we sit in front of a screen for more than seven hours per day, which is now the average screen time for 8-18 year old children according to a study by Kaiser Family Foundation, we will adapt into sitting and staring machines. However, if we are constantly moving, our bodies will be healthy and function as we have evolved to.

Many of us don’t have the time to devote to going to the gym 90 minutes per day, five days per week, but we can make simple changes to our day-to-day lives to incorporate constant movement.

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One: Plant a garden
Planting a garden is a great way to move your body through all sorts of motions, gives you exposure to vitamin D from the sun, and provides healthy, organic food for most of the year. On top of that Mycobacterium vaccae, a common soil bacterium, has been shown to improve our mood in the same way as antidepressants by increasing our bodies’ production of serotonin. In the book, The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest, best-selling author Dan Buettner studied populations of people around the world who regularly live over the age of 100. He found that in nearly every centenarian population the majority of people maintained a garden. With the physical and mental health benefits there is no reason why everyone shouldn’t be out in the garden. If you don’t have a yard, a container garden only needs a few square feet of sun. You can also join a local community garden or start one at your place of worship or your child’s school.

Two: Stand-up desk
If you work in an office, a stand-up desk is a great way to be mobile all day long. Standing burns 15-25% more calories than sitting and up to 35% more for people who are obese. That means if you stand while at work eight hours per day, five days a week, for 48 weeks a year, you would burn the equivalent amount of additional calories as running 28 marathons. Standing desks allow for better mobility in your hips, thoracic spine, and shoulders. They have also been shown to help prevent pelvic floor dysfunction. School districts across the country are switching to standing desks as a way of combating childhood obesity, attention disorders and discipline issues. These don’t have to be fancy; my first stand-up desk was a milk crate atop my desk with a laptop sitting on it. The desk just needs to be slightly higher than your elbow and allow you to look straight ahead at your computer screen.

Three: Volunteer
Your community needs your help, and it can be great for your health as well. River cleanups, building and maintaining local trails and walking dogs at the local animal shelters can give you a sense of purpose, are great ways to meet new people and add activity into your day or lunch hour. Talk to your employer because more progressive organizations may even pay for a few hours of volunteering each month.

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Four: Walk or ride your bike to the grocery store or work

Did you know that the average trip in a car is less than six miles? If you only need a few things from the store, throw on a backpack and walk or ride your bike. There are few things that wake me up and get me going in the morning more than riding my bike to work. It’s also a great way to unplug and relax after a hard day. It’s healthier, more fun and less stressful.

Five: Register for a race
One of the best ways to motivate you to be more active is to set a high but attainable goal like finishing a 5k, half marathon or sprint triathlon. It’s not all about winning; it’s about being active and part of a group. I’ve found that fellow racers and race spectators are incredibly supportive of everyone who is competing, and in most cases, the proceeds for many races are donated back to a community group or a cause. Raceroanoke.com has several races that Roanoke Parks and Recreation coordinates and there are many other organizations in the area that collectively put on a race almost every week throughout the year.

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Six: Find Something Active that you Love
The key to living an active life is finding things that you love doing and doing them every day. Hate going to the gym but love walking the dogs? Great, do that. Hate dodging traffic when you run? Try trail running. Don’t like riding a bike, but like eating healthy food? Double the size of your garden. Once you find active things you love, it’s easy to do them everyday.

Seven: Suggest a walking meeting at work
You probably aren’t the only one at work bored nearly to tears at meetings. Suggest that your next meeting be a walking meeting. Researchers at Stanford University found that creativity was boosted by an average of 60% when walking. Combine that with the stress reducing benefits of being in nature and meetings may become something everyone looks forward to.

Eight: Swap your TV for a podcast
Find a podcast to listen to, and instead of watching TV, go for a walk around the neighborhood or in one of the nearly 70 parks in town while you listen. Make a vow to yourself that you will only listen while you walk. You will still be entertained but have the added benefit of being active. Even better, devote one day per week to unplug from all technology. Turn off the TV, smartphone, laptop and tablet from the time you wake up until you go to bed. It’s incredible what we find to do when there isn’t that easy source of distraction.

