In 1983, I left the University of Missouri to go to work in the Outdoor Recreation Assistance Program for Missouri State Parks. My job title was planner, and as such, I was to travel the west side of the state, working with hundreds of communities of all sizes that were applying for money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). Seeing the power of parks and what a little money could do to transform a community left a lasting impression on me.
Over the years, I have witnessed the ebb and flow of politics, elected officials and the relationship of parks in communities. It has been a hard road for the LWCF. What inspires me most is the enduring fight for these dollars, the difference they can make and that we in the profession have never given up. Thank you to each of you who took the time to write letters or make a phone call to your senators and representatives. Your voice counted.
Certainly, the fight is not over, but we gained three years and doubled the amount of stateside funding — $110 million. I bow to my friends Joe Turner in Houston, Bill Bryan in Missouri, the Public Policy Committee, and Kevin O’Hara and his team at NRPA who never let up. Thank you. I am proud that we were a strong voice and that our recent economic impact study helped provide supporting facts regarding the benefits of parks to the economy.
NRPA joined forces with other organizations these past few years to advocate for federal funding of important park, recreation and outdoor initiatives. 2015 was a banner year — in addition to the LWCF, Congress approved two federal investments that help local parks: The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act provides grant opportunities for multimodal bike and walking facilities through state transportation departments and metropolitan planning organizations, and for the first time, environmental education is included in the Every Student Succeeds Act. Under the Title IV 21st Century Community Learning Centers, park and recreation agencies are eligible partners with public schools to provide environmental education inside the school room and field-based activities conducted in outdoor classrooms, to include parks.
We are off to a great new year! I encourage you to get involved with NRPA. Whether it’s advocacy, research or education, we are here to support you and ensure your voices are counted. Check out the NRPA website for the many activities and programs in 2016!
Susan K. Trautman, CPRP, is the Chair of NRPA's Board of Directors.