This week we have brought you various updates and photos from the first ever, NRPA Green School. Our very own VP of Conservation and Parks Richard Dolesh attended and presented at Green School. In this post, Rich reports on his experience and takeaways – read on!
NRPA’s highly anticipated Green School opened with a buzz this week. Nearly 50 park, recreation, and conservation professionals from across the country arrived in Oglebay Park in Wheeling, WV, for the inaugural edition of NRPA’s latest professional development school.
The opening banquet featured Mayor Elizabeth Kautz of Burnsville, MN, who is the immediate past president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Mayor Kautz welcomed the students and endorsed the idea of the Green School. She noted that in the present economic climate, the focus is on activities that result in “jobs, jobs, jobs,” and she said that “parks are assets that are great for driving economic success.” She highlighted the importance of sustainability planning for all cities saying, “Sustainability must be an essential part of your system if you are to provide for the present and future needs of your citizens.”
She went on to identify fourteen planks in her vision for a sustainable city including sustainable land use, renewable energy systems, energy efficiency, recycling and waste reduction, and more.
“We believe that modeling sustainability starts with us—and all of you in parks can make the difference,” said Mayor Kautz.
The first sessions of the school included a primer on Environmental Management Systems (EMS ) taught by Kevin Fletcher and a thoughtful overview of the importance of community connections by Susan Trautman, Executive Director of Great Rivers Greenways in St. Louis, which included small group discussions of how to connect diverse communities.
Evie Kirkwood, Director of St. Joseph’s County, IN, held forth on the Power of the “green message,” and the challenges of marketing “green” to your communities. Participants created a “green message” campaign for their own communities based on real life challenges posed to them.
But the show stopper of the early sessions was the “trash audit” conducted by students on their hands and knees as they sorted and classified trash collected that day by staff of Oglebay Park in Brendan Daley’s informative and useful session, Moving Toward Green Waste. As Director of Green Initiatives for the Chicago Park Department, Brendan said, “If there is one thing you get out of this presentation today, it is that getting to zero waste is as much about changing thinking as it is about reducing waste.”
Clearly, the students of the Green School were engaged in lively and spirited discussions on how they could apply the lessons learned. Sharing stories of their own experiences in their agencies and jurisdictions enabled many to see possible solutions for problems that they encountered in differing, yet similar situations. Jenny Doty, Recreation Supervisor for the City of Lenexa, KS, said at the end of the day, “I loved the first day’s sessions and really learned a lot.” With a laugh, she said, “I’ve already sent back some ideas to my colleagues.”
For more information about Green School and for future dates please visit http://www.nrpa.org/greenschool/.