Given today’s worldwide coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the NRPA team recognizes the heightened stress and anxiety over what will happen in the coming days, weeks and even months. And, we are humbled and inspired by all that park and recreation professionals are doing right now to support the safety and welfare of communities across the country — from emergency services to meal provision to creative virtual programs. Through all of this, today and every day, NRPA is here for you. We remain steadfast in our commitment to providing you the most up-to-date information and resources available to help you through these trying times.
As more state and local governments throughout the country make the difficult decision to close schools and urge citizens to ‘shelter in place,’ we acknowledge the significant role parks and trails will play in our individual and collective physical and mental health. Physical distancing may be the new normal, but parks and green spaces remain central to health and wellness — even if it means staying six feet apart from one another. Amidst this crisis, adults, children and their pets will rely on parks more than ever before to exercise, recreate or simply breathe in fresh air. Parks are essential to healthy communities, and we offer guidance on navigating our public green spaces with a responsible public health focus.
It is also imperative that we address the direct impact on our most vulnerable populations and the programs that serve them, such as youth and older adult nutrition programs. School closures and senior center closures mean children and older adults who depend on meals each day will no longer have access to vital nutrition. Thankfully, the federal government has taken actions that allow for more flexibility in getting youth the meals they need. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service announced that all 50 states, along with the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have been granted waiver approvals that will enable meal provision through the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) or Seamless Summer Option (SSO) in a non-congregate setting at area eligible sites. Programs that serve older adults are also adapting by changing to home delivery models or creating options for drive-thru meal service.
Be sure to visit the NRPA website or our Connect member platform for updates on COVID-19 from NRPA and the P&R community. During this ongoing crisis, we strongly recommend continuing to adhere to the guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Please be vigilant about your own health and the health of others by limiting your exposure, maintaining physical distancing, washing your hands frequently and staying home if you don’t feel well.
These are undeniably challenging times. Park and recreation professionals, like you, remain dedicated and, as ever, among the critical solution providers in our communities. We are proud to support and stand with you.
Kristine Stratton is NRPA's President and CEO.