Walking the Walk of Park Talk

June 1, 2015, Department, by Gina Mullins-Cohen

NRPA Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publishing and Editorial Director, Gina Mullins-CohenI just returned from Parks & Recreation magazine’s launch meeting of our new Advisory Board. The board consists of a worthy mix of leaders from our field including agency directors, program directors, educators, communications strategists and corporate partners. This group opened up the meeting with a lively discussion on some of the most complex topics and challenges our park and recreation agencies face on a daily basis. One challenge being the constant effort to make our parks and recreation centers equitable places for everyone in the community. Our expectation is that the ongoing dialogues will bring new voices and solutions to our pages as we integrate these ideas and the reservoir of experience in case studies, columns and feature articles.

This issue, Parks & Recreation magazine’s second annual Health and Wellness issue, delves into programs, operating across the entire country, that teach kids and their families the importance of healthy eating and the overall impact exercise and healthy diets provide. The feature story by Dr. Danielle Hollar,  “Changing it Up for Better Health,” starting on page 46, details the Commit to Health initiative, a joint effort of NRPA and the Walmart Foundation. The program is currently underway in many towns and cities in the U.S., and provides park agencies with the tools and the voice to be leaders in the fight to make our kids healthy today, so tomorrow will be brighter for everyone.

The cover feature, “The City that Health Built,” beginning on page 40, by newly appointed Executive Editor Samantha Bartram, examines health and wellness through the lens of the built environment. Many cities and smaller communities are beginning to look at their surroundings with a more holistic view, integrating bike lanes, safe sidewalks, trees and other park-like amenities that improve the quality of life for residents and visitors. These additions also encourage healthy behaviors like active transportation, offering yet another solution to mitigate our sedentary lifestyles. 

Finally, on page 50, Bartram takes a look at San Antonio, Texas’ Parks and Recreation Department in the article titled, "The Parks of San Antone." Here is an example of great alliance among park and recreation professionals, municipal leaders and the community at large to get residents up, outside and engaged with their community parks. This journey has not been without its challenges, however, as Director Xavier Urrutia candidly shares.

The idea that parks and recreation are essential components of a healthy community — not just bonus attractions that play a passive role — is catching on across the country. We’ll be watching to determine what impact this shift has on our country’s overall health and wellness, and, with the help of our colleagues and members, will keep you informed of the latest developments.

Gina Mullins-Cohen is NRPA's Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publishing and Editorial Director.