As we gear up for the future and the implications this pandemic is having on our profession, NRPA looks to rally together with you – our partners and peers – in support of increased investment, recognition, and dedication to local parks and recreation and the essential services they provide. We ask you to join us in doubling down on your support for local parks and recreation by using your voice to sign onto this letter and ask others to do the same.
We Are All in This Together
Our collective leadership and advocacy are critical to ensure park and recreation professionals can adapt to emerging needs and prepare for a post-pandemic future that minimizes economic loss for their essential work and allows them to drive economic recovery. As we work together to ensure that parks and recreation facilities are included in the next phases of federal relief — from emergency response to funding shovel-ready projects — we invite more people to join us as supporters and advocates to promote the importance of this essential community resource.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, park and recreation professionals swiftly mobilized to deliver vital services and programs to support community health and well-being. Park and recreation agencies across the country have transformed into community wellness hubs, quickly adapting to:
- Operate as food distribution centers connecting food insecure youth, older adults, and out-of-work households with healthy meals.
- Serve as community shelters for homeless and housing-insecure populations.
- Provide emergency childcare centers for essential workers.
- Connect community members to other services, such as healthcare providers.
- Maintain parks, trails and open spaces for physically distant activities that promote physical and mental health.
These professionals are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic – and will continue to be in the months and years to come.
As a supporter of parks and recreation, you understand the vital role that park and recreation professionals play in the communities they serve – contributing directly to countless health, social, environmental and economic benefits. You’ve championed the efforts of these professionals and witnessed the inspiring power of their work.
Now we invite you to be their champion and share that enthusiasm by joining us to reach a broader audience of supporters and advocates.
We All Need Parks
As nearly every sector across the country has closed its doors, the power of parks and recreation has become even more evident. In accordance with local, state, and federal guidance, individuals across the country are finding respite and seeking peace, restoration and opportunities for physical activity in the only remaining accessible places – their neighborhood parks, trails and open spaces. NRPA’s recent Park Pulse survey is a testament to public value for parks and recreation as an essential service, with a majority of survey respondents finding access to these places very or extremely essential.
Parks are also key economic drivers in the community, helping to spur $166 billion in economic activity across the country and supporting more than 1.1 million jobs. Investments made to local parks and recreation are not wasted – they produce quantifiable and visible impacts including increased economic development ($87 billion in added U.S. GDP in 2017) and lower medical and insurance costs for people taking advantage of health and wellness opportunities in parks. One study shows nearly $3 in direct medical cost savings over time for every $1 spent on trails.
Despite evidence of broad public support and use, these agencies have been chronically underfunded since the last recession. Without their standard programming, the field is experiencing unprecedented financial impacts. Early economic impact data collected from the field demonstrates that more than half of the 10,000 park and recreation agencies nationwide have reported initial budget cuts of up to 20 percent. Based on NRPA’s 2020 Economic Impact Report, a 20 percent cut would reduce operations and capital spending by $35 billion annually across the U.S. economy, and would result in over 225,000 jobs lost.
As the need for parks and recreation facilities continues to increase, the resources to maintain those parks are being drastically decreased. This can only result in intensified pressure for our parks and recreation professionals to deliver these essential community services. Increased investment is vital for park and recreation agencies to survive the immediate impact of COVID-19, including providing essential services for vulnerable communities disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, and continuing to implement mitigation measures to promote health and well-being.
As communities start on the long path of recovery, they need assurance of sustained public and private support. Our park and recreation agencies and professionals are poised to not just reinstate standard operations, but continue stepping up to meet the evolving needs of their community in a post-pandemic future. This includes leveraging needed investment in parks and recreation to address the social and economic factors, including inequitable access to parks and green space, that have contributed to the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on underinvested communities.
By signing this letter, you will join a network of park and recreation champions and industry leaders committed to collaboration in support of long-term public and private investment for the essential role of parks and recreation in improving the health, social, environmental and economic vitality of our local communities.
By signing this letter, you pledge to:
1. Maintain your support for critical investment in parks and recreation, and
2. Encourage other funders, companies, organizations, and industry leaders to support and advocate for parks and recreation as essential community resources in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Thank you for joining and giving voice to the park and recreation profession. I look forward to our continued collaboration through this network of supporters.
Please direct any additional partner inquiries or questions to NRPA’s Senior Development Officer, Cassie Pais.