Nine: Find a hobby
Woodworking, painting, fly tying and playing a musical instrument all develop hand eye coordination and are great ways to spend evenings in the winter or when it is raining. Bird watching, nature or landscape photography will get you active with the added mental health benefits of being in nature.

Ten: Never take the elevator
Challenge yourself. If it’s less than four floors, the stairs will be faster anyway.

Living an active lifestyle doesn’t mean going to the gym every day. It means making conscious decisions to move all day long, rather than taking the easy route. None of these suggestions are difficult or time consuming, but collectively, they can have a huge positive impact on the quality of your life. Now, get moving!

Roanoke – Top Mid-Sized Town!

Article from Blue Ridge Outdoors Magaine. Read in its entirety here.

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Set against a backdrop of rolling countryside and idyllic ridgelines, the city of Roanoke is perfectly poised to offer visitors and residents alike a balanced blend of scenic beauty in a diverse and thriving urban environment. Situated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the heart of the valley, alongside a river, wrapped in the arms of national forest, you’d think outdoor recreation would have always been an integral part of the city’s identity.

Yet it wasn’t until the early 2000s that Roanoke began to step away from its storied past as an industrial hub and promote the great outdoors outside, and within, city limits. As plans for greenways and urban parks took shape, so too did a community that supported an active lifestyle. By 2013, there was no question as to the direction Roanoke was going—with the formation of the Roanoke Outside Foundation (a non-profit created by the Roanoke Regional Partnership) came events, initiatives, and even businesses, that not only encouraged people to get outside, but also helped them get there.

“We kinda feel like it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” says Roanoke Mountain Adventures co-owner James Revercomb.
Revercomb is part of that new wave of outdoor-minded businesses. Born and raised in Roanoke, Revercomb never envisioned returning to his hometown. In fact, he spent the better part of eight years far from the Star City as a snowmobile and fly-fish guide in and around Jackson Hole, Wyo. Despite the western town’s reputation as a mecca for outdoor tourism though, Revercomb and his wife eventually came to the conclusion that there’s no place like home.

“We figured that if we weren’t in Roanoke, we’d be wishing we were,” he says. “The cost of living is fairly high [in Jackson Hole]. We were enjoying what we were doing, but we were thinking longer term. We knew we wanted to be in the mountains in a place where we could still recreate and have that quality of life as well as career opportunities.”
In early April of 2015, Revercomb and his father opened up Roanoke Mountain Adventures as a gear rental and guiding service for the greater Roanoke area. Though starting any business can be a daunting task, the Revercombs have seen nothing but support from the local community.

Blaine Lewis shares that sentiment. “We knew Roanoke was an area that would support the type of business we were going to bring here,” says Lewis, owner of Fleet Feet Sports.
Lewis, whose wife is originally from Roanoke, also relocated to the city in 2003 after leaving a 16-year career stint as an adult probation and parole supervisor to open up a franchise of Fleet Feet Sports (headquartered out of Carrboro, N.C.). As a runner and triathlete, Lewis says Roanoke’s access to the outdoors combined with a low cost of living made moving to the city a no-brainer.

“Roanoke has grown and changed a lot in the past 12 years,” Lewis says. “From an outdoor perspective, Roanoke was just starting to find its roots there. From a business standpoint, it’s great because we’ve been able to help contribute to the active lifestyle growth here as well.”

As the momentum behind the city’s outdoor recreation scene continues to grow, Roanoke, once ranked as one of the “best places to retire” by Money Magazine, is also attracting a much younger, more active generation.

Roanoke Welcomes a New Holiday Tradition

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Roanoke, Va — A new holiday tradition is afoot as Roanoke prepares for the grand opening of an ice-skating rink at Elmwood Park. Named for its title sponsor, the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport, the new rink will be called “ROA’s Elmwood on Ice.”

