I'm glad I live in this city.
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Even on a cloudy night the view from the Devon Tower is impressive. Fifty stories up from the temporarily ice-covered prairie, Devon is a working temple to the oil barons who wield an outsized influence on this town of over 650 thousand and growing. Thanks to the efforts of a lot of forward thinking and stubborn folk, Oklahoma City (OKC) is no longer just a company town. In fact, OKC is going all out to create a sense of place where it did not exist, and has been doing so with tremendously quiet success.
 
For a long time, no one in the "cool" planning, urban design, landscape architecture, or park and recreation circles were talking about OKC. Before visiting OKC, I recall having a polite interaction with a voyager from a design firm, who waxed poetic about this place that, before Kevin Durant, I was barely aware existed. Now, having been here a few times, I will eat some Oklahoma crow. Things here are pretty cool, and perhaps even on the "up and up" (whatever that means yes, my words, but indulge this little aside).
 
Regardless of my annoyance with my own proselytizing, everyone in this town is on message. Yet, it doesn't feel like a market tested, lowest common denominator, safe, bullsh*t message. It feels like an organic reading from the book of OKC, a civic gospel that doesn't echo like mindless recitation, rather an amplified and diffuse grassroots story that everyone seems to be able to find themselves a part of. Let's hope that in this city of stockyards and oil stocks, that this gospel can, and will, continue to spread spread beyond the friendly confines of Bricktown, and downtown, to give hope and provide inspiration to Oklahomans from all walks.  
 
On this unseasonably chilly night in OKC, I look admiringly out my hotel window at couple of punk kids exiting a parking garage. They approach the night with that confident yet tentative gait characteristic of hormonal creatures across the globe. That stroll that's both headstrong, yet tentative, that says, "eat sh*t world, but also be gentle with me." I feel like this gait, this leap of faith into adulthood, is what we want the places we live to inspire. Are we worthy of these tentative, furtive forays into the puzzle that is our public realm? Are we worthy of a Route 66 pilgrimage from that kid who just discovered Kerouac? Do we have the back alleys that shelter that first loosely rolled joint, the front porches where we watch the dizzyingly diverse world go by, the dive-y drive-throughs where we stock up on carbs, melty cheese and courage, and the flickering neon lights of a late night pho joint that call you to pull open the door handle, look up in surprise as a bell signals your entrance, walk up blindly to the counter, where you order that intoxicating broth, grab a bowl, pretend you know how to use chopsticks, look forward into the star anise scented future of the rest of your life, and say, "Goddamn, I'm glad I live in this city."   
 
Kevin O'Hara
Vice President of Urban and Government Affairs
 
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NRPA, in collaboration with the Oklahoma City Parks and Recreation Department, are bringing together leaders inside and outside of parks and recreation to explore how our field makes an impact on regional economic competitiveness and quality of life. We know parks contribute significantly, but how does the private sector see us, and what tools and funding is out there to help ensure that our parks and recreational opportunities continue to drive economic development and attract, businesses, talent and visitors?
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Activities and services provided by park and recreation agencies during Out-of-School Time (OST) programs can play a huge role in educating and preventing your community's youth from engaging in potentially unhealthy activities, such as substance use. NRPA is conducting a survey to better understand how park and recreation agencies are confronting substance use in their parks and the community. Your feedback will help us better communicate the role parks and recreation plays in this issue, and help NRPA develop resources to assist park and recreation agencies in confronting these tough issues and ensure that our children have happy and healthy futures.
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Stories That Matter
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Health and Wellness
CityLab
Hydroponic greenhouses in cities like New York or Chicago could be the future of agricultural production. While it's not without its challenges, a global analysis finds that urban agriculture could yield up to 10 percent of many food crops while increasing access to local foods.
 
Parks and Recreation Magazine
After reading through the Affordable Care Act, Nicholas Mukhtar created Healthy Detroit, dedicated to improving health equity in Detroit.
 
Conservation
Cities Speak
A new report makes a convincing case that local governments stand to gain billions through improved water management, energy efficiency, economic competitiveness, public health and even disaster mitigation. 
 
Sustainable City Network
A new website helps communities decide how best to integrate trees into their facility designs. It also helps overcome the lack of knowledge on the use of trees for green infrastructure to manage stormwater. It also includes resources such as case studies, videos, best practices, benefit calculators and other tools. 
 
CityLab
Paris has recently been making strides against air pollution, and now, the city is taking it a step further. It plans to re-green an area five times the size of  Central Park in New York City with a million trees. 
 
Next City
Green design features are good for public health  and cities' bottom lines, according to a new report. "Smart surface technologies" like living roofs, reflective payments and urban tree cover could safe half a trillion dollars in net financial benefits nationally.
 
Next City
Panama City is threated by rising oceans. Listen to Vice Mayor Raisa Banfield speak about the unique challenges the city faces as it uses community dialogue to develop a solution and nature to control flooding. 
 
Social Equity
NRPA
A new NRPA study that demonstrates parks and recreation's commitment to providing quality programs, facilities, places and spaces that are inclusive to all people in the community. The survey of more than 500 agencies across the United States identifies the segments of the community that agencies specifically target, along with programming and engagement strategies that make these efforts successful.
 
CityLab
For Project Backboard, there's a simple way to turn a dilapidated court into a vibrant community hub: Just color outside the lines.
 
Local and Regional Government Alliance on Race & Equity
These three cities are examples of park and recreation departments that have shifted their approach from inclusivity to racial equity.
In Other News
The Globe and Mail
As Toronto booms, the residents have come to see the need for new green space and plans are underway for a new 80 acre park at the mouth of the city's waterfront. 
 
Route 50
The Federal Emergency Management Agency wants to quadruple its investment in disaster mitigation by 2022 using aid money as long as the funding formula is amenable. 
 
City Lab
Some say that cities now must take it upon themselves to invest in the many things that drive their competitive futures rather than waiting on the federal government.
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