Sometimes we get so serious about the business of parks and recreation that we forget to celebrate the many joys that parks bring to our lives. Yes, we must fight every day against the threats to parks, and we know them all too well — lack of funding, social equity disparities, environmental threats and more. But, we can’t let fighting the good fight for parks cause us to lose sight of why we love our parks and appreciate them so deeply.
There is no question that the public shares our strong feelings about parks. Consider statistics from NRPA research and other sources: 9 in 10 Americans agree that parks and recreation is an important local government service (comparable to public safety, schools, transportation) and 3 in 4 Americans support increasing local government spending on parks and recreation. A recent study of mayoral speeches, conducted by the National League of Cities, shows that mayors of cities with up to 300,000 residents cited parks and recreation as one of the top three priorities and for cities with more than 300,000, parks and recreation was the sixth-highest mentioned priority.
There is also no better time than during the month of our nation’s Independence celebration that we also celebrate the rich heritage of our parks. A place where all Americans can gather without fear of repression, without concern for race or ethnicity and without question of religion or beliefs. Parks embody the inalienable rights expressed in the Declaration of Independence — Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. What better place than in parks to engage in the Pursuit of Happiness?
NRPA’s celebration of July as Park and Recreation Month began more than 30 years ago in 1985. In the early days, it was little more than a proclamation and a news release, but in recent years, Park and Recreation Month has become a full-fledged national celebration, carried out in hundreds, if not thousands, of communities across the nation.
Consider some of the metrics — more than 17 million media impressions; tens of thousands of views of the Park and Recreation Month web resources; thousands of downloads of Park and Rec month information, contest entries, poster downloads and more. NRPA’s Marketing and Communications team annually puts together a rich collection of free resources for agencies that want to celebrate Park and Recreation Month in their community.
So, let’s take the month of July and celebrate our parks. We love them for reasons too many to count. Check out the NRPA resources at www.nrpa.org/events/july to help you take the celebration to your community, and take some time yourself to get out to parks with friends and family. There is no doubt your time spent in parks will contribute to your own lifetime of discovery.
Barbara Tulipane, CAE is NRPA's President and CEO