Tina Workman, president and CEO of Downtown Roanoke, Inc., will hire approximately 20 seasonal workers to manage the new facility, and the group is looking forward to bringing winter cheer to Elmwood. “The concept of a downtown ice rink has been floating around for a while, and we’re really excited to finally see it come to fruition,” said Workman.

According to Workman, the 3,900-square-foot rink, which will measure 65 feet long and 60 feet wide, will accommodate upward of 100 skaters. The fees for admission will be $6, with an additional $2 for skate rentals.

The rink will officially be open from Nov. 23 through Feb. 14 and have varying hours to accommodate skating enthusiasts:

• 4 to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday
• 4 to 10 p.m. Friday
• 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday
• Noon to 7 p.m. Sunday
• Extended hours from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. while schools are out

To see the full schedule, which includes closures and shortened hours for holidays, visit www.ElmwoodOnIce.com.

In addition to the Roanoke-Blacksburg Regional Airport and the City of Roanoke, this project is also being supported by WDBJ7, HomeTrust Bank, STEVE FM, Leonard Storage Buildings, Sunny 93.5 and WJJS.

As a nationally accredited agency, Roanoke Parks and Recreation strives to deliver parks, recreation facilities and activities that are attractive and accessible and provide memorable experiences that move the body, mind and spirit. For information about our best-in-class services and facilities, visit PlayRoanoke.com.

New Greenway Bridge Traverses Route 581 at Valley View

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Roanoke, VA – Roanoke residents living near the Lick Run Greenway now have easy access to Valley View Mall thanks to a brand-new greenway bridge that spans across Route 581 to the mall area. The city will celebrate the opening of this bridge with Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials at a ribbon-cutting and inaugural walk across the bridge on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 2 p.m. Parking for the event will be in the back of the Best Buy parking lot.

According to Ken King, VDOT’s Salem District Engineer, this new bridge is one portion of the new Valley View Mall interchange project and will be an asset for pedestrians. “The new bridge will serve as a real safety benefit for Lick Run Greenway users who will have their own I-581 crossing away from the busy Valley View interchange,” he said. The entire Valley View Mall traffic interchange is scheduled to be completed by fall of 2016.

In addition to enhancing safety, the new bridge, which is 14 feet wide and nearly 250 feet in length, also provides spectacular views from an elevated, bird’s-eye vantage point. With an overall cost of $800,000, the final project will include lighting and permanent fencing along the greenway side in the near future.

According to Bob Clement, Roanoke’s neighborhood services coordinator, the new bridge offers optimal connectivity for citizens. “This is definitely an asset for our neighborhoods. Now pedestrians can access the Lick Run Greenway from as far away as the City Market Building and travel on a traffic-free, paved pathway all the way to Valley View Mall,” he said. According to Clement, the bridge ends at the mall but gives pedestrians and cyclists direct access to Huff Lane Park and the Greater Grandview Area neighborhood.

As a resource for greenway enthusiasts, Roanoke Parks and Recreation recently divided all of the city’s greenway sections into separate routes. To see these routes, including mileage, terrain information and difficulty levels, visit PlayRoanoke.com/greenways. For information on all greenways in the Roanoke Region, visit www.Greenways.org.

As a nationally accredited agency, Roanoke Parks and Recreation strives to deliver parks, recreation facilities and activities that are attractive and accessible and provide memorable experiences that move the body, mind and spirit. For information about our best-in-class services and facilities, visit PlayRoanoke.com.

Roanoke River Greenway Section Opens, Provides Next Step to Full Connectivity

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Roanoke, VA – The Roanoke River Greenway is one mile closer to full connectivity with the opening of a new section that intersects Peters Creek Road. To celebrate this new pathway, Roanoke Parks and Recreation will hold an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday, July 24, at 11 a.m. Parking for the ceremony will be near the cul-de-sac at the end of Blue Ridge Drive.

