Reminders of sun safety practices are absent from USF’s Riverfront Park and the university as a whole. This information is especially necessary since Tampa Bay has some of the highest numbers of people with melanoma, a deadly skin cancer linked to sunburns and sun exposure.
Each summer, over 3,000 people visit USF’s Riverfront Park located just off Fletcher Avenue. Picnicking, family and business events, baseball, kickball, canoeing and kayaking are just a few of the fun outdoor activities enjoyed.
While attending USF as an undergraduate student, I worked at the Riverfront Park for three years and was greatly exposed to environmental elements. With the USF Challenge Course – also known as the Ropes Course – and Boathouse open in full swing, everyone enjoying the park is exposed to the strong summer sun for hours at a time.
With temperatures reaching over 100 degrees many days, park goers and staff alike use tree shade along the back and side of the property to escape from the sun’s heat and reduce risk of sunburn. However, the majority of the park, including the Ropes Course and baseball field, is left open – exposing people to the sun’s damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays, which damage the skin with the development of spots and can lead to wrinkles or, ultimately, skin cancer.
USF’s Outdoor Recreation did provide staff with some sunscreen, which was then allotted to park goers, if asked. But for the majority of the summer, sun safety was not implemented. Sunburn was a common sight on parkgoers and staff members, especially those who were involved with the Ropes Course.
Signs in the park’s parking lot warn visitors of animal life dangers, but signs warning of sunburn and sun exposure are missing. Though the university could never fund the amount of long-sleeve T-shirts and hats necessary for park goers, which are appropriate to reduce the risk of sunburn, there are simpler ways to warn Bulls of the risks they take.
The Riverfront Park Boathouse would be a perfect example of a place in need of sun safety materials, which would help teach the public on sun safety practices. Large tubs of sunscreen supplied by Outdoor Recreation in the Boathouse – as well as pamphlets, brochures, posters, and stickers placed in rentable canoes and kayaks – would remind park goers about sun safety.
Even some verbal prompting regarding sun safety information could help reduce the occurrence of sunburns and the amount of UV rays people absorb, reducing the chance of people developing melanoma.
The same materials used at Riverfront Park could be used for USF Athletics and Intramurals, as well. With the amount of time athletes and observers spend outdoors, the price of enjoyment should not be skin damage.
Additionally, USF’s nationally recognized College of Public Health could also make it a project matter to spread materials.
Now is the time to show Tampa Bay the differences that can be made. Knowledge gained from the university’s efforts could also be used every day by people who see the sun safety materials and tools, therefore helping the USF community overall.
Ashley Talbot is a former USF student and current graduate student at UNF.