Safe Spaces

July 1, 2016, Department, by Gina Mullins-Cohen

Gina Mullins-Cohen, NRPA Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publishing and Editorial DirectorFor millions of people, parks, open natural landscapes and inviting recreation centers have served as places of respite and restoration. These are places where we let down our guard and open our hearts and minds to the possibility of increased health and more meaningful connections.

Orlando, Florida’s Pulse nightclub was a similar refuge for its mostly LGBTQ, mostly Latino, patrons. It was a place to dance, laugh, talk and perhaps even fall in love. That sense of openness and security was shattered when Omar Mateen exacted his twisted vengeance June 12, murdering 49 people and injuring 53 others. 

NRPA’s July 2016 Park and Recreation Month activities feature a superhero theme and characters customized to elevate our Three Pillars: Conservation, Health and Wellness, and Social Equity. The Green Guardian, Fit Twins and Captain Community are steadfast, ready to defend the principle of open access to parks and recreation for all. They are strong heroes protecting safe spaces, for all people, in all communities. 

Park and Recreation Month is an opportunity to bond together and support our communities — to truly let our superpowers shine. Beginning on page 38, NRPA Senior Marketing and Communications Specialist Roxanne Sutton spotlights the winners and runners-up of our Park and Recreation Month cover contest and some real-life superheroes of parks and recreation, as nominated by their peers. 

We’re approximately three months away from the 2016 NRPA Annual Conference — turn to page 44 to get the latest on the transformative power of play from author Paula M. Jacoby-Garrett, as well as what’s new in the area of conservation education and essential tips for first-time attendees from Conference veterans. 

The superpowers of park and recreation professionals are as real and effective as any mystical enchantment or genetically enhanced bicep. We bring people together. We make connections — in health, well-being and across racial and demographic lines — where before there were none, in hopes that, even in the face of unspeakable violence and hatred, we will have the capacity to gather ourselves up and keep striving for better outcomes.

While it’s impossible to prevent every tragic act or heinous plot, it is possible to cultivate safe, supportive communities wherever we live and work. That’s what park and rec does, day in, day out, in times of both distress and peace. 

Gina Mullins-Cohenis NRPA's Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publishing, and Editorial Director