Earlier this week, over 120 NRPA advocates from 35 states descended on Capitol Hill to educate their elected officials about the good work park and recreation professionals do in their communities, and how federal programs can help them do this work. For those of you who made the trip to an unseasonably cold Washington D.C., I want to offer my sincere thanks.
As a first time attendee of the Leg Forum I was impressed with the passion, knowledge and dedication of the NRPA members who travelled from as far as Fairbanks, Alaska to talk about a range of issues that touch on NRPA’s 3 Pillars: Conservation, Health and Wellness, and Social Equity. From asking for support for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, to the Older American’s Act, to the Community Parks Revitalization Act, NRPA activists were able to communicate the reach and impact parks and rec agencies have in communities across the country.
We also use Leg Forum to recognize our congressional champions. This year, Rep. David McKinley from the First District of West Virginia received NRPA’s Congressional Merit Award for his leadership on promoting equity for the Land and Water Conservation Fund State and Local Assistance program. Barbara Tulipane, President and CEO, NRPA; John Cooper, Superintendent of Parks and Recreation, Clarksburg, WV; Lewis Ledford, Executive Director, NASPD; Don Burton, Director of Parks and Recreation, Bridgeport, WV were on hand to present the award in person.
This year we also helped amplify the voice of our activists on Capitol Hill via social media. The park and rec world on Twitter was abuzz on March 26 as #NRPALegForum showed the creativity and scope of our assembled park and rec champions. #NRPALegForum was tweeted more than 220 times and had the potential to reach over 50,000 Twitter users!
Using social media, site visits, ribbon cuttings and creative advocacy efforts year round helps to ensure that NRPA’s 2014 Legislative Forum is not a one off event. For attendees, don’t forget to send a thank you note to the members and staff you met with this week. For NRPA activists who weren’t able to join us in D.C., take the opportunity to reach out to your federal elected officials in your district and state. Invite them to visit one of your parks, let them know about upcoming events at your rec centers, and take the opportunity to show them how you are leveraging limited federal dollars to provide the infrastructure and services that your community demands.
Park and rec agencies are the second largest provider of healthy snacks and meals to children. You provide much needed active and passive recreation spaces that allow families to exercise or connect with nature. Your communities wouldn’t be the same without the spaces and programs you provide. Be proud of the great work you are doing and make sure that your elected officials at the federal, state and local level are aware of this work.
Stay tuned for more on Leg Forum 2014, as well information from D.C. that will help you access funding for your programs and trainings that will help you continue to speak with one voice on critical park and recreation issues. Thanks again to our Leg Forum 2014 attendees. We are excited to build on the momentum created this week throughout the year. Also, here are some background materials and advocacy resources to help you as you interact with federal elected officials throughout the year.
If you have questions, or want to share your advocacy stories don’t hesitate to reach out to the advocacy team.
Kevin O’Hara is NRPA’s Vice President of Urban and Government Affairs and expert photobomber.