Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Improving the Public's Perception: How Do We Share the Importance of Parks and Recreation with the Nation?

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Improving the Public's Perception: How Do We Share the Importance of Parks and Recreation with the Nation?

Article excerpt

I don't typically wake up to a flurry of high-profile press reports about parks and recreation. But one recent morning, I was bombarded by news of a recreation center closure in a major U.S. city, a serious playground injury to a two-year-old in another and a recreation worker charged with child molestation in a third.

This outbreak of coverage about parks and recreation in two major daily newspapers and on NBC's Today Show caused me to reflect on one of the main reasons NRPA was founded--to improve the public's perception of the value of parks and recreation.

Clearly, the public's perception was not improved this day. All we could do was react to these events in the best way possible. We tried to control the damage by providing insight into the causes or by reciting ways to prevent these things from happening in the first place. But my experience tells me that this is not likely to lead us to success.

For several years now, members of the NRPA Board of Trustees and staff have been talking about ways we can be more successful in educating the public about what we do. We've conducted promotional campaigns that included slogans and clear, value-based facts that everyone can understand. We've even attempted to target our efforts to reach a core audience that can have an impact at the local level. But none of these efforts has yielded the results we urgently need.

In March, I spoke to a group of undergraduate and graduate students at Springfield College in Massachusetts about this ongoing challenge to our community. I suggested that if we took a poll of NRPA members to determine the level of support for communicating the value of parks and recreation to all Americans, we would receive an overwhelmingly positive response. But I also noted that if we asked how we should achieve this goal, we would likely receive hundreds, maybe even thousands of vastly different responses.

We represent a cause that is worthy of broad, national support. Advancing healthy lifestyles and livable communities can link to just about every major social issue facing our nation. Additionally, we have a compelling need for building momentum on public awareness. Budget challenges, legal and risk management worries, over-development, poor planning for growth, and environmental concerns all place burdens on parks and recreation across America. …

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