Session Highlights

The 2020 NRPA Annual Conference will include hundreds of inspirational education sessions presented by top speakers both inside and outside of the industry. These sessions are categorized into 12 distinct education tracks to help you easily determine the sessions that will meet your needs. Below is a list of just a sampling of some of the top sessions that will be featured from each track.


  • Open or CloseAdvocacy

    Creating, Improving, Protecting and Advocating through Sustainable Private/Public Partnerships
    Speakers: Beth White, Steve Wright
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: This session presents Houston as a case study in large-scale, collaborative public-private planning, funding and execution focused on parks and green spaces. The presenters—top executives of the City of Houston Parks and Recreation Department and the nonprofit Houston Parks Board (HPB) — will show how these collaborative efforts are achieving scaled impacts, improving public green spaces, ensuring they are equitably distributed and accessible, and helping define their important role in community resilience. We work in close partnership to build a strong, resilient and vibrant region by investing in long-term solutions to some of the most persistent challenges facing our communities. Initiatives like Bayou Greenways 2020, the HPB planning framework Beyond the Bayous, and Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Complete Communities improvement initiative are substantial down payments on elevating the quality of life for people in our region.

  • Open or CloseAquatics

    Innovative, Inexpensive and Interactive Aquatic Programs: Improving and Developing Programs for Success
    Speakers: Keith Fulthorp, Laurel Richmond
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Stuck in a rut? Looking for new program ideas for your aquatic facility? Want to update current programs to bring in new customers? Don’t have a lot of money to spend? Want to keep both your participants and staff excited and motivated? In this session, participants are provided with a plethora of programming ideas that range from simple to complex in order to generate and maintain participants’ interest in their aquatic facility. Ideas are shared that meet the needs of aquatic operators from a wide variety of facilities. Session participants will be given the tools they need to introduce their patrons to novel programs that re-invigorate their interest in their local aquatic facility. Marketing techniques and tips for re-developing current programs are provided. Finally, techniques for developing staff excitement and buy-in of new programs are reviewed and discussed.

    What’s in Your Water? Avoiding Water Quality Incidents
    Speakers: Ellen Meyer
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Learn what shouldn’t lurk in your lagoon. Water-related pathogen outbreaks or chemical exposure incidents and their causes can be treated. Brush up on the latest changes to the Model Aquatic Health Code and discover the latest chemical-handling practices and disinfection technologies to prevent incidents at your park. We all want to go home safely, whether it is from our jobs, or from a fun day playing with the kids at the park. Unfortunately, injuries to employees and patrons have occurred from exposure to pathogens and chemicals at water parks and other aquatic facilities. This high level course will review some of the incidents that have occurred and how to avoid them. Chemical incident and pathogen outbreak statistics will be presented. We will also discuss the latest in codes such as the Model Aquatic Health Code that are written to protect our employees and patrons.

    Spray Play for All: Designing Inclusive Splash Parks
    Speakers: Bill Hachmeister, Ingrid Kanics, John McConkey, Rickie Yeager, AICP, EDFP
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Communities across the country are adding spray parks as one of the most highly requested and utilized recreation amenities. How can these be universally designed to be inclusive for people of all ages and abilities? This session will examine the best practices for creating spray parks that are fun for people with and without disabilities, children, parents and grandparents alike.

  • Open or CloseCareer Development

    Get Promoted: The Art of Soft Skills
    Speakers: Chris Matthews, Jai Cole
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Description: The hard skills – the unambiguous proficiencies useful on the job - are easy to define. For managers, finding someone with hard skills is easy because experience with budgets, recreation programs, or turf grass is obvious. The most sought-after employee is one who has mastered soft skills – the intangible interpersonal skills necessary to work successfully with other people to get a job done. Do you see desires in job descriptions for a “critical, big picture and/or strategic thinker”? These are soft skills that are hard to define and even harder to master, but surveys show that they are often the most important attribute sought after by employers. Are you socially aware? Can you work within a team? Can you identify and diffuse tense situations? To find those who have great soft skills, look to the top of your organization. Learn the art of soft skills, what traits managers most value, and how they can help you move up in your organization.


