Networking and Sharing Ideas: Setting the Park and Recreation Field Apart

November 1, 2014, Department, by By Jay Tryon, CPRP

The park and recreation field is unique in its members' enthusiasm for sharing their ideas with each other, which benefits the field as a whole and every community it serves.As park and recreation professionals, we are always looking for new program ideas, special events, summer camp themes, trends or initiatives to bring to our departments. Outside of programming, we may be searching for information about the process of seeking a request for proposals (RFP) for a concession stand, how to maintain synthetic turf fields, creating an emergency management plan, developing an operation manual for a day camp or finally creating a plan for independent contracts. But have you ever thought about other industries and how they seek similar content? I can assure you it is not done the same way our industry does things.

The idea of sharing in our field is just one of the many attributes that constantly amazes me. We don’t just offer up the theme of a successful program; we go above and beyond to help other organizations implement it. We share what worked and what did not and recommend any changes that could improve the program. With the help of networking avenues such as Facebook, LinkedIn, NRPA Connect, NRPA Congress, and NRPA’s many schools and professional development opportunities,  we are able to gain access to new ideas while also sharing success stories with professionals from all over the world. Many state associations offer an avenue to seek information and share best practices with one another. This can be a better source of information since we are able to get a regional look.

One of the most popular outdoor programs offered in the Charlotte, North Carolina, region is a Segway tour through more than 1,300 acres of parkland. This concept came from nearby Asheville when staff visited a botanical garden for a conference, and the idea has been a huge success ever since. This program is now available year round with different benefits for participants during different seasons. With the help of the Asheville staff, the program was implemented in Mecklenburg County and has been a hit since the beginning. 

When a department is building a new facility and they need guidance of additional RFPs or maintenance concepts, staff from other agencies are generally willing to share documents that have helped their departments succeed. This is very common practice within the newly revamped NRPA Connect ( This forum has proven to be a great asset to departments all over the country with the ease of common questions being answered and documents shared. 

Why does this matter? We, as professionals, understand the bigger picture. It is our job to provide opportunities to the public that not only enrich the lives of the participants but also the community. I am constantly impressed with the amount of knowledge and materials shared within our profession. People are more than happy to share changes to programs to help other departments on the other side of the country implement the same program. We live in a world with a high demand for results, yet as park and recreation professionals, we put aside our personal platform for the good of the field. It is a concept that has not only helped hundreds of departments grow through the experience of others, but has also given staff an outlet to “pay it forward.” What better compliment can be given to staff or a department than someone wanting to implement your program, camp or concept that they think will be successful? You may have not invented it, but during the process there was probably a change that made it your own. Changes will naturally happen in the program’s adopted home, but the overall theme will remain the same.

Another aspect beyond the concepts being shared is that during this process of sharing ideas, concepts or examples of documents, we are networking. We may not realize it at the time or it may not be deliberate, but we are communicating with other professionals and we never know what that will lead to. In some cases, you will build a friendship and communicate throughout the years about the similarities or differences among departments. You may look forward to that one time a year when you attend Congress and meet the professionals with whom you have shared. Better yet, maybe it will lead to a promotion or a new position due to a contact that was made because you wanted to expand your athletic offerings to include pickleball. 

No matter what, I am constantly reminded about and impressed by the good we as park and recreation professionals do not only in our own communities, but also by sharing information with others throughout the country.

Jay Tryon, CPRP, is the Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation for the Town of Indian Trail, North Carolina.