Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Clear Voice

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Clear Voice

Article excerpt

Delivering NRPA's Message on the Homefront

THOSE OF US WHO WORK IN THE FIELD and those of us who appreciate the many benefits of public parks and recreation know the immense value of what these services bring to a community. What we do is about much more than simply offering space and facilities for people to make the most of their leisure time.

Parks and recreation is about providing our children with safe and healthy ways to play, learn, and develop. It's about improving the physical and mental well-being for people of all ages by engaging them in healthier, more active lifestyles. It's about providing everyone access to our shared natural resources. It's about teaching people how to preserve and protect these resources through conservation and environmental stewardship. It's about reducing our nation's oil dependency by utilizing alternate and more energy- efficient means of transportation. It's about creating jobs and revitalizing neighborhoods. It's about building livable and sustainable communities that enhance the quality of life for all people.

This is the message that NRPA members and advocates delivered to Capitol Hill during last month's National Legislative Forum on Parks and Recreation. This same message must be delivered on a regular basis to civic leaders and elected representatives at all levels of government. In the face of severe budget shortfalls, county and state officials across the country must make difficult decisions. It is imperative for agencies to illustrate that the return on investment far outweighs any minimal short-term savings gained from cutting parks and recreation funding. Now, more than ever, we must use the collective power of our voices to advocate for continued investment in the parks and recreation programs and projects that make communities better places to live, work, learn, and play. According to Wisconsin Parks and Recreation Association Executive Director, Steve Thompson, "There simply is no more important service that can be provided to the park and recreation industry than advocacy." And there is no more important place to start advocacy efforts than at home in your local community.

Here are some key points to consider as you work advance the cause of parks and recreation in your community and throughout the nation.

Know That You Can Make a Difference

When discussing political influence, many people immediately think of lobbyists in stuffed suits making back room deals in state capitols or Washington, D.C. Thompson notes, however; that "our best advocates are simply members and supporters who work to educate their communities about important issues. In order to be supported by members in local and state units of government, professionals and citizens must be strong and consistent advocates for issues affecting the delivery of public recreation and park programs and services to their community." As an industry that focuses on people instead of profits, our advocacy efforts rely on the voices of everyday parks and recreation professionals and citizens to tell the real-life stories that exemplify the importance of parks and recreation to communities.

Dina Trunzo, Manager of Therapeutic Recreation for Somerset County Park Commission in New Jersey, serves as a great example of the difference that professionals can make in the political realm. She first got involved in advocacy by attending an occupational therapy licensing board meeting. Over the years she became more engaged with issues beyond just those related to therapeutic recreation. …

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