Park and recreation professionals are essential to our communities. From the spaces and infrastructure they manage to the programs and services they provide, park and recreation professionals are the catalysts of positive change for climate-readiness, equity and overall well-being.
This was true leading up to March 11, 2020, the day the World Health Organization declared coronavirus (COVID-19) a global pandemic, and it has only been magnified each and every day during the past year.
COVID-19 and Parks and Recreation: One Year Later
In the midst of COVID-19, a racial justice movement, growing economic pressures, health crises and devastating impacts of climate change, park and recreation professionals are continuing to serve their communities by maintaining essential infrastructure and providing innovative and vital programming. They also stepped into new roles to protect, strengthen and heal their communities. During the past year, local agencies scaled up childcare programs and learning centers, offered shelter to people without housing, managed food distribution programs, served as testing and vaccine distribution sites and coordinated disaster-response — all while maintaining critical infrastructure that promotes physical and mental health and a healthy environment. COVID-19 continues to highlight what has been true for many years: parks and recreation is vital to ensuring that all people — no matter their race, ethnicity, income, age, location or gender identity — thrive.
To document the essential role of parks and recreation and advocate for necessary and sustained investment, NRPA developed a suite of resources to provide elected officials, park and recreation professionals and partners with a clear pathway to advance climate-readiness, equity and overall well-being through parks and recreation. Informed by NRPA research, a roundtable with mayors from cities across the country, NRPA’s monthly Urban Leader Convening, and interviews with park and recreation professionals, the following resources were developed:
COVID-19 and Parks and Recreation: Response and Recovery showcases the role parks and recreation played and continues to play throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrates its impact on local agencies, and highlights policy changes to support investment in parks and recreation.
COVID-19 and Parks and Recreation: Making the Case for the Future is a communications toolkit that provides key messaging, strategies and template graphics to equip park and recreation professionals and advocates with the knowledge and tools to communicate about the essential role parks and recreation has in the well-being of communities.
NRPA Is Supporting Park and Recreation Professionals
NRPA is supporting those in the profession by:
- Deploying a national communications plan to emphasize the essential role of parks and recreation, delivering critical resources, driving shared messaging, and relaying up-to-date public health guidance to park and recreation professionals.
- Working with subject matter experts to develop resources and guidance on response, recovery and revitalization.
- Surveying and tracking the status of the field in real-time, monitoring changes in policy, practice and operations.
- Building out robust online learning and professional development opportunities to guide professionals in response and recovery efforts.
- Facilitating ongoing dialogue across the park and recreation profession to stimulate networking, innovation and collaboration.
- Advocating for federal, state, local and philanthropic funding to support investments and recovery for park and recreation systems.
We recognize that each agency will be on their own timeline as they navigate through the pandemic and that the process will not be linear. As we move through stages of COVID-19, NRPA provides access to resources in the following three categories:
Slowing the Spread | Path to Recovery | Essential Role of Parks and Recreation
NRPA seeks a future in which the full power of parks and recreation is widely recognized for creating a better life for everyone by building strong, healthy and resilient communities. Investment is needed to confront health and socioeconomic disparities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, build resilient infrastructure, stimulate economic activity, and enhance our community and public health systems — including parks and recreation. Together, we can support, heal and strengthen our communities for the future.