NRPA's heritage and philosophy are an outgrowth of pioneering work by its predecessors. The history of NRPA is a history of parks and scenic open spaces. It is the story of children and people of all ages seeking self-expression and fulfillment in an urbanized and industrial society. It is the story of visionary men and women who believed in the importance of recreation to the growth and development of the individual and the nation. It is the story of providing sustainable programs and environments for generations to come.
NRPA was formed on August 14, 1965, when five organizations, the National Recreation Association (NRA), American Institute of Park Executives (AIPE), American Recreation Society (ARS), the National Conference on State Parks (NCSP), and the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (an affiliate of AIPE) each involved in the support of park and recreation services in the public sector, merged to form a single entity.