An Atypical August on Capitol Hill

September 4, 2018, Department, by Kate Clabaugh, Kyle Simpson, Jayni Rasmussen and Megan Phillippi

2018 September Advocacy August on Capitol Hill 410

Your NRPA public policy team has had an exciting summer, and we are looking forward to a productive fall. From our second annual Summer Camp on Capitol Hill, which brought together Washington, D.C.-area agencies and youth to showcase their work to members of Congress and their staff, to dozens of Park Champion events, we’ve kept busy, thanks in huge part to all of you!

Although August in D.C. is typically quiet, yet brutally humid, we were sweltering alongside the Senate this year, which decided to forgo its traditional recess break. We used this time to continue our direct engagement with them here in D.C. on the issues most important to you, and we encourage you to do the same with your representatives while they are home in-district. We look forward to updating everyone on our advocacy work at this year’s conference in Indianapolis and continuing to learn from you how best we can advocate on behalf of your agencies on Capitol Hill.

Below is a brief update from each of our team members’ work over the summer, in addition to a preview of key advocacy sessions and events that will be available at this year’s conference:

Jayni Rasmussen, Advocacy and Outreach Manager
I am excited to announce that we are unveiling a new advocacy tool at conference this year. This new tool will allow for more ways to get involved in advocacy and stay engaged with members of Congress and NRPA. The new tool, designed by Phone2Action, allows NRPA members to use text, Facebook, Twitter, email and phone calls to engage with their members of Congress. We will be rolling it out at conference, but if you want to get a jumpstart on keeping up to date on key legislative priorities or you aren’t able to join us in Indy, it’s as easy as texting PARKS to 52886 on your cellphone. We are excited about the options for engagement that this platform will offer and look forward to showing you more in the coming months.

Will you be in Indy for the 2018 NRPA Conference? Join us in the America’s Backyard section of the exhibit hall to get involved as a Park Champion. Be sure to have us scan your badge by September 28 for a chance to win an Amazon gift card.

While at conference, you won’t want to miss our second annual Park Champion Advocacy Summit on Thursday, September 27, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. in Room 244/245. This summit will explore how easy it is to get involved in advocacy and how to share the story of your work. It’s a great way to get your feet wet in advocacy or expand your knowledge if you’re a seasoned pro. Did I mention that lunch will be provided?

Kyle Simpson, Senior Government Affairs Manager
We are in the final countdown to the expiration of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF). The Fund is only authorized through the end of September. I have been working to educate members of Congress and their staff on how NRPA members use the Fund to build and expand great parks across the country, and now is the perfect time for you to weigh in with your agency’s story! Urge your members of Congress to reauthorize the Fund and encourage them to increase funding for the stateside account of the program. We will be asking you to take action while at conference, but throughout the month of August is a great time to engage with your members about LWCF.

Kate Clabaugh and I are also continuously focused on ensuring the federal funding that NRPA members rely on is protected in any budget negotiations. Summer is a busy time for the appropriations process, and the end of the fiscal year is fast approaching. We will keep you updated via our blog and social media as Congress considers how to fund the government for FY2020.

Kate Clabaugh, Senior Government Affairs Manager
Several pieces of legislation we’ve been tracking on the health and wellness front have been moving faster than expected this summer. We were ecstatic to see the PHIT Act pass the House in late July after nearly a decade of NRPA’s advocacy work on the bill to make an active lifestyle more accessible for families and individuals nationwide. We believe it now has significant potential for a positive, bipartisan reception as it moves to the Senate.

The Farm Bill, while a newer area of advocacy for NRPA, has proven to be a unique opportunity to showcase to members of Congress and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) how parkland can be used for community gardening, farmers markets and educational opportunities for youth. We’re tracking the funding of a few smaller grant programs within the bill, including the Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program, the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, and the Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentives Program. Although the Farm Bill has made significant progress in both congressional chambers, if it is not reauthorized by the September 30 deadline, we will be urging Congress to provide funding through any larger budget deal that’s decided on so the grant programs may continue seamlessly.

Finally, as Congress continues to debate how $6 billion will be used to address the nation’s opioid epidemic, the role park and recreation agencies can, in fact, play to help mitigate the harm of the crisis has increasingly become clearer. We believe there can be a role for us to play on preventing substance use among youth, while also recognizing the dangers of syringes and other drug paraphernalia that is contaminating our parks.

