Let’s face it, often United States citizens suffer through varying degrees of bad branding, particularly when our news and social media feeds are packed with examples of this country’s deep-rooted struggles. Whether the stories portray extreme racial bias, cultural insensitivity or unbridaled jingoism, the notion of the “ugly” American is everywhere. The good news is the field of parks and recreation is making a big difference.
“Game On,” the lead story for our annual Social Equity issue that begins on page 46, explores the role sports play in creating a culture free of prejudice. Author Paula Jacoby-Garrett also examines a troubling trend — the demolition of basketball courts in public parks because of the fear-based myth that courts attract “the wrong kind of people.”
- How many times has the U.S.A. Men’s Basketball team won the gold medal in the Olympics? — 15
- Who is the professional basketball player, who grew up playing basketball in Maryland-National Capital’s, Prince George’s County recreation facilities and recently helped the U.S.A. Men’s Basketball team bring home the gold medal from the 2016 Summer Olympics? — Kevin Durant
Author Gretchen Keillor investigates the issue of homelessness in the feature, “Can Data Have a Heart?,” starting on page 52. This piece speaks directly to recent data-driven advances that facilitate a different way of looking at and cataloging the multitude of conditions that contribute to homelessness. Additional discussion on this topic will be presented at NRPA’s next Innovation Lab, January 25-27, 2017, in Los Angeles.
- What percentage of homeless veterans are from poor, disadvantaged communities? — 96 percent
- What state park has an action plan to get homeless veterans back to work as state park rangers? — Arizona State Park under the Arizona Action Plan to End Homelessness Among Veterans.
As I write this note, thousands of victims are just beginning to recover from flooding that tore through several parishes in the greater Baton Rouge area of Louisiana. Among those impacted from this devastating flood were several staff members from East Baton Rouge Parks and Recreation (BREC). Even so, with a skeleton crew, BREC orchestrated activities and healthy meals at emergency camps established in BREC facilities, serving hundreds of children each day.
- How many kids, each day, did the BREC staff assist through its emergency camps? — Upwards of 190
- How many members of the BREC staff were personally impacted by the flooding? — 200
There’s plenty in the world to prompt a dismayed shake of the head, a deep sigh, a resignation to cynicism. The work of park and recreation agencies across the country, whether cultivating young athletes or supporting the most vulnerable among us, is cause for perpetual celebration. When the going gets tough, parks and recreation gets going.
Gina Mullins-Cohen is NRPA's Vice President of Marketing, Communications and Publishing and Editorial Director