Sure, you could go to the park and hang out on a bench or get wild with a ride on the swings, but wouldn't you rather send sand flying as you make a spectacular save in a game of beach volleyball, learn the finer points of bocce ball on a regulation court or figure out what a sticky wicket is?
Today, the idea of the public park has been expanded to include things like bocce ball and tennis, disc golf courses, hiking trails, skate parks, fishing ponds, music gardens and something called a splash pad (think running through sprinklers on a giant scale).
Each year, parks and recreation departments across the valley roll out new and improved offerings at area parks in an effort to be more appealing to a wider swath of the community. Last year, it was the spankin'-new bocce court in Municipal Park in Boise, where fans of the backyard game can learn how it's actually supposed to be played. Here, you can join the crowd of usuals as they teach you how to make one of the heavy, softball-sized balls land exactly where you want ithopefully without hitting any passersby.
If you're feeling a little more refined, you can head over to Ann Morrison Park, where the end result of a hard-fought campaign by the Boise Cricket Club can be found. The pitch is the only one of its kind in Boise, and the team makes the best use of it, sharing a sport that has most Americans shaking their heads in wonder. (To actually learn about cricket, contact the club at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Then, of course, there's the more familiar sport of beach volleyball which, despite our lack of coastline, is a valley favorite. The court at Camel's Back Park was put in just last year, joining other courts at Parkcenter and Ann Morrison Park among others.
While they aren't new, Boise's two disc golf courses continue to be some of the most popular attractions in the city's parks, according to Boise Parks and Recreation spokesperson Amy Stahl. A permanent, 18-hole course is set up in Ann Morrison Park beginning near the southeastern corner, while a temporary course is located in Julia Davis Park. Directions, course maps and scorecards are available by following the activities link at the Parks and Rec page of the city's Web site, cityofboise.org.
If you're one who enjoys a little more mobility in his or her recreation, this will also be the first full summer that hikers and bikers can take advantage of several new trails added to the Ridge to Rivers trail system, including several miles along the Shafer Butte trails at Bogus Basin Mountain Resort.
A little further downslope, the Watchman Trail now connects the popular Five Mile Gulch trail with the Three Bears trail. The non-motorized trail leads across open slopes with views of Rocky Canyon and the eastern end of the valley.
But Ridge to Rivers hasn't forgotten those who like their trails a little more extreme. For years, the Rock Island trail let expert riders pick their way through rock foundations at the base of Table Rock. Of course, the trail was less than one mile long, making it a mini-extreme trail. Now, an additional half-mile of trail has been opened with even more rock features to traverse, as well as bermed corners and jumps for riders to huck themselves off of.
Sections of the Greenbelt, including several in the Warm Springs area, have undergone some large rehabilitation projects to improve the quality of the pathway for those riders who prefer their bike trails paved.
Some park users, though, prefer their recreation sitting down, and Boise is following Meridian's lead in doing what it can to keep its citizens nice and relaxed by showing a series of family films in Julia Davis Park on a 25-by-14-foot inflatable movie screen at the bandshell.
Movies Under the Stars will show three films over the summer, with Journey to the Center of the Earth on Saturday, June 27, Monsters vs. Aliens on Saturday, July 18, and The Wizard of Oz on Saturday, Aug. 22.
All the movies begin at 7 p.m., and Parks and Rec staff will bring a mobile recreation van with activities for the kids, allowing the grown-ups to kick back and enjoy a picnic.
Meridian will continue its successful family movie nights with weekly flicks in Settlers Park (home of the aforementioned splash pad) through August. The free films start at dusk, and this year's selection includes Speed Racer, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, The Princess Bride and The Tale of Despereaux. For a full list, check the city's Web site at meridiancity.org.
And while Boise is expanding on what already works, Meridian is making a leap to fill a gap in what it has been able to offer its residents. The city will open its first community center on Friday, May 22. The center, 201 E. Idaho St., is the latest incarnation of what used to be the Meridian Police Department, and most recently, the Boys and Girls Club. Once that nonprofit announced it was moving to a new building, Allison Kaptein, recreation coordinator for the city, approached the Meridian City Council with the idea of turning the already city-owned building into a community center.
Once open, the center will be home to a long list of children's summer camps, arts camps, as well as teen and adults art and dance classesofferings that were scattered in assorted school gyms in past years. Check out the full list of offerings on the parks and rec page of the city's Web site, meridiancity.org.
Just think, a little art in the morning, followed by an afternoon cricket game and capped with a open-air movie, and all for free. You have to love a day in the park.
BY DEANNA DARR