Issues and Trends

February 1, 2012, Department, by Phil Hayward

Phil HaywardFew challenges are more intimidating than the prospect of a blank slate. No matter the product or endeavor, without something to react to, such as an existing structure, the choices can be myriad and paralyzing. Fortunately for the editors of Parks & Recreation, readers tell us what they want to read. We know from perennial reader studies that parks professionals and advocates want to be able to anticipate and act on trends and issues. Do that, and all else falls into place. In assessing the results of the planning behind this edition of Parks & Recreation as it goes to our printer, it’s clear this one abounds in issues and trends.

The topic that appears to be with us for the indefinite future is the economy. I cannot think of another time in recent history when virtually everything we do is filtered through the lens of financial matters. This issue of the magazine alone explores a panoply of topics that in one way or another relate to the economy: funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund (cover story), Occupy Wall Street (legal column), invasive species (a $140 billion problem discussed in the Conservation column), technology (exploring how agencies pursue cost-saving efficiencies through automation), developing non-traditional open spaces (our public health column is always illustrating the link between parks and recreation and reduced health-care costs), and Washington State parks (Kiosk update on the economy). I’m sure you can find more in this issue. It’s not like the editors set out to create an issue on the economy—but the result is compelling.

It would be easy to paint a bleak picture based on these stories, but that would be neither fair nor accurate. More important, these stories illustrate how the field isn’t putting progress on hold but instead is accomplishing much—either as a result of the economy or in spite of it. Funds too scarce for big-ticket, open-space acquisitions? Find alternative approaches, such as parklets. Need to make better use of scarce staff? Leverage technology to market more with less and to optimize maintenance administration. Difficult to get your voice heard by legislators? Partner with like organizations. Not enough pages in the print edition of this magazine to convey everything we’d like for you to read? We leveraged our digital capabilities. You’ll find an expanded version of Kiosk (our news section) and an entire section on inclusion issues and trends for parks and recreation professionals and advocates.