Park and Recreation Professionals Work Toward Advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

(April 28, 2021)

A new NRPA report highlights the role park and recreation departments play in championing DEI efforts

Given their mission to make communities better places to live, learn, work and play, park and recreation professionals and their agencies are uniquely positioned to champion efforts that advance diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). According to a new National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) report, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Parks and Recreation, virtually all park and recreation agencies practice some DEI activities, and one-third of agencies currently have formal DEI programs. Furthermore, another 32 percent of park and recreation leaders anticipate their agencies will establish formal DEI activities within the next year. The most common DEI activities at park and recreation agencies are:

  • Hiring practices and policies
  • Outlining an explicit commitment to DEI in foundational documents
  • Providing staff and volunteers with education and skill development

Many park and recreation agencies rely on professionals in key management positions to lead their DEI activities. However, those park and recreation leaders face significant challenges in their efforts to promote diversity and establish inclusionary and equitable practices. These challenges include:

  • Developing staff capacity and competency around DEI
  • Attracting people to park and recreation jobs who reflect the community
  • Building trust with the community

Two in five park and recreation agencies have conducted an equity assessment within the past five years, with 12 percent having conducted a formal assessment and 16 percent having conducted an informal assessment. Another 12 percent of agencies report they are currently conducting a formal equity assessment. In addition, 37 percent of park and recreation leaders anticipate conducting an equity assessment within the next two years.

“Equity-centered approaches involve intentional decision making and taking actions that are anchored in fairness of results and outcomes,” said Autumn Saxton-Ross, NRPA’s vice president of education and chief equity officer. “By centering equity in all that we do, NRPA is laying the foundation for confronting injustices and ensuring that parks and recreation is accessible, inclusive, engaging and culturally relevant.”

The public strongly agrees that equitable access to parks and recreation is vital to communities. According to a 2020 NRPA Park Pulse poll, a large majority of U.S. adults — 87 percent — say it is important for people to have fair and just access to high-quality park and recreation programs, services and facilities that create healthy, resilient and economically vibrant communities.

To read the full Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Parks and Recreation report, click here.

To learn more about NRPA, visit


About the National Recreation and Park Association
The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. With more than 60,000 members, NRPA advances this mission by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals and advocates — the catalysts for positive change in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being. For more information, visit For digital access to NRPA’s flagship publication, Parks & Recreation, visit