  • Open or CloseConservation

    How to use Public Parks to Improve Climate, Health and Equity Outcomes
    Speakers: Wende David, Molly Plummer, Taj Schottland, Willis Winters
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: The Fourth National Climate Assessment painted a stark picture about the impacts of climate change. Cities are already facing multi-faceted challenges due to rising temperatures, from urban heat islands to public health. In low-income communities with poor access to parks and trails, these threats can intersect and amplify each other with dire consequences. In this session, urban parks leaders from across the country will discuss how they are using parks, trails, and greenspaces to help cities address the challenges posed by a warming climate. Well-designed greenspaces can absorb stormwater, reduce air temperature, create carbon-free transportation methods, and improve public health. Particular focus will be given to how GIS-based data tools can improve climate equity by optimizing green investments to protect a city’s most vulnerable residents. Session attendees will learn how parks and trails can be part of a city’s strategy to be healthier, more equitable, and more resilient.

    Living STEAM Laboratories, Mitigating/Adapting to Climate Change
    Speakers: Attiyya Atkins, John Pipoly
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: The natural resources of parks and recreation are an invaluable defense to climate change. This conference session is an interactive discussion for parks and recreation professionals designed to jumpstart “Living Laboratory” programs within their agencies. These programs showcase the innovative ways parks and their partners can adapt to the world’s environmental issues and raise conservation awareness. With parks as the venue, educators can engage students using hands-on, experiential, research-based STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) curricula to foment a new wave of environmental leaders. The successful implementation of these programs will position parks as incubators for the environmental revolution needed to mitigate climate change.

    LWCF State Assistance Program: The Ins and Outs of This Federal Funding Source for Local Parks
    Speakers: Elisabeth Fondriest, Lauren Imgrund, Joel Lynch, Kyle Simpson
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Learn more about FEMA and the available sources of funding for Parks. Learn to identify potential projects in their community that would qualify for pre-disaster mitigation funding. Demystify the process of applying for funds in order to see higher application and utilization rates of parks projects.

  • Open or CloseEmployee & Volunteer Management

    Park Advisory Committees and Park Managers: ParKners for Your Park!
    Speakers: Maria Dmyterko Stone
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Regardless of district size Park Advisory Committees (PAC) can be helpful partners for their parks from fundraising, hosting events, volunteering to advocate for government monies. This session will showcase the Chicago Park District Park Advisory Committee partnerships. This session will discuss: how to create a PAC, how to turn a PAC from being a challenge to an advocate and partner for your park, and examples of successful PAC throughout Chicago.

    Rockstar Rookies: Creating Awesome Employees
    Speakers: Jenny Smith, Kari Baesel
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Think back to your first day of seasonal staff orientation - can you remember? Step up and bring energy and excitement to your current "by the book" training. Using our four themes; Motivation, Familiarization, Training and Communication, learn how to improve staff retention, expand organizational knowledge and motivate staff in a hands-on and fun way. Through interactive activities and games, experience how anyone can become a ROCK STAR employee! Leave with some game changing ideas to implement on day one to make a true impact within your employees and organization.

  • Open or CloseHealth & Wellness

    Parks and Recreation Supporting Mental Health Challenges
    Speakers: April Chambers, Barbara Heller
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Mental illness in the United States has become pervasive, with individuals suffering from many disorders. There are opportunities for practitioners in our field to support mental health challenges that many individuals face every day. The session will provide an overview of mental health issues facing us as a society, increase awareness of the myriad of disorders that exist, and how the park and recreation industry can play a role in providing support to mental health agencies, mental health professionals, and individuals who suffer from mental illness, as well as those who want to maintain good mental health. It is a well known fact that exercise can improve physical health. Research also suggests that exercise is beneficial for mental health. New research reveals a clear link between well-being and immersion in nature. The session will explore examples of agencies from around the country that are doing their part to create better mental health in their communities.

    Building Resilient Youth: Responding to Trauma, Substance Use and Mental Health Challenges in Out-of-School Time Programs
    Speakers: Allison Colman
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Local park and recreation agencies are one of the largest providers of out-of-school time (OST) programming across the country. With new public health threats and concerns emerging each day, including youth exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and trauma, rising rates of depression and substance misuse, what is the role of the OST field in responding to these challenges? How can park and recreation agencies build additional protective factors into their programs that foster positive physical, social and mental health outcomes? Join NRPA, the Afterschool Alliance and the Alliance for a Healthier Generation in a workshop to explore how OST providers can better identify risk factors, apply a trauma-informed care lens to their work, and build social and emotional supports into their existing programs that improves health outcomes.

    Suicide Talk: A Conversation to Create Awareness
    Speakers: Lori A. Hoffner
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Suicide is a community health issue. Current statistic show that veterans, white men 65 and older, LGBTQ and teens as some of the highest risk groups. However, research also tells us that depression, one of the leading contributors to suicidal ideation, can be reduced with physical activity. Additionally, the ability to make connections with other people also reduces risk. Although suicide can be a very scary and difficult topic for many people to discuss, only an open and honest conversation about the issue of suicide helps remove the stigma and taboo. Every single person can participate in this type of conversation which helps to create a strong, positive community that encourages ‘help-seeking’ behavior for people that might be at-risk.

  • Open or CloseLeadership & Management

    How to Start, Build and Grow your Local Park Foundation
    Speakers: Donald Ortale
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: This session will explore the importance of LOCAL Park Foundations and/or LOCAL Friends of the Parks Groups across the United States, and explore the common components of successful local Park Foundations or Friends of the Park Groups. We will also discuss the important strategies that will help appeal to those in the room that are in the start- up phase of their foundations as well as help those who need to revitalize or strengthen already existing Local Park Foundations or Local Friends of the Parks organizations. The focus for all foundations will be to create more relevance within their communities, greater connectivity with their park department, agency , or district, and an understanding that successful park foundations are governed through strategy and involved citizens and volunteers who have respect for those strategies.

    In Pursuit of Resiliency: Positioning your Agency for Long-Term Financial Success
    Speakers: Kurtis Baumgartner, Michael Klitzing
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Park and recreation agencies today are under ever increasing pressure to provide more services, but struggle to receive the tax support necessary to fund what is demanded of them. Departments that adopt, embrace and leverage a more entrepreneurial stance will be best positioned to succeed over the long term, including during the next inevitable economic downturn, while providing exceptional programs and services to the public. This session will highlight how one department transform itself from being 80% tax funded to becoming over 80% self-sufficient in its operations, a feet it has accomplished since 2011. We will have an honest discussion on the pros and cons of being a high cost recovery agency, sharing some of the unexpected challenges faced. Strategies used to build a more resilient agency, in all areas from administration and programming to maintenance and environmental stewardship, will be shared.

    Data: How to Dive In Without Drowning
    Speakers: Bobbi Nance
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Curious about what insights your data holds, but unsure where to start? Using data just like what you can export from your own software programs at work, we'll walk through examples of data dives that you're encouraged to steal and repeat at your own organization that promise to help you increase your understanding of your operations and your bottom line. Along the way, we'll sneak in some data evaluation best practices, expose you to tools, tips and tricks, and help you start asking better questions of your data. Taught in a fun, approachable way - this promises to inspire numbers nerds and people persons alike and to change your relationship with your data from avoidance to asset.

  • Open or ClosePlanning, Design & Maintenance

    The Vision and the Visual: Creative/Artist Partnerships in Parks and Recreation
    Speakers: Andy Dailey, Lynette Santoro-Au, Shayna McConville
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Learn from three Parks and Recreation professionals in how including artists in the process of creating programs or facility planning can lead to new and unexpected successes. Case studies will include collaborations between artists and recreational agencies, artist inclusion in capital improvement projects, and leveraging a creative process to encourage community engagement. Presenters will also discuss how to recruit artists, define project expectations beneficial to both parties, and how to maximize the potential for fruitful collaborations. In addition, we will examine the following questions: what does a successful integrated art program look like in our sector? How do you define project goals when you include an artist? How can an artist's voice influence the project development process?

    Natural Harmony: An Instrumental Guide to Blending Music, Community and Parks
    Speakers: Ines Palacios, Kate Morrison
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Music transcends age, gender, ethnicity and mobility, and is a gathering force that builds better communities and helps make people kinder. Music parks benefit every member of the community, but few communities have the possibility to make a music program available and affordable to everyone. A permanent installation of instruments at your park can change that by providing opportunities to all equally. A simplified system allows anyone to play, regardless of training or ability, and instruments can be designed for individual and ensemble play. There are also partnership opportunities and ways to include instruments as an art installation. Come learn where, how, and why to create this beautiful music spaces in your community that are guaranteed to engage everyone and create a unique destination in your park!

