The importance of play

By Mayor Brian Blad

It’s hard to overstate the value of play in our lives. When we were young, it’s where we learned our earliest lessons about life and the world around us. Into our formative years, it takes on a different role in helping us figure out who we are, what we like, what we do, and what we are made of. Onto adulthood, play is where we relax and find our bit of peace amidst the hustle and bustle that is our lives. Play is a lot of different things to a lot of different people; it can be anything from a solitary walk or jog through the neighborhood, a pickup game of basketball amongst a few friends, two companies from opposite ends of town meeting on a softball field, and the myriad of leisure activities that are a part of and surround our great city. Truly, when we all play in one form or another, life is improved, and the city of Pocatello Parks and Recreation Department will be helping our city embody that thought with their new slogan of “Play Often, Live Better!”
So, how can we play often and live better? Actually, as a Pocatellan, it’s pretty easy. Let’s just talk a few numbers. The city’s Parks and Recreation Department is charged with operating and maintaining 26 parks that total 351 acres. In those parks, there are 21 playgrounds, 26 baseball/softball fields, 11 soccer fields, and 4 lighted tennis courts. For the hikers, bikers, and ATV riders, the Outdoor Recreation Program oversees the 3,000 acre City Creek Management Area and its over 50 miles worth of trails. Last year, the popular recreation area saw an estimated 45,000 users.
Oh, you’d rather hit the links? The combined Highland and Riverside Golf Courses feature 36 holes and close to 13,000 yards of golf from the longest tees. Or is disc golf more your style? The 9-hole Upper Ross Park and 18-hole Sister City Park courses have you covered.
How about a dip in the pool?  The Ross Park Aquatic Complex is the place to be during the summer months while the water at the Community Recreation Center is great in all seasons. Speaking of the rec center, the pool’s just the start! It boasts a weight room, multi-purpose room and basketball court, indoor climbing wall, and a steam room, sauna, and eucalyptus room for those looking to really relax. You can also take to one of the handball, racquetball, or newly-installed pickleball courts. I speak from experience when I say you’ve got to give pickleball a try.
Want to embrace your inner racer or just get out and jog or walk amongst a few hundred friends? How about the Portneuf Valley Fun Run Series, Just Cuz Half Marathon, or for the extremely strong willed, the Pocatello Triathlon. If team efforts are in your blood, adults and children can take part in any one of the City’s 13 team sports leagues, ranging from basketball and volleyball, to baseball and softball, soccer, and flag football.
Our four-legged friends and their humans can head out to either Bannock Bark Park in Old Town or the newly constructed Katie’s Dog Park located adjacent to the City’s animal shelter; both have been built specifically for our canine pals of all sizes.
Speaking of animals, the newly-christened “Zoo Idaho” offers people the chance to get close to some of Idaho’s most majestic creatures. I know there are some who liked the fact that our zoo was named after the city, but this name better represents what our zoo really and truly is, a zoo that represents the wildlife of the entire state. The name puts our zoo in a better position to attract travelers and tourists to our city, and when they make a stop here, we all reap the economic benefits.
Honestly, this isn’t even close to all that Parks and Recreation does. This is just a scratch on a very deep surface. If you get a minute, go to Pocatello.us/pr, see for yourself, and find an activity that piques your own interest. If you do, I’m sure it’ll be no time at all before you are playing often, which means you’ll be living better!

This column was submitted by Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad.