Dear friends and park lovers,

Dear friends and park lovers,

I come to you today full of hope about the future of parks. A few of us on the NRPA team got the chance to spend a few days in Detroit to learn more about how folks in and outside of government are advancing parks and open space in a city decimated by decades of economic forces beyond its control, mismanagement, and sheer bad luck.

Crowdfunding: The team at Patronicity, a for-profit crowdfunding start-up, is partnering with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation to revolutionize the way grants are applied for, evaluated and approved. Through the Public Spaces Community Places grant, projects that qualify receive matching dollars to those crowdfunded. Ebrahim Varachia and his team are working with communities and park and recreation agencies in Michigan, Indiana and Massachusetts to help connect community funding for parks with matching state dollars. Very interesting model!


Conservancies: Detroit Riverfront Conservancy has been stringing together investments along the Detroit Riverfront since 2003, transforming a moribund stretch of abandoned roads and dilapidated post industrial detritus into exquisitely landscaped and innovatively programmed public spaces. When we visited, folks of all colors and walks of life were enjoying a summer day on the river. New projects include the Dequinre Cut and additional bike/ped interventions that will help better connect neighborhoods with the river. A new RFP for design of a new park on the southern waterfront recently attracted proposals from leading designers from across the globe. Despite the energy and success, and much like most public agencies that manage parks and open space, the Conservancy struggles to generate the necessary revenue to maintain and operate their beautiful spaces. No surprise there.

Public Dollars: The Detroit Park and Recreation budget was slashed on the post recession years from over $60 million dollars to $11 million. Recreation centers were shuttered and parks were abandoned many to serve as a trash dump. In recent years, due to hard work in the public sector and leadership from acting Director Keith Flourney and Mayor Mike Duggan, the budget has increased to $22 million and a special $11.7 million capital improvement project will lead to the rehabilitation of 40 neighborhood parks.

The planning department, lead by renowned architect Maurice Cox, is working to designate 10 neighborhoods for additional planning and investment, including the development of 10 new signature parks designed to attract families back into Detroit's neighborhoods. In addition, Cox and his team of planners and landscape architects are working to envision new greenways made up of formerly vacant lots and a park that will include a nine acre solar array alongside community recreational assets.

Huge issues confront Detroit's leaders and residents  schools, transportation, jobs,  and questions of equitable and inclusive growth but, there is an undeniable sense of energy in Detroit. Detroiters across sectors and backgrounds seem committed to their city and many of their leading minds are talking about parks and open space. If you are feeling jaded and disenchanted, if your city is getting you down and you're in need of some inspiration, go take a walk in a park in the Motor City. As if you need another reason, the food in Detroit is great! Try the perfectly named Park and Rec Diner on Cass and Grand River for lunch, and Selden Standard on 2nd for dinner.

Take Care, 
Kevin O'Hara
Vice President of Urban and Government Affairs

Invest in Resilience Before Disaster Strikes


Across the nation heatwaves, droughts and floods have become more frequent and more severe, increasing risks to people, homes, and infrastructure. Between 2011 and 2013, the U.S. experienced 32 weather events that each caused at least one billion dollars in damages. This Meeting of the Minds article explains why you should start caring about resiliency now, before disaster strikes in your city.
Whether you have already registered for the NRPA Annual Conference in New Orleans or don't plan to attend this year, you should consider joining park and recreation director's and thought leaders for a high-level, interactive one-day Innovation Lab focused on the future of resilient parks. There is no better opportunity for you to see first-hand how New Orleans is utilizing parks and open space to combat the effects of climate change than at this Innovation Lab. You will also get to collaborate with thought leaders from around the country to share and learn how cities are facing challenges like rising sea levels, flooding, drought, extreme weather events and more.
Attendance for this Lab is limited to 30 to allow for close dialogue and interaction, so register soon before it sells out. Join us September 28 in New Orleans.
Learn More and Register
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Just Released: Parks and Recreation Salary Trends Analysis


Having access to comprehensive compensation data informs park and recreation agency leaders on how to attract the best staff. Conversely, this data also provides park and recreation professionals insights on salary and benefits offerings from potential employers. NRPA's research team recently surveyed senior-level park and recreation professionals from 480 agencies across the United States to develop this comprehensive report analyzing the salary data of five common positions and general information about benefits and salary policies. 
Learn More
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