Unplugged Connections

June 1, 2014, Department, by Robert F. Ashcraft, Ph. D.

Robert F. Ashcraft, Ph.D., NRPA’s Chair of the Board of DirectorsIn this digital age where ebooks are read on tablets, there is something special about finding a tranquil place at a favorite park and enjoying a great print book the old-fashioned way. Absent all technology and being in the moment with nature and a great read is a desirable state for renewing one’s spirit. Such pursuits help in coping with the challenges and stresses brought on by the hyperculture in which most of us live.

Thinking about a great read and a favorite park reminds me of the book Take Time for Paradise: Americans and Their Games by A. Bartlett Giamatti. As a former president of Yale University and later the seventh commissioner of Major League Baseball, Giamatti posited that “...we can learn far more about the conditions, and values, of a society by contemplating how it chooses to play, to use its free time, to take its leisure, than by examining how it goes about its work.”

Leisure time can renew the human spirit, and NRPA’s members are the very citizens and professionals who create the conditions that make such renewal possible by assuring that park and recreation places, spaces and services are available for all, not just some. What our members do every day to improve the quality of life in communities is good for society’s collective soul.

If Giamatti is indeed correct, then learning the status of and support for parks and recreation is one measure of our society’s condition and values. Status can be drawn from information available through NRPA’s PRORAGIS knowledge platform, which is why we urge all agencies to input data into the system. Our member services and advocacy efforts are guided by our three pillars: conservation, health and wellness, and social equity. These themes, as an expression of our field’s values, are gaining traction in garnering more support for our field.

The privilege I feel in serving as your national board chair continues to grow. Experiencing firsthand the impact you make in renewing spirits and advancing quality of life for all is affirming. I am equally appreciative of the leadership of fellow NRPA national board members and of our most capable, dedicated national staff as we work together as a team to advance park and recreation concerns and aspirations on your behalf.

I have learned the value of unplugging from technology and renewing one’s spirit by reading a preferred print book at a favorite park. Let me suggest another activity that can have the same effect: attending NRPA’s annual Congress in Charlotte, North Carolina, this October. As the premier event for the park and recreation family of stakeholders, our annual Congress can rejuvenate you unlike any other gathering. There is nothing like convening with kindred spirits in real time to affirm all that you do, learn, grow, connect, challenge assumptions and advance our field. I urge you to join us for what promises to be the most impactful Congress yet! 

Robert F. Ashcraft, Ph.D., is NRPA’s Chair of the Board of Directors.