Park system plans are a foundational tool for our profession that have been used to create great places. Yet, as we’ve talked with professionals across the country, many have expressed frustration in their ability to create a fair and just park system that ensures park access for all. So, over the last few years, we collected input and studied plans from park and recreation agencies and private planning firms centered on the question of how do we better use or transform the common tools of the trade to achieve greater park access.
We have found that when park system plans are grounded in equity and inclusion, they can drive greater improvements in health and social well-being and can protect and help communities more easily recover from environmental, social and economic challenges. These plans use community member input at their core and are as much about the engagement process as they are about the plan. At the forefront of the plans are community priorities such as health, climate resilience, economic development, equity and inclusion. Plans also recognized that equitable park systems don’t develop overnight but pay attention to the process that has many layers, voices and steps. And, in the end, these plans need concrete action-oriented recommendations to lay a foundation for a more equitable future of the community’s park system.
To assist park and recreation professionals in the development of equity-based system plans, NRPA has released a new online tool — Creating Equity-Based System Master Plans.
Master plans provide a guide to follow when planning future growth and development for a park and recreation agency. To ensure everyone has just and fair access to quality parks, green spaces, recreation facilities and programs, these plans must incorporate equity and inclusion. NRPA created an open-access, online tool that helps park and rec professionals do just that.
The comprehensive, open-access tool outlines four steps to follow:
- Internal Assessment
- Community Engagement
- Resources and Data Collection
These steps take users through setting a mission and vision to set priorities; conducting ongoing community engagement; collecting and analyzing metrics and outcome indicators; and developing a realistic implementation plan based on resources, partnerships and funding scenarios. NRPA provides links to sample case studies and master plans as well as resources and background information throughout the interactive tool.
Be sure to check out this new tool to learn more about forming your equitable and inclusive master plan today. If you have questions or suggestions for other things you would like to see included in the resource, please feel free to contact me or Tori Decea, NRPA program specialist.
Rachel Banner is NRPA’s Director of Park Access.