Influence Public Policy with PRORAGIS

By Mark A. Young | Posted on July 25, 2013

Tags: Advocacy
Recently, advocacy issues important to public parks and recreation have been in action on Capitol Hill – in the House, the reintroduction of the Community Parks Revitalization Act – introduction of legislation to designate a minimum of 40 percent of total annual Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) appropriations for the State Assistance Program; proposed tax reform which threatens Municipal Bond tax exemption. With the right information we all can do our parts to shape how these issues play out for our field and communities – both on the national and local level. Mark A. Young, one of NRPA’s PRORAGIS Ambassadors, shares how having the right information, especially powerful data, can give strength to our public park and recreation advocacy messages.
Park and recreation services positively impact the health, education, environment and economy of communities across America. Still, many of the communities we serve take their parks and recreation services for granted. We in the parks and recreation profession often struggle to put the value of our services in quantifiable terms. We can all agree that parks and recreation enhances the quality of life but how can we measure the impact to better tell the parks and recreation story? 


Ever hear "show me the data," when asking for support? PRORAGIS is a great tool to get the information you need to secure support from elected officials or leaders


Elected officials - federal, state and local - enact legislation, develop policies and approve funding for programs that help agencies acquire and develop parks and provide recreation services in their communities. When community members talk about the value of parks and recreation elected officials listen. When stories are augmented with credible data elected officials are more likely to support parks and recreation.  This is where you can play a role and leverage the help of PRORAGIS to bolster your messages. 
PRORAGIS is a tool that can provide data that demonstrates where your agency is successfully providing park and recreation services and where there are gaps in your services. Benchmarking data will show how your agency compares with other organizations in budgeting, staffing and access to parks, recreation centers and trails. Comparing data with other agencies in your area creates opportunities to collaborate, share resources, attract private investors, and leverage public tax dollars. My U.S. Representative, Steve Stivers (15th District Ohio), is a proponent of regionalism - jurisdictions working together to ensure the efficient and effective use of public funds. This congressman was impressed with the jurisdictional cooperation in the development of a recreational trail system in Ohio. It was credible data that convinced Representative Stivers that the trail system was a worthy investment. 
A new federal transportation law, MAP-21, consolidates biking and walking programs and increases the competition for limited grant funds. The Ohio Department of Transportation is now requiring an economic impact analysis as part of a trail development grant proposal. The GIS, jurisdictional, budget, and programming data available in PRORAGIS will help assess the economic impact of a trail project. If your state requires the same information, you can look to PRORAGIS to help you.

The Trust for Public Land's recent survey of the 50 largest cities in the U.S. revealed a lack of access to parks and recreation services in many of the nation’s urban centers. To fill this gap, park and recreation agencies will require funding from a variety of sources. There is a federal grant program that can help but it must get support in Congress. The Land and Water Conservation Fund has acquired and developed parkland and trails in communities across the nation but the State Assistance Program has been significantly underfunded. When we tell legislators about the health, environmental and economic impacts of parks and recreation the response is often, "Show me the data." With PRORAGIS, we can show legislators the data and demonstrate that park and recreation services provide value to their constituents.
PRORAGIS is a valuable tool for telling the parks and recreation story and winning support from our elected officials.
What data have you needed to support critical legislation or issues relevant to your agency or community?  How has data helped you secure support or funding for your agency?

About Mark: 

With more than 30 years as a parks, recreation and conservation professional in Indiana and Ohio, Mark Young is now a consultant with Parks Forever Consulting in Worthington, Ohio. Mr. Young served on the NRPA Board of Directors from 2002 to 2010, and chaired the Public Policy Committee.