In Parks We Trust

April 1, 2013, Department, by Elizabeth Beard

Managing Editor Beth Beard shares her thoughts on the expectations our communities have in their parks and recreation departments and introduces NRPA's new three-pillar messaging campaign.These days, it seems like anything can happen at any moment. A definite uneasy feeling has hovered over the nation since September 11, 2001—sometimes retreating almost out of mind but roaring back to the forefront after events like Newtown and the Boston Marathon. Despite these lingering worries, the public still places great trust in agencies like park and recreation departments to safely run special events, care for children and seniors, and provide secure places to relax, exercise, and recreate. And the public’s expectations for government agencies during a crisis situation are realistic, but still high: that public employees will remain calm, organized, and know what to do. In Associate Editor Danielle Taylor’s article “Under Fire” on page 50, agencies are living up to that trust by thinking about the unthinkable and preparing emergency action plans so that every staff person knows what to do to best protect the public and themselves.

But the public’s trust doesn’t end with safety. Surveys show that the public also views park and recreation departments as not just stewards of community natural resources and green spaces, but also as leaders in conservation that set an example to follow. Likewise, agencies are also promoters of public health and wellness, supporting healthy lifestyles through efforts as varied as formal fitness and wellness classes, community gardens, and even just simple walking trails. Finally, and perhaps more obscurely because so many consider it to be a given, social equity is a huge area of public trust in agencies to provide equal access to quality parks and programming for all, regardless of income, race, gender, culture, or physical and mental ability. As Kevin Regan from the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks says in this month’s cover story, “Our mission is not just for those who can pay.”

Those areas of conservation, health and wellness, and social equity, although always present, have now been brought to the forefront and formally recognized as the “pillars” of the field of parks and recreation. We hope your agency will join NRPA in this new effort to communicate the many ways parks and recreation fulfills the public’s trust and improves the quality of life in thousands of communities across the country. In this increasingly uncertain world, it’s nice to have someone you can count on.


You may have noticed we’ve added graphic elements for each of the three pillars in the past couple of issues. These pillar icons are also prominently displayed on our newly redesigned website at We hope this helps visually organize and focus our messages while also calling attention to relevant columns and articles. Look for them when flipping through the magazine to quickly find articles related to conservation, health and wellness, and social equity.

Elizabeth Beard
Managing Editor