I can think of no better way to culminate the distinct honor of serving as Chair of NRPA’s Board of Directors for the past year than by witnessing one of our most inspirational Annual Conferences held last month in Las Vegas, Nevada. The event calcified what I already knew about this profession: it encompasses a group of individuals who possess unwavering passion, commitment and selflessness to the greater good of others and the communities they serve.
During my remarks at the Opening General Session, I talked about how we, as park and recreation professionals in the 21st century, can better communicate our impact. It is important for us to share how our Park Champions initiative is encouraging people across the country to reach out to their representatives on Capitol Hill and invite them to come and see for themselves the tremendous impact a robust park and recreation system has on the community it serves. It is incumbent upon us to emphasize NRPA’s recently completed national economic impact study that unequivocally shows how our nation’s local and regional parks create almost $140 billion in economic activity every year and support almost 1 million jobs across the country.
These are all incredibly important facts and strategies, and we spent the better part of three days in Las Vegas discussing, lauding and honing them to what we hope will result in the greatest effect. But, for me,
NRPA’s impact, along with that of the professionals we serve, was communicated most clearly during the dedication and unveiling of the 2015 Parks Build Community project at Joe Kneip Park. To witness the transformation of this space — a space that has never stopped serving its community, but was, for many years, required to do so with crumbling equipment and neglected grounds — was to know, beyond any set of numbers or legislative initiative, that our work truly matters and makes a dramatic difference in the trajectory of peoples’ lives. Quality parks and recreational opportunities save lives on a daily basis. We all knew this going into our profession, but it’s events like the success at Joe Kneip Park that drive the passion behind what we do every day.
As I step down and welcome the highly motivated and innovative Susan Trautman as our new NRPA Board Chair, I will take memories like those made at Joe Kneip Park with me. Those and countless similar moments I’ve experienced throughout my career in parks and recreation will continue to drive my commitment to and compassion for the field. Again, I sincerely thank you for the opportunity to serve, and I look forward to continuing my service to NRPA as we join together in support for greater health and wellness, increased environmental conservation and widespread social equity for all.
Detrick L. Stanford, CPRP, is the Outgoing Chair of NRPA's Board of Directors.