For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine.
It is my pleasure to greet you as the new vice president of public policy and advocacy for NRPA. I am thrilled to have joined the organization at such a pivotal time in our history. Now more than ever, our nation recognizes the essential value parks and recreation facilities provide to the well-being of our communities.
One of NRPA’s top advocacy goals is to heighten public awareness of the vital function that parks and recreation centers fulfill in our communities. The past few months have really brought this into perspective. Our neighborhood parks, trails and open spaces are the indispensable places where individuals across the country are finding respite, rejuvenation and opportunities for physical activity and connecting with people from other social or ethnic groups. The power of local parks and recreation has become even more evident and this essential role will continue long after this crisis has passed.
An Essential Piece of the Formula
The fundamental element of any park and recreation center is its people. Every day, P&R professionals provide essential services and maintain the essential infrastructure. They are the stewards who directly contribute to countless health, social, environmental and economic benefits in the communities they serve. They are on the frontlines of our most pressing communal challenges, working to implement local solutions that improve livelihoods. They are a driving force for community vitality that advance equity in our neighborhoods.
During times of crisis, such as an outbreak, P&R professionals serve as trusted community leaders capable of swiftly providing or supporting rapid emergency response and relief services. They have been charged with coordinating food distribution, emergency residential shelter, childcare for essential workers and other emergency response functions. This is all in addition to their customary duties of managing, operating and maintaining parks, trails, open spaces, green infrastructure, community and senior centers, pools and the countless other tasks. Their work provides us with a sense of familiarity that allows us relief from the pervasive stress in our lives.
Why Advocacy Is Important
The resources P&R facilities rely on have been drastically decreased. This can only result in intensified pressure for our P&R professionals to deliver these essential services. Increased investment is necessary for P&R to survive the immediate impacts of COVID-19. Such funding is imperative to providing the essential services for vulnerable communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Our public policy and advocacy team is determined to lead robust and innovative advocacy campaigns to secure this much-needed support. Increased funding levels will allow P&R professionals to better serve our communities.
Some significant federal legislative proposals are on the horizon that can provide our parks and recreation with critical and long overdue funding. Among those proposals are the Great American Outdoors Act, the Water Resources Development Act, the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership Program, the Resilience Revolving Loan Fund Act, the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act and the Transit to Trails legislation, and a potentially revived Civilian Conservation Corps. We are committed to providing elected officials and policymakers with information and perspective that can persuade them to invest in our park districts.
Our Path Forward Together
As we strengthen NRPA’s advocacy efforts, I am committed to connecting with you to learn more about your perspectives and needs. I am excited to share my ideas, learn from your experience and find ways to work together. We have a unique opportunity to significantly increase awareness, appreciation and support for the field. I know we can achieve this if we work smart, purposefully and in a coordinated way.
Elvis Cordova is NRPA's Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy.