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 since.
COVID-19 and Parks and Recreation
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 pandemic, 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.
Ongoing Support for Park and Recreation Professionals
COVID-19 has shed an even bigger light on the essential role of local parks and recreation. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, park and recreation professionals swiftly mobilized to keep parks, trails and green spaces open to support physical and mental health, while delivering vital services and programs to support the community. Park and recreation professionals are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic — and will continue to be in the months and years to come.
NRPA is dedicated to rallying park and recreation professionals, advocates and decision makers to champion the park and recreation profession and bring needed investment, recognition and dedication to sustain these spaces and services. As park and recreation professionals continue to adapt to the ebbs and flows of the pandemic, NRPA provides ongoing learning opportunities, best practices, case studies and more.
Online Learning | Best Practices | Research
As the nature of the pandemic has changed thanks to the introduction of vaccines and a better understanding of the virus, we have chosen to archive our earlier resources that were more applicable at the beginning of the pandemic. While we are providing access to the archived resources for historical context, keep in mind that some guidance may no longer apply.
As always, park and recreation professionals should work with their local health departments when determining their strategies for mitigation.
Guidance on how to navigate the different phases of recovery and reopening.
How to Support Park and Recreation Professionals
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.
Learn more about how you can support park and recreation’s essential role in our communities.