Magazine article Parks & Recreation

NRPA Members Canvas Washington

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

NRPA Members Canvas Washington

Article excerpt

Over 350 advocates for quality recreation and parks joined legislators, executive agency staff and a national media personality for the National Recreation and Park Association's Legislative Forum in Washington, D.C. from February 29 to March 2. This annual national policy and advocacy event included the presentation of NRPA Congressional Awards, Grant-in-Aid Workshops, a briefing on pending federal legislation and budget proposals, and direct contact with congressional offices and representatives.

"This mid-year meeting, more than ever, confirmed my respect and confidence in NRPA members and our mission," said T. Destry Jarvis, NRPA executive director. "I was proud of the responses our members received from their representatives. We were told it was quite compelling when citizens and recreation and park professionals made their case together to get support for their community programs."

Getting to the Issues

The goal of this meeting is to educate NRPA members about current governmental trends and programs that affect their work, and then provide them with the information and skills needed to make a strong case to national leaders. Chris Matthews, host of CNBC and MSNBC television's Hardball, shared his views on "new American perspectives" in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. "Parks make life in big cities bearable," he said, "and now the term community means more than it used to." Matthews emphasized the imperative for close attention to politics and politicians while observing that people today are looking at the world differently. "There's little tolerance for partisanship and divisiveness," he remarked. He also noted, "that authenticity has replaced charisma," as one indicator of how American values have changed since September.

To get a perspective from elected officials, U.S. Representative Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.) met with members and urged recreation advocates to expand investments in active recreation. "We should use money from the booming health care business to build public recreation facilities to prevent unhealthy lifestyles before they even begin," he observed. "With funding from health care dollars," said Sanders, "we could build recreation facilities all over the country." He urged individuals to use a convincing, loud, and intelligent voice when meeting with their legislators.

Members also received background on legislation and grants that affect their programs. The grant-in-aid federal agency staff informed attendees of several sources of potential aid, including some not widely known to the field. Briefings on current policy and legislation addressed an array of social and resource issues, including legislation to reauthorize juvenile justice and delinquency grant authority; "enhance" transportation "and develop trails; and an expanded AmeriCorps program that would support public health, security and other local needs.

Appropriation objectives that were discussed included funds for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program (now administered by the states) and technology opportunity grants administered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. NRPA members urged continued support for the proposed Conservation and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 701), and fiscal year 2003 appropriations for Land and Water Conservation Fund state assistance and for restoration of urban recreation and park facilities.

Member advocacy makes a difference. NRPA advocacy successes include a $50 million Land Water Conservation Fund grant for FY 2002, $30 million for urban park restoration, expanded authority to convert "brownfields" to parks and green space, and expanded access to funds for after school services. …

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