In just a few short weeks, hundreds of park and recreation advocates from across the country will converge on Washington, D.C. to stress to federal leaders the important role parks and recreation play in helping to fight many national problems, such as obesity, climate change, environmental stewardship and conservation of our land and waters. As constituents, it is easy to believe our voices don’t matter, however, a recent survey by the Congressional Management Foundation shows that constituent voices carry substantial weight.
In fact, “46% of staff members who were surveyed said that in-person constituent visits have tremendous influence and noted that constituents have greater ability to influence the Member of Congress on a particular issue than do lobbyists.” These statistics have certainly proven to be true for parks and recreation. As a result of constituent meetings at previous Legislative Forums, funding for the State Assistance program has gone from $19 million in FY09 to $45 million in FY12; and an urban parks bill has been introduced that, once enacted, will provide millions for park and recreation projects and programs.
This year’s forum will include a powerful presentation by the National Park Service (NPS) on emerging issues relating to youth conservation. The discussion will take place on Thursday, March 21 and will describe how NPS is currently partnering with local park and recreation agencies to engage youth in additional conservation and partnership opportunities.
The second portion of the presentation will focus on the 2015 reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and staff will discuss NPS’ goals for the reauthorization, especially as it relates to the State Assistance Program. This is a discussion you will not want to miss since it is the first public discussion regarding NPS’ goals for the reauthorization.
March also brings the blooming of the cherry blossoms to D.C., and seeing our national monuments framed in the rich color of the blossoms is a truly breath-taking sight. NPS has agreed to give a special VIP tour to a small group of Legislative Forum attendees.
As Congress works to decrease the national debt there is no doubt that funding for all programs will be affected. The extent will largely be dependent upon the messages our federal elected officials receive from their constituents. Your voice makes a difference, and we need it.
Written by: Lewis Ledford, Director, North Carolina State Parks & Recreation and Chair, NRPA Public Policy Committee