Outside of my office in the NRPA library is a modern, loosely painted portrait of NRPA’s first president, Laurence Rockefeller. Across the hall is another portrait of Laurence Rockefeller, this time in a more traditional style. Watching the Rockefeller twins stare each other down is a portrait of Robert Crawford, with a slightly amused look on his face. Meanwhile, all of us are dwarfed by a massive banner bearing the likeness of Theodore Roosevelt. Although these heroes from the early parks and recreation movement through its golden age certainly deserve their places of honor in our library, I can’t help wondering whom we would put on the wall now.
Let me be frank—the magazine staff were not eagerly anticipating our annual celebrity feature for Park & Recreation Month in July. Previous experience had taught us that we could be scrounging for weeks or even months and only come up with a token athlete or two. Luckily we were able to switch tactics this year and asked Rachel Roberts to create a piece on how local parks can recruit local celebrities. Rachel has interviewed a number of celebrities over the years, including our NRPA Congress keynote speaker, Tony Hawk.
While many celebrities will come out and advocate for their local parks (Central Park being a prime example), it seems no major, household names will step forward for parks and recreation as a national cause. That national vision for parks appears to be lacking among today’s top celebrities, philanthropists, and political leaders.
But efforts like America’s Backyard can fill that void with grassroots power instead. This is 2011, after all, the age of social media and the long tail. We don’t need a celebrity white knight to ride in and save parks and recreation; we need millions of white knights. And although we don’t have space on the library walls to honor them all of the local advocates and volunteers we’ve featured recently, like Andi Oustalet in Gulfport, Karen Kidwell in San Francisco, Helene Mills in Atlanta, Richard Toussaint in Harlem, or Missouri’s State Parks Youth Corps….they are rock stars to us and hopefully to all of you too.
Parks & Recreation