With an overall cost of nearly $1 million, this new one-mile section begins at Ariel Way Drive and passes under Peter’s Creek Road where it travels adjacent to Blue Ridge Drive. The paved pathway terminates at the Salem City line right next to the MB Contractors corporate office building.

Coincidentally, MB Contractors was the sole contractor that built this entire section and their President, Todd Morgan, is delighted with the completed project and its proximity to their office space. “Our staff is thrilled to have a place to walk or bike this close to our office; we can only imagine the excitement of local residences! MB Contractors continues to advocate for the Greenways, as we fully believe in the life enhancements these trails bring to our citizens and tourists alike. This is another great asset for which Roanoke should be proud,” he said.

Steve Buschor, Director of Roanoke Parks and Recreation, is particularly fond of this new section of greenway. “This is a quiet and peaceful stretch that entices the senses. You can hear the river, see an abundance of wildlife and smell all of the natural plants that line the greenway,” he said. “For the short term, this is a great place for greenway enthusiasts to get a peaceful out-and-back stroll.”

As it stands, this section of the Roanoke River Greenway is isolated, but by the fall of 2017, it will extend nearly two miles more to connect at the Bridge Street trailhead, which will complete the city’s 11-mile portion of the Roanoke River Greenway.

As a resource for greenway enthusiasts, Roanoke Parks and Recreation recently divided all of city’s greenway sections into separate routes. To see these routes that include mileage, terrain information and difficulty levels, visit www.PlayRoanoke.com/greenways. For information on all greenways in the Roanoke Region, visit www.Greenways.org.

As a nationally accredited agency, Roanoke Parks and Recreation strives to deliver parks, recreation facilities and activities that are attractive, accessible and provide memorable experiences that move the body, mind and emotions. For information about our best-in-class services and facilities, visit PlayRoanoke.com.

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Top 3 Reasons Why Your Kid Should Go to Camp

There are a wealth of reasons why getting kids out of the house and into a camp during the summer months can be beneficial. Just in case you need some extra motivation or simple convincing to sign your youngster up for a summer camp, here are three great reasons to allow them to experience summer camp:

Reason #1

To unplug from technology and reconnect with nature. Studies report that the average child aged 8-18 spends about 35 hours a week watching TV,  and that’s not counting video games and computer time. Too much time spent in front of the TV has been shown to lower their attention span, can alter their dreams and even make them violent and more likely to show aggression. Time spent reconnecting with nature helps children to develop powers of observation and creativity that help to foster language and collaborative skills.

Reason #2

To spend the day being physically active and trying new things. Camp pushes children out of their comfort zone and allows them to try out new hobbies and activities to discover new passions. Being active not only decreases your child’s odds of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes and depression it may also boost the areas in the brain responsible for verbal memory and learning.

Reason #3

To learn social skills and make new friends. Camp offers a new and diverse group of kids for your child to interact with. Allowing them to build relationships within a new group teaches confidence. Camp also teaches children to communicate, work together as a team and how to be a leader.

Thoughts of summer camp bring back memories of lawn games, water fights and lasting friendships. What better way to provide your kids with fond summer memories of their own than to enroll them in an adventure-themed camp? Our camps will have them exploring underground delights, spending time on the water and rock and learning wilderness survival and nature lessons!

This summer Roanoke Parks and Recreation is offering two weeks of Outdoor Exploration Camp for children of all ages. A typical day includes hiking, rock climbing, caving, stand up paddleboarding, canoeing, lawn games, nature classes and wilderness survival. Adventurers arrive at our Norwich Center at 8:30 a.m. and shortly thereafter travel to the morning’s activity. Whether it’s hiking to a waterfall or learning about reptiles, all this fun is sure to make our explorers hungry for lunch. After lunch, campers will continue with the day’s activity, such as caving and water sports or venture off to the next destination which might include indoor rock climbing or an exciting orienteering and map reading class. The day’s excursion will come to an end once again at the Norwich Center where our adventure seekers are certain to be weary and ready to dream of the sites and critters they will encounter the next day.

