From Parking Lots to Parks - join the movement!
Today is the official first day of the new "Parking Lots to Parks" movement (oh sh*t, now I need a clever hashtag).
Last Sunday, the New York Times magazine was nearly entirely devoted to the notion of the autonomous car. A series of writers imagined what and how the daily drive may look like in the not so distant future for millions of Americans. Just think about how we are already increasing the use of technology-based providers for many of the trips that once may have been made in a single occupancy vehicle — grocery delivery from Instacart, relatively pain-free carpooling via Uber Pool or Lyft, shared vehicles from Zip Car and Car2Go, and Amazon for pretty much everything.  
Imagine how the increased market share of these services and the projected imminent ubiquity of self-driving cars will transform the physical form of so much of our urban space. With fewer trips being made in our cars, there will be decreased demand for now precious parking spots. The NYT series, which I recommend you read in full, quotes Limin Hee, the Director of Research at the Singapore Center for Livable Cities. Hee echoes a theme I first heard at the Urban Land Institute conference from Robin Chase, the founder of car-sharing pioneer Zipcar, about how our technology will change our mobility patterns which in turn will transform our land use. As Hee states, "We find that a lot of private cars spend most of their time in parking lots. The land we use for parking could be used for other purposes." 
Other purposes? Clearly, my mind goes directly to parks. Yes, I may be a one trick pony, but it happens to be that the park pony I'm pushing is a pony we all want to ride. As autonomous vehicles and ridesharing becomes more prevalent in our urban areas, what will happen to all of that space in cities that are currently used to temporarily store single occupancy vehicles? These block killing blights on urban form and function need to go.
Imagine a city center peppered not with heat trapping impervious surfaces, but rather a series of tranquil spaces for meditation, outdoor gyms, urban farms for nearby restaurants or really anything other than what they are. So, when you take those Uber or Lyft trips, when you think twice about buying that second car, envision those miles of off-road trails, and how you will design your parks for a fewer-car future. Think of the great Canadian songstress, Joni Mitchell, who in her 1970 lament Big Yellow Taxi sings about paving paradise to put up a parking lot.
Let's not disappoint Joni Mitchell. Who knows, perhaps the next Joni Mitchell might even wax poetic about reclaiming paradise from a former parking lot? (#parkinglotstoparadise — send me your hashtags and I'll share the top suggestions in the next edition. Be funny.)
I'm loath to come across as a techno utopian — as stewards of the public realm, the public must come first. But, as our society re-urbanizes, the battle for public space will be fierce and if we as a parks industry aren't thinking of staking our claim on every possible future park parcel that may emerge from new opportunities afforded to us by technology, we might as well gas up the Hummer and putter on down the congested freeway to a new career exit.
Finally, from my family to yours — have a delicious, laughter filled, gluttonous Thanksgiving, tempered of course with a vigorous postprandial walk in your local park. Also let's not forget to #optoutside on Black Friday!
Kevin O'Hara
Vice President of Urban and Government Affairs
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Excuse Me, Can you Please Pass the Knowledge?


You already do a lot to make your community a great place to live, but wouldn't you like to help other communities across the country? Take your expertise, great ideas and lessons learned, and share them with the park and recreation field at the 2018 NRPA Annual Conference in Indianapolis. By speaking at the conference, you could make an even bigger impact than you already do. Submit your education session ideas by December 1.

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The NRPA Board of Directors Is Now Accepting Applications

Now is your opportunity to get more involved with NRPA. The NRPA Board of Directors is seeking individuals with experience in one or more of NRPA's three areas of focus: health and wellness, conservation, and social equity. Whether you're an innovative park and recreation professional, community planner, conservationist, park advocate or an elected official who wants to help NRPA further its mission, consider applying for the NRPA Board of Directors. Applications are due February 16, 2018.

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Why 3 National Organizations Came Together to Promote Proximity to Parks

NRPA recently joined forces with the Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to promote everyone having access to a great park within a 10-minute walk. The 10-Minute Walk campaign has launched with remarkable success — more than 140 mayors have already signed on to improve quality access to parks in their cities and towns. On Open Space Radio, we talk with TPL's Adrian Benepe, ULI's Rachel McCleary and NRPA's Kevin O'Hara about how this campaign came to be, why a "10-minute walk" and more. 

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