Why Equity is at the center of all we do.

Our mission depends on it. 

Our mission is to advance parks, recreation and environmental conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people. 

We estimate that as many as 100 million people — 30 percent of the U.S. population — lack access to the lifesaving and life enhancing benefits parks and recreation provides. We cannot rest until we close the gap

Our vision inspires it. 

We seek a future where the full power of parks and recreation is widely recognized for creating a better life for everyone by building strong, healthy and resilient communities. We know that not everyone has access to that better life. We recognize the challenges we face, and these challenges strengthen our resolve. Read our public statement here

  • In the United States, people of color, low-income communities and Indigenous populations have been disproportionately exposed to environmental conditions that can harm their health. Across the country, race is the most significant predictor of a person living near contaminated air, water or soil. 
  • According to theLandscape and Urban Planning journal, among others, many communities of color and other marginalized groups, such as LGBTQ+, immigrants, people with low income and people with disabilities, lack the opportunity to experience and engage in high-quality parks and recreation — because these resources literally do not exist near them, or, if they do, they are not safe, welcoming nor inclusive.  
  • According to one study, non-white and low-income neighborhoods are 50 percent less likely to have one recreational facility in their community, as compared to predominantly white and high-income neighborhoods. 

We are taking action. 

We are striving for a future where everyone has fair and just access to quality parks and recreation. To build this future, we are focused on four key areas.

  • We acknowledge the past and recognize the systemic inequities that have created very different lived experiences in communities across the country and learning from the past. Visit our story map here.
  • We are strengthening our organizational culture and practices centered around equity and our core values of trust, continuous learning, diversity and inclusion. Read more about our values and action plan.
  • We are embedding diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) in how we prepare the park and recreation field for the future. Learn more about DEI trainings and sign up for alerts in the right-hand column of this page.
  • We are actively building up equity-centered outcomes while working to dismantle the barriers to equity. Read more about our work and resources below.

We are joyful in this work.

Because we are parks and recreation, committing to equity and striving for an equitable world also means approaching this work with joycelebration and a hunger for learning.  

We invite all of our friends and allies to join us on this learning journey and on this road to achieving access for all to the incredible benefits of parks and recreation.   

The future we envision is a truly beautiful one, with quality parks and recreation embedded in every community for everyone.


Equity in Parks and Recreation

Equity is central to all of NRPA’s work as an organization. Below are few examples of where we have centered equity to support park and recreation professionals in their work to create fair and just park and recreation systems.

Equity in Practice Resource Library

NRPA works to ensure that everyone has fair and just access to quality parks and recreation. The Equity in Practice Resource Library is a set of vetted and carefully curated resources available to our members. This library includes various types of resources that support individual learning of equity concepts across park and recreation functions. Find resources using the categories: Guide and Tool; Article; Research and Data; Book or Chapter; and Podcast/Video.

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Thumbnail of Equity Story MapEquity in Parks and Recreation: A Historical Perspective

This story map explores United States history, the evolution of parks and recreation and urban planning, and how it brought us to the inequities in access to parks and recreation today. This is part one of a two-part resource. The second piece will outline strategies to address inequities in park access coming in 2022.

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Equity Language Guide

NRPA’s Equity Language Guide is a glossary of terms to help park and recreation professionals develop a common language around diversity, equity and inclusion. It also provides guidance to help people become familiar with terms they may not be aware of and best practices for making your writing accessible. This is a living document and will change frequently. Please bookmark and return to this page so you always have access to the latest version.

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Thumbnail of Equity Story MapEquity Action Plan

NRPA's Equity Action Plan provides a framework for how we are strengthening our organizational culture and practices centered around equity and our core values of trust, continuous learning, diversity and inclusion.

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Elevating Health Equity Through Parks and Recreation: A Framework for Action

This interactive framework guides local park and recreation professionals in applying an equity lens to system-wide operations, programs and services.

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Parks for Inclusion

NRPA works to ensure that all people have access to the benefits of local parks and recreation. To achieve this, NRPA has made a formal commitment to the Partnership for Inclusive Health’s Commit to Inclusion initiative.

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Parks Build CommunityParks Build Community

Parks Build Community is a national initiative demonstrating the transformative value of parks on the health and vitality of communities across America. Each year, NRPA conducts a complete park makeover in partnership with park equipment manufacturers and community organizations within the city hosting the NRPA Annual Conference.

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Park ImprovementsPark Improvements

Through financial support of innovative solutions, park and recreation professionals have created new systems to re-distribute financial resources in their communities to support vulnerable communities.

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NRPA’s Equitable Grantmaking PolicyNRPA’s Equitable Grantmaking Policy

NRPA’s Equitable Grantmaking Policy guides the organization’s grantmaking and aims to ensure that our grant opportunities (e.g., funding, training and in-kind donations) positively benefit communities — particularly communities that have historically experienced disinvestment by government and philanthropy.

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Learn more about NRPA's other initiatives aimed at improving access to parks and recreation for all people.


Equity Resources

NRPA Strategic Plan

Every day, in communities across the country, the people of parks and recreation are making their communities better places to live, work and play. We are building a nation-wide movement of support for their critical work and want you to join us.

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Creating Equity-Based System Master Plans

A system-wide park master plan is a tool that can help us understand the history and current barriers to park access and set a vision and plan to remove these inequities and ensure parks and open space are providing the most benefit to communities.

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Greener Parks for Health Resources

NRPA, in partnership with the Willamette Partnership, developed a suite of resources for park and recreation professionals and partners to address the inequitable climate-related health impacts and advocate for solutions.

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Community Engagement Resource Guide

Local park and recreation agencies work diligently to ensure all people have access to and feel welcome in the places, programs and facilities that make their lives and communities great. Equitable and inclusive community engagement is central to this vision and is fundamental to establishing quality parks that meet the needs of all people.

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Mentoring in Parks and Rec

Local park and recreation agencies provide ample opportunities for youth to build positive social connections. Through Mentoring in Parks and Rec, NRPA supports agencies in their efforts to build effective and evidence-based mentorship programs that connect youth with caring and compassionate mentors while strengthening connections across community.

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NRPA Connect thumbnailDEI Network on NRPA Connect

The DEI Network is a community on NRPA Connect for park and recreation professionals to share and collaborate on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives at their park and recreation agencies. The network hosts discussions via Zoom every other month.

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