Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Active Minds, Healthy Nation: Another Record-Setting Congress Brims with Renewed Optimism

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Active Minds, Healthy Nation: Another Record-Setting Congress Brims with Renewed Optimism

Article excerpt

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PERHAPS it was keynote speaker Tony Hawk who set the tone for the most upbeat NRPA Congress in recent years when he encouraged parks and recreation professionals to "do what you love to do--love going to work," With that directive in mind, a record number of more than 7,000 professionals, citizen advocates, and exhibitors went forth and enjoyed everything the Atlanta meeting had to offer, from in-depth education sessions to spectacular socials to a massive trade show bustling with renewed energy,

Outgoing Chair Janna Rankin kicked off the Opening General Session on Tuesday morning, November 1st. She discussed how park and recreation professionals and supporters must rally behind advocacy efforts as saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund in order to protect the legacies of giants such as Frederick Law Olmsted, Gifford Pinchot, and Jane Addams. America's Backyard provides a vehicle to engage the support of all Americans, she said, because play is essential for a balanced life and now is not the time to back away.

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NRPA is mobilizing the country through America's Backyard, concurred Outgoing President Dianne Hoover, who said that parks and recreation agencies are on the front line in keeping Americans healthy and happy. She also touched on the year's natural disasters to hit parks, the recent urban parks roundtable on sustainable funding, and the launch of the PRORAGIS benchmarking database system. She described new opportunities for professionalism, such as the NRPA Connect online networking system, the Certified Parks and Recreation Executive level certification, and reaching the milestone of 100 accredited parks and recreation agencies.

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With Hoover serving as the last professional member president of NRPA, the Board of Directors voted to bestow the president's title on CEO Barbara Tulipane, Tulipane urged parks and recreation agencies to get ahead of the curve in these tough economic times by embracing a conservation message. Research performed for the America's Backyard initiative has revealed that the protection of open space and natural resources especially resonates with the public. The NRPA Conservation Task Force released its new report on best practices in conservation in Atlanta (see the November 2001 issue of Parks & Recreation), and Tulipane noted that parks must be a player in solving environmental challenges.

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Keynote Address: Not a Subculture Anymore

"Hi, my name is Tony Hawk. I'm 43 years old and I'm a professional skateboarder," laughed Hawk, whose low-key and self-deprecating speaking style soon won over the thousands in the audience. Hawk briefly described his childhood and how skating improved his self-confidence, despite a lack of public skating facilities. After surviving the tough period when skating became "uncool," Hawk's career turned around with the extreme sports movement and he found that he now had a voice people would listen to.

So he founded the Tony Hawk Foundation, which has funded $3.9 million in skatepark construction in low-income areas in 49 states. Saying that the foundation is the most rewarding work he does, Hawk noted skatepark communities often serve as second families for kids. Many kids are transformed by the process of working to build a skatepark in their community, becoming impassioned advocates and engaged members of the community. He challenged communities to pay attention and support and understand these kids. With more kids skating than playing Little League, "it's not a subculture anymore," he said.

The new skatepark at the Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta was the foundation's 400th skatepark, and Hawk said it serves as an example of the empowerment he would like to see in every community. The foundation offers a resource guide to give the steps to involve kids in the process and communicate the value of skateparks to community leaders. …

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