Outdoor camp not for your kiddo? Roanoke Parks and Recreation offers a variety of additional camps including soccer, arts and photography. And don’t forget! Roanoke Parks and Recreation owns 70 parks and recreation centers that provide lots of free opportunities to play outside this summer! For more information or to sign up visit www.PlayRoanoke.com.

Article by: Renee Lavin, Outdoor Program Specialists

Summer Youth B’ball at Melrose!

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Roanoke City Council Member Sherman Lea recently announced a summer basketball program for youth. The Lea’s Youth Outdoor Basketball League is a partnership with the Roanoke Police Department’s Police Athletic Association, the Inner City Athletic League, and the community designed to strengthen relationships between our Police Department and our community. The five-week program for youth ages 11 to 18 will begin June 2.

Participants will play in refereed basketball games every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. at Melrose Park. In addition, each week will include an event Council Member Lea has titled a Quality Moment. During this time, leaders from the community will speak to league participants about life-skills, having self-esteem, planning for a prosperous future, and making proper life choices.

None of this would be possible without sponsors from our community. Council Member Lea thanks Kelly Woolwine with the Life Ring Foundation for making a monetary investment in this program. Additional sponsors are needed. There is currently a $10 fee for children to participate in the league to cover expenses such as uniforms, water, and certified referees. Scholarships are available, however the goal is to make this program free to all children who want to participate. Anyone who wants to make a donation can make a check payable to the Lea Youth Outdoor Basketball League. Donations can be mailed to:

Lea Youth Outdoor Basketball League
c/o Sherman Lea, Sr.
1638 Lonna Drive, NW
Roanoke, VA 24019

Roanoke Cuts the Leash, New Dog Park

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Dog owners of Roanoke, listen up. The City of Roanoke will soon have a new “treat” for man’s (and woman’s) best friend. On Tuesday, April 14, at 11:45 a.m. Roanoke Parks and Recreation will cut the leash to open a new dog park in Thrasher Park. The ceremony will take place adjacent to the tennis courts in the park. The public is invited to bring their K-9 companions to take part in the inaugural play session immediately after the ribbon cutting.

The Thrasher dog park, similar to the one located in Highland Park, is the second of its kind created by the city as part of the Parks and Recreation Master Plan. According to Steve Buschor, Director of Parks and Recreation, the new Thrasher locale will have plenty of room for dogs to run and play.

“The Thrasher Dog Park is expansive and features one full acre of fenced-in, off-leash fun for dogs,” said Buschor. He also confirmed that both parks now feature mutt-mitt stations, a pet fountain, and designated areas for small and large dogs.

Alongside the pet-friendly aspects of these two parks, Buschor also praised the community aspect of the existing park, which was recently renovated to shift the large-dog area off the hillside and down to a more level area. “Through the original development of the Highland dog park, we discovered that these spaces are much more than just a place to let your dog run,” said Buschor. “These are truly pet-friendly locations for dogs and their owners to come together and socialize in a wonderful outdoor setting.”

As a nationally accredited agency, Roanoke Parks and Recreation strives to deliver parks, recreation facilities and activities that are attractive, accessible and provide memorable experiences that move the body, mind and emotions. For information about our best-in-class services and facilities, visit PlayRoanoke.com.

Highland Dog Park Closed for Repair

The Highland Dog Park is now officially back open. Enjoy!

Starting Monday March 30, 2015 the dog park in Highland Park will be closed for renovation and repair. The repairs will last approximately two weeks. These repairs should help create a better more sustainable dog park for all. In addition to the repairs to the Highland Dog Park Roanoke Parks and Recreation will soon be opening another dog park so be on the lookout for more details. We apologize in advance for any inconveniences.