This is my last post as chair of the NRPA Board of Directors. I have served on the board since 2010. As chair, I traveled the country and the world this year, and it has been an honor to represent this organization. I am excited about where this organization is heading and could not be prouder to be part of an organization and a board that are committed to challenging ourselves to tackle the issues and opportunities that lie ahead.
Our nation, as well as our profession, faces some serious challenges. It is vitally important that our organization stays committed to making a difference in people’s lives and that we hold fast to our core values. As I traveled the country this year, I have been very encouraged that our park and recreation professionals have consistently shared how important our values are to this profession and the communities we serve.
And what are those core values?
We believe that everyone should receive the benefits of quality park and recreation services, no matter where they live, no matter their background or ethnicity, and no matter what their income.
In keeping to our core values, we have sought every opportunity to lift them up. For example, thanks in large part to your advocacy, Congress increased funding in the fiscal year 2018 spending bill for programs that are vital to the industry, including the Land and Water Conservation Fund State Assistance Program and Community Development Block Grants. Last October, in partnership with the Trust for Public Land and the Urban Land Institute, we helped launch the 10-Minute Walk campaign, which aims to ensure all Americans live within a 10-minute walk (or half-mile) of a high-quality park or green space and have already had nearly 200 mayors sign on to this initiative.
Last year, in my remarks in New Orleans, I challenged us to be bold and courageous in doing what is necessary to call out injustices and truly reconcile the harms of the past. I hoped that as chair, I would find opportunities to be bold and courageous in how we turn the tragic moments we experience in our country, like the school shooting at the Margory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, into triumph. I also hoped to discover members who felt empowered to be bold and courageous with me and recognize a vital opportunity for parks and recreation to be an unexpected vehicle for advancing social justice in our country.
I am so grateful for the opportunities of this past year to engage with young professionals in the Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation District and a range of park and recreation professionals in Wichita, Long Beach, Fort Worth and Maryland. Whether it was creating spaces for courageous conversations, providing training and technical assistance or working to develop a racial equity plan, my time in each place allowed me to discover so many people in our field who felt empowered to be bold and courageous with me.
We still have so much more work to do, but this past year has me very hopeful that park and recreation departments across this country can go beyond the expectations that suggest all we offer is a fun space for families to play.
Let’s keep building on this momentum to step up, show up and speak up!
Leon T. Andrews, Jr. is NRPA's Chair of the Board of Directors