I hope to share with you at this year’s conference several of these new opportunities for advocacy and the ability to draw down federal funding in support of these initiatives.

Megan Phillippi, Government Affairs Intern
Interning with NRPA’s public policy team has provided me with a wonderful opportunity to support member engagement in advocacy efforts to preserve and expand the wealth of resources offered by park and recreation departments. This summer, I conducted outreach to congressional offices to promote Park and Recreation Month, attended several legislative hearings and briefings, and drafted communications on pertinent legislative issues, including the PHIT Act, National Summer Day of Learning and the Pool Safely program. I also prepared materials to support NRPA members in inviting their members of Congress to visit their local parks to see firsthand the benefits of summer learning and nutrition programs.

I am particularly impressed with the extent of NRPA’s advocacy efforts through the Park Champion initiative. The Park Champion Advocacy Toolkit is a unique resource, offering easy-to-use templates and tools to simplify the process of engaging elected officials and event planning. If you have not already signed up to become a Park Champion, I strongly encourage you to take the pledge today and be part of NRPA’s efforts to preserve the high-quality resources parks and recreation offers to communities across the country!

NRPA Government Affairs Conference Sessions

As you plan your conference schedules, be sure to join the public policy team for one (or more) of our sessions focused on key legislative priorities directly impacting programs and services offered by park and recreation departments.

The Farm Bill
Food Deserts, Parks and Community Gardens (Monday, September 24, 1:30 p.m. – 5:45 p.m., Session #5): Building on efforts to promote healthy food access, park and recreation agencies across the country are developing nutrition education and agricultural science trainings, while increasing access to fresh, local foods in underserved communities. Farm Parks can assist in the creation and expansion of community food hubs led by parks and recreation. Learn how using your park land for farming and community gardening can position your agency as a key agricultural partner in your community!

The Every Student Succeeds Act
Federal Funding for Afterschool Programs: How to Apply to the 21st Century Community Learning Center (21st CCLC) Program (Tuesday, September 25, 1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m., Session #112): 21st CCLC is the only federal funding available to support out-of-school-time programming, including those offered afterschool and over the summer months. Park and recreation agencies are eligible to apply directly as the lead fiscal agent or can partner with their local schools and other community-based partners to apply together. Learn how your park and recreation agency can apply for 21st CCLC funding!

The Older Americans Act
Healthy Eating for Healthy Aging: Combating Hunger and Improving Nutrition for Older Adults (Wednesday, September 26, 4:15 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., Session #236): Food insecurity — the inconsistent access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious foods for an active and healthy lifestyle — is a growing crisis among all Americans. Currently, 1 in 6 older Americans is food insecure. Like the role of an active lifestyle, healthy eating is critical for healthy aging by improving psychological function, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing the risk of developing chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and hypertension. Learn how park and recreation agencies can combat hunger and improve nutrition for older adults!

Congressional Debate Around the Opioid Epidemic
Empowering Youth Impacted by the Opioid Crisis: Providing a Safe, Supportive Environment at Your Rec Centers (Tuesday, September 25, 4:10 p.m. – 5:25 p.m., Session #161): Across the country, park and recreation professionals are responding to substance use in parks, providing treatment and support activities, and incorporating holistic youth-prevention strategies into their services. This session will highlight three park and recreation agencies’ innovative and effective strategies to provide a safe space for youth to build critical social and emotional skills that prevent substance use. You will also receive an introduction to creating a trauma-sensitive environment at your recreation centers, a key method for assisting youth and families in coping with the trauma associated with addiction.

Tackling Substance Use in Parks for the Safety of Staff, Youth and the Community as a Whole (Thursday, September 27, 8 a.m. – 9:15 a.m., Session #1000): Join us for a candid conversation among park directors about the role park and recreation agencies can and should be playing in tackling substance use in parks, while considering the very serious concerns of liability and safety for everyone involved. We will also discuss recent policy decisions being made in cities across the country that are impacting the handling of substance use in public spaces.

Kate Clabaugh and Kyle Simpson are NRPA’s Senior Government Affairs Managers. Jayni Rasmussen is NRPA’s Advocacy and Outreach ManagerMegan Phillippi is NRPA’s Government Affairs Intern.