Notable News

July 1, 2014, Department, by Samantha Bartram

The Washington Post recently recognized NRPA as one of the top places to work in the greater Washington, D.C., area, as outlined in the inaugural Capital Business Top Workplaces for 2014 report. Of the 1,672 companies that participated in the report, NRPA came in at number 56 in the small workplace category. In its assessment, the report highlights the office’s prime location in a public park as well as its indoor and outdoor exercise and eating areas. It also commends the association’s 403(b) plan with a six percent company match that is fully vested upon hire, and its 13 paid holidays and 26 days of paid time off allotted to each full-time employee per year. An accompanying article on perks among the region’s top workplaces emphasizes NRPA’s walking trails, a popular employee benefit. Click here to learn about available career opportunities at NRPA.

The American Red Cross has announced its 2014 Swimming and Water Safety Program, featuring three new adult learn-to-swim course outlines, a new swim app and a Water Safety Instructor (WSI) course that incorporates advanced-simulation learning. The new adult swim courses are the first of their kind in the Red Cross’ 100-year aquatics history and are tailored to teach fundamentals, stroke development and refinement, and diving and water safety. The multilevel instructional approach includes the most current biomechanics for swim strokes and starts, stroke descriptions, diving progressions, and tools to prevent drowning and promote water safety. The new, free mobile app is an innovative, high-tech tool to help parents and caregivers of young people learn to swim. The app is designed as a companion to the learn-to-swim adult lessons and preschool aquatics programs, and provides water safety information to adults and children. Finally, the WSI program trains aquatics professionals to conduct a series of courses for adults and children and emphasizes water competency and the Red Cross drowning circle-of-prevention and chain-of-survival. As part of its mission to promote better learning outcomes, the Red Cross has also incorporated advanced-simulation learning and critical thinking into its WSI training. This immersive learning experience allows students to practice new skills in an authentic, no-risk virtual environment. WSI students will be offered more than 100 customizable scenarios, and the skill set taught in each level must be mastered before learners can advance through the course. More information on the 2014 Swimming and Water Safety Program, as well as other Red Cross initiatives, is available by clicking here.

The Minneapolis park system recently received major accolades from the Trust for Public Land (TPL), securing the top spot on the organization’s third annual ParkScore index. For the second year in a row, Minneapolis earned a perfect “five park bench” rating, posting strong scores in each of the award’s three judging criteria:  park access, park size and services/investment. Considering 94 percent of Minneapolis residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park and the median park size is 7.1 acres, it’s not difficult to understand how the city made it to the top of TPL’s list. “This top rating is a wonderful tribute to all of the individuals who, for the past 131 years, have made the park system what it is today. I want to assure the people of Minneapolis and the Twin Cities region that we’re not done yet. We are committed to opening new public green spaces and improving parks that already exist,” Liz Wielinski, president of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, said in a statement. New York, Boston, Portland and San Francisco rounded out this year’s ParkScore top five. Click here for more details about the list.

Residents and visitors have a newly renovated space to enjoy at Newark, New Jersey’s Military Park. Reopened in June, the space is considered one of the most significant historic parks in the city and serves as a primary gathering space for the community. The revitalization effort transformed the park from somewhat of an eyesore into an expansive, active space that includes a new restaurant, restrooms, more than an acre of gardens and more. Free daily programming features yoga classes, outdoor concerts and games, and organizers expect to add more activities as the summer rolls on. Click here for more information about the park, including updates about scheduled events.

Southwest Airlines is getting attention for more than its funky corporate culture and competitive ticket prices. The business has committed to a big urban revitalization effort, pledging to create or revitalize parks and green spaces in each of the 90 cities it serves. The initiative began a few years ago through a partnership with the Project for Public Spaces after Southwest executives discovered how well both organizations’ goal of placemaking aligned. PPS works closely with nonprofits and community groups to improve public and civic spaces, and Southwest decided the two could make a bigger impact in concert than working apart. Since 2013, the collaboration has produced new parks or facilitated renovations of public spaces in Detroit, Michigan; Providence, Rhode Island; and San Antonio, Texas. Grants developed through the partnership have also helped fund the research and publication of a white paper at MIT's Department of Urban Studies and Planning. You can follow PPS and Southwest’s upcoming projects online.

An ambitious river cleanup project in Somerset County, New Jersey, shows what a difference the determination of just a few residents can have on the health of area waterways. The initiative started in 2013 when “just two Eagle Scouts” made it their mission to pull tires and other debris from the Raritan River. The South Branch/Raritan River Cleanup focused on a 10-mile stretch of the waterway from Neshanic Station to Raritan Borough and resulted in removal of 507 tires and various other unwanted materials. Today, the effort has become a full-blown charitable venture involving the Somerset County Park Commission Maintenance staff, members of the Central Jersey Stream Team, volunteers from Atlantic County Utilities Authority provided through NJ Clean Communities, Scouts, area residents, students and others. The 2014 cleanup netted 900 discarded tires, as well as a Clean Water Award from NJ Clean Communities for the tire removal project. “We are extremely proud of the Raritan River Cleanup because it involved the cooperation of several partners in solving an environmental problem. We anticipate working with community organizations, businesses and governmental agencies to implement similar waterway cleanups statewide,” said Sandy Huber, executive director of the NJ Clean Communities Council, in an interview with the New Jersey Messenger Gazette