Investing in Knowledge

October 29, 2020, Department, by Vitisia Paynich

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For an enhanced digital experience, read this story in the ezine.

This ongoing pandemic undoubtedly brings to light the inequities that long existed before the novel coronavirus. It also places greater importance on research and evaluation, which offers a roadmap for park and recreation agencies — especially as they develop their master plans. Perhaps NRPA’s Lauren Redmore sums it up best in the Equity column, “Mixed-Method Evaluations Paint a Park Equity Portrait,” on page 22 — in which she contends, “Evaluation provides park and recreation agencies with a powerful set of tools to understand how they serve members of their community, where they fall short, and how they can fill service gaps that have left some community members behind.” The key, however, is not to depend solely on one type of evaluation, like customer surveys, but to rely on a variety of data-gathering methods that provides a more complete picture that ultimately allows park and recreation leaders to redistribute resources and services in a fair and equitable manner.

In this month’s cover story, “A New Approach to Parks and Recreation System Planning,” on page 32, author David Barth discusses how today’s most pressing issues — such as a global health crisis, wildfires and urbanization — are influencing the way park and recreation professionals perceive the field at large and how they now approach system planning. “This broader perspective encourages park and recreation agencies to transcend their silos — and leverage their resources — to plan and collaborate with other public and private agencies to meet as many of the community’s needs as possible,” Barth writes.

Collaboration and partnerships are pivotal to a park and recreation agency’s supplemental revenue, as pointed out in the feature article, “Making the Most of Your Partnerships,” on page 38. Contributors Nick Pitas, Andrew Mowen and Samantha Powers examine the agency-foundation relationship and offer ways to effectively leverage the benefits of these alliances. In addition, they share data from a nationwide survey they conducted, in partnership with NRPA, on agency-foundation relationships. Survey participants included leaders from park and recreation agencies and nonprofit foundations. “Overall, about 40 percent of agency leaders report that their agency benefits from the support of a park-specific foundation,” according to their findings.

The city of Atlanta, Georgia, knows all too well the benefits of forging partnerships, especially when it comes to finding solutions to its plastic-pollution dilemma, which is the focus of the feature story, “Proctor Creek Turns to Green Innovation,” on page 44. Contributors Aaron Lee Wiener and NRPA’s Michele White provide an in-depth look at why Atlanta’s Parks and Recreation Department, Department of Watershed Management and its partners have been testing trash traps, installed within Atlanta’s parks, to improve “water quality and stream habitat by removing the waste that heavily impacts these urban waterways.” The Proctor Creek case study is a prime example of how other cities across the United States can integrate trash trap technology into innovative workforces to mitigate pollution in waterways.

We hope that sharing people’s stories in this issue and in future issues will assist you with your own research and planning as you navigate through the rest of the year. After all, “an investment in knowledge pays the best interest.” — Benjamin Franklin 

Vitisia Paynich is Executive Editor, Print and Online Content at NRPA.