Healthy Parks Healthy People US

gravel path with green grass and trees on both sides, red park bench in foreground.
Whittington Park offers a shady place to walk in the city. The quiet neighborhood adds to the peacefulness of the park. Some benches allow visitors to sit and listen to the creek.

NPS photo by Gail Sears

Healthy Parks Healthy People works to strengthen the connection between people and their parks to improve the health of both. In 2012, Hot Springs National Park (HOSP) was granted funding to complete two Healthy Parks Healthy People (HPHP) planning projects. The first project is to develop a vision for HPHP experiences at the Whittington Park (WP) unit, the second to develop a HPHP strategic action plan for HOSP.

• The WP workshop was held on August 2, 2012. Two goals were achieved during this workshop: 1) park and NPS staff met with state and community partners to learn about HPHP, and 2) develop a vision for HPHP at WP. The final report from the workshop is being developed and will be used in a future planning charrette. Partners attending included the Arkansas Governor's Council on Obesity, the Arkansas Health Department, the City of Hot Springs Parks and Recreation Department, the Municipal Planning Organization, WP community leaders, and representatives from WP neighbors Weyerhaeuser and the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts.

• Through a CESU agreement HOSP entered into a partnership with Clemson University's College of Health, Education and Human Development, Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management to develop the park's HPHP strategic action plan. Clemson's Department of Public Health Sciences will also be working on the project. The plan will produce a series of strategic goals to implement the park's purpose and HPHP (C2A Goal 6), while protecting the park's cultural and natural resources, and meeting traditional visitor expectations. The workshop for the plan is scheduled for October 29 - 31.

• Hot Springs Reservation was established on April 20, 1832, to protect the geothermal spring water for public health and wellness. Then on June 16, 1880, Hot Springs Reservation was enlarged to include adjacent mountains for public use as parks. On August 25, 1916 Hot Springs Reservation was included in the National Park Service Organic Act. The name was changed to Hot Springs National Park on March 4, 1921.

• In addition to bathing, spa treatments and water-based therapies, trails were built to accommodate hiking, horseback riding, and carriage rides. Using the park roads and trails, a system of graduated exercises (Oertel Trails) was installed in 1914 to promote cardiopulmonary health and wellness and to complement the spa experience. The Grand Promenade was later built behind Bathhouse Row to encourage walking, strolling and relaxation; and a campground established at Gulpha Gorge to enjoy and engaging with nature. Gymnasiums were included in the bathhouses to promote physical fitness with the use of exercise equipment to complement the era of Physical Culture - a predecessor of today's health and wellness initiative. Concerts on park grounds also connected the spa experience with the arts.

• The HOSP Foundation Statement (2012) identifies the park purpose is to protect the unique geothermal spring water and associated lands for public health, wellness and enjoyment. This purpose confirms the park's historical role as a public health and wellness site.

• Most of the Foundation Statement was developed in FY11 which proved to be intricately intertwined with the Call to Action released on August 25, 2011 and the November 2011 release of the HPHP-US Strategic Action Plan. Of note is the relationship between HOSP's purpose and the Call to Action's Goal 6, Take a Hike Call Me in the Morning.

• Park staff conducted research to develop better understanding of health and wellness programs and incorporated this knowledge into HPHP thematic programs. The park also began educating the public about health and wellness opportunities at HOSP and neighboring federal, state and local parks, forests, lakes and rivers.

• On September 14, 2011, HOSP conducted a Modern-Day Mather Hike. Partners that participated in the Modern-Day Mather Hike included the Arkansas State Parks, Garland County, the City of Hot Springs, the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, National Park Conservation Association, neighboring communities, and school teachers and students. The hike's results along with staff involvement in program development proved that "health" is so intricately woven into the HOSP mission that a comprehensive approach to integrate HPHP concepts was needed.

Current Status:
• A list of invitees for the HPHP Strategic Action Plan workshop was developed, letters of invitation have been mailed, the agenda for the workshop is 90% complete, and reservations at the hotel/conference center have been made. The invitees include national, state and local partners. Dr. Brent Bauer, Director of the Complementary and Integrative Medicine Program at the Mayo Clinic has confirmed his attendance at the workshop.

• Ongoing park HPHP projects and programs include the Let's Move Outside walking and the Junior Trail Ranger walking programs. The park also conducts Lunchtime Fitness Walks for park visitors and the neighboring business community, and engages park employees with health and wellness programs.

• Two 30-second public service announcements and two short videos on HPHP and hiking park trails were produced. The short videos were produced in partnership with a local high school Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) lab.

• The HOSP staff is presenting HPHP education programs to school teachers and students and the business community. HOSP is also developing a HPHP booklet, rack card and temporary exhibit. A permanent exhibit is also being planned.

Contact Person: Josie Fernandez, Superintendent, 501-623-2824

Last updated: April 10, 2015

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Mailing Address:

101 Reserve Street
Hot Springs , AR 71901


(501) 620-6715

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