Another Year of Progress

October 1, 2016, Department, by Gina Mullins-Cohen

Gina Mullins-Cohen, NRPA’s Vice President of Marketing, Communications and PublishingWhen you think of a city — any city — what is the first image that pops into your mind? Is it a skyline of towering buildings, traffic, smog perhaps, or throngs of people rushing up and down concrete paths and stairways, looking straight ahead, brows furrowed on faces long unrecognized by the sun?

Or, do you imagine trees, hundreds of them, leaves stroking the sky, the gentle song of sparrows racing through the wind only to be overcome by the high, sweet chirps and twitters of children playing? 

While most of you probably thought of the first image, more and more cities are being defined by the open space and public parks that connect the intimate lives of city dwellers to nature, to healthier lifestyles and to a variety of cultures.  

Designing Parks for Health,” beginning on page 76, by Joanna Lombard, tells the story we know all too well. It addresses the onset of car-culture and urban sprawl. It speaks to the slow turn of parks from great places of gathering, fun and social health, to one-offs designed for specialized activities. Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces (MDPROS) is reinventing not only the way we think of parks, but also how we think of our time and our place within parks. The agency was recently rewarded for its hard work — it was named as one of seven nationwide winners of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 2016 Culture of Health Prize. 

The NRPA Annual Conference convenes in St. Louis this year, and if you haven’t been to the city before, you are in for a grand surprise. Throughout the year, I have had the opportunity to visit this great city several times in conjunction with NRPA’s Parks Build Community Project. The 2016 project is a complete build-out of a park — much-needed in the town of Wellston, Missouri. Thanks to our many donors and our partnership with Great Rivers Greenway, a vacant lot has been transformed into beautiful Trojan Park, a space boasting three playgrounds, an area devoted to outside fitness, a regulation basketball court, a splash-pad, shaded picnic areas, butterfly gardens and tree-lined walkways. The Grand Opening of Trojan Park is set for 10 a.m.-noon Saturday, October 8. Jr. NBA will hold a basketball clinic for kids from the neighborhood and afterward, a celebrity basketball game, organized by Wellston Mayor, Nathaniel Griffin, will christen the court. Don’t miss it. 

Also, not to be missed are the numerous activities, events and education sessions our Annual Conference has to offer. Make sure to read the latest news on the Conference and things to do in St., Louis in this issue’s Conference package by Paula Jacoby-Garret, beginning on page 60. 

Just last year we were in Las Vegas celebrating NRPA’s 50th anniversary. Another year is in front of us, with so many more opportunities to make our communities great.

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