  • Open or ClosePublic Relations & Marketing

    Creative Tools for Community Engagement
    Speakers: Allison Orr, Jodi Jay
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Based on My Park, My Pool, My City, a multi year collaboration between Austin Aquatics and Forklift Danceworks, this session provides participants and municipal agencies with tools for designing, developing and utilizing creative partnerships with artists and arts organizations in community engagement. Amidst an infrastructural crisis for Austin's aquatics system, city staff often face distrust in East Austin due to the city's history of racial and economic segregation. Through the co-creation of performances and other arts-based events at three East Austin pools, the project supports pool users and Aquatics staff to share their stories and connections to the pool, rebuilding community trust and increasing attendance, advocacy, and civic dialogue around Austin's pools. Participants will leave this workshop with an expanded toolkit for implementing community engagement programs that activate underused space and increase connection among city leaders, staff and residents.

    Once Upon a Pie Chart: Using Data to Tell Your Story
    Speakers: Bobbi Nance
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Description: Getting the word out about your services and needs is critically important in keeping your organization relevant as you fight for funding and attention. Backing your message with data has the potential increasing your impact, but telling your story in a way that gets people to understand, engage, and act requires more than simply adding a few charts and graphs to your reports and presentations. Learn the fundamentals of both storytelling and data visualization so that you can create messages that are both informative and compelling to share with staff, elected officials, and the public.

  • Open or CloseRecreation & Sports Programming

    E-Sports: Get in the Game
    Speakers: Craig Bouck, Mick Massey
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: E-Sports is an explosive billion-dollar industry. Are you and your department ready for its impact on community recreation? This session will explore the hard data and take an honest look at the issues involved in bringing E-sports to your community centers. From space planning in an existing facility, design of a new facility, to the legal implications, we will discuss all angles of the issues involved in incorporating E-Sports into your programming. The E-Sports wave is coming, and it’s time to get in the game!

  • Open or CloseResearch

    A Systems Approach to Assessing Parks
    Speakers: Gregory Miao
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: What makes a park successful depends heavily on neighborhood context, and assessing a parks system is an important step in making equitable improvements and creating a Complete Parks system. This means making decisions based on data about people’s entire experience with parks—getting to a park, spending time there, safety and maintenance, proximity to quality schools, affordable housing, local businesses, and key services, and more. The Complete Parks approach has immense potential to create an inclusive parks system and simultaneously address an array of planning, public health, and environmental issues. This session highlights the benefits of collaborating with other government agencies and community-based groups to conduct a meaningful parks system assessment. Speakers will present sample indicators and metrics, provide guidance for multidisciplinary groups to collect and analyze the data, and share possible strategies for creating a Complete Parks system.

    Big Data in Customer Service and Why it Matters
    Speakers: Andru Fratarcangeli, Brynn DiPaola
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: In this session we’ll discuss the impact of “Big Data” in customer service for parks and recreation, including: What is Big Data and why it’s valuable for customer service; How to implement and track Key Performance Indicators (KPI) that measure customer service success; How to visualize data to help decision makers using tools such as Excel or Microsoft Power BI; Recommended practices such as data inventory, surveying and reporting distribution.

  • Open or CloseRevenue & Customer Service

    Prospecting to Profits: Generating Revenue for Your Park with Sponsorships
    Speakers: Brendan McHugh
    CEU Credits: 0.1
    Description: Park sponsorships from prospecting to closing the deal. The presentation is designed to be applicable for the smallest parks to the largest. Including a step by step process to help park districts generate additional revenue. What will be covered: Identifying your assets (events, programs, naming rights, social media, collateral etc.); Prospecting - Where to find your next sponsor; Initial outreach - Best way to contact potential sponsors; The proposal and pitch - What do sponsors want to see in a proposal and how to sell it; Follow-up - When to follow up and how often; Closing the deal; Activation - How to bring the sponsorship to life; Recap and renewal; Keeping the business. Through these steps, each individual will leave the session with a template for how to start a sponsorship program or increase sponsorship revenue.