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Over the past two months, as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has swept across the nation, we have witnessed the incredible response from park and recreation professionals taking swift and needed actions to protect and support the health and well-being of their communities. In efforts to “flatten the curve,” agencies have implemented mitigation strategies — ranging from the broad application of recreation center and playground closures, to the cancellation of community events and youth sports programs. At the same time, agencies across the country have stepped up to fill gaps and provide essential services for our most vulnerable community members, including serving as food distribution centers, providing shelter for people who are housing-insecure, offering emergency childcare services to essential personnel and taking on new roles to support public health system contact tracing and other vital services. While taking on these new roles, agencies have largely continued to maintain parks, trails and open spaces throughout the pandemic, often providing the only opportunity for respite and outdoor activity for community members. Time and again over the past few months, park and recreation professionals have proven themselves to be a strong force for public health.
NRPA has been a staunch supporter of these efforts, championing professionals as they rise to the challenge daily and providing critical resources to help navigate this unprecedented time. While the pandemic continues to spread in nearly every state, some communities are beginning to see these efforts result in reductions in COVID-19 transmission. In line with guidance from public health officials, park and recreation professionals are developing plans for reopening these spaces, facilities and programs impacted by the pandemic.
Our team at NRPA has been working hard alongside a group of subject-matter experts, including park and recreation professionals and public health experts, to develop and disseminate high-quality resources that support a thoughtful and methodical approach to a phased reopening that prioritizes public health and safety. As professionals begin to develop these plans, it is crucial to coordinate with state and local public health officials to ensure that essential public health indicators and gating criteria have been met (and continue to be met) when lifting restrictions and reinstating operations. To support this process, on Friday, May 1, NRPA launched our Path to Recovery framework, which includes comprehensive guidance, tools and resources focused on:
- Creation of a Cross-Sector Recovery Team
- Meeting Essential Public Health Indicators
- Assessing the Risk of Spaces, Facilities and Programs
- Centering Health Equity in Recovery Efforts
- Phased Reopening Planning – Gradually Restoring Operations to Protect Public Health
- Specific Guidance for Common Park and Recreation Spaces, Facilities and Programs
- Developing a Communications Plan
- Staff Training and Measures to Protect Staff and Public
- Cleaning and Disinfection Practices
- Managing Contracts and Vendor Relationships to Ensure Safety
- Securing Critical Supplies
- Evaluating and Informing Emergency Plans
- Resource Database – National and Local Reopening Resources
Additional resources will continue to be developed and released in the coming weeks and months as more guidance is developed.
At this time, we also recognize the significant economic impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had and will continue to have on the park and recreation field. Agencies nationwide are reporting significant cuts to operational and capital spending, as well as staffing cuts, furloughs and hiring freezes. NRPA is hard at work building resources and tools to strengthen our park and recreation movement by advocating for federal funds to support cities and counties and using our voice and platform to activate a network of advocates, supporters and believers in the power of parks and recreation.
To view NRPA’s Path to Recovery resources, visit the NRPA Coronavirus webpage.