A Year of Optimism and Opportunity

November 18, 2021, Department, by Vitisia Paynich

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

Let’s be honest, 2021 didn’t exactly turn out to be the year we hoped it would be. Although we couldn’t officially call it a post-pandemic year, we did see layers of optimism and opportunity throughout the park and recreation field. For one thing, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic gave people a new appreciation for nature and parks, especially when folks were urged to shelter in place. I am optimistic that this strong sentiment and affection for parks will continue long after this pandemic ends. What’s more, park and recreation agencies have an opportunity to take the lessons learned from March 2020 to present day and dive deeper into the inequities that revealed themselves throughout our communities and make those much-needed changes.

Earlier this year, we saw a number of changes happening in our federal agencies. In this month’s cover story, “DOI Secretary Deb Haaland Breaks New Ground,” on page 34, NRPA President and CEO Kristine Stratton offers a closer look at the person President Joe Biden handpicked to lead the U.S. Department of the Interior.

This past September, many park and recreation professionals seized the opportunity to get back to some semblance of “normalcy,” when they gathered in Nashville, Tennessee, for the 2021 NRPA Annual Conference. What made this year’s event stand apart from previous years, is the fact that it was a hybrid conference — whereby attendees had a choice to travel to “Music City,” or log on to our virtual platform. In the feature article, “Recapping the 2021 NRPA Annual Conference,” on page 40, we share some of the key highlights, including general sessions, education sessions, coffee talks and more.

The pandemic caused community members to take stock of what’s really important to them, especially when it comes to the impact of play on their children. In the feature article, “The Value of Play, Playgrounds and Parks During the Pandemic,” on page 44, Richard J. Dolesh, NRPA’s editor-at-large, takes a closer look at a national study conducted by the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA), in cooperation with Wakefield Research, which surveyed parents on the benefits of children’s play during COVID-19. “People want to be outside,” says Tom Norquist, senior vice president of innovation and business development at PlayCore and twice president of IPEMA. “The pandemic enabled families to be outdoors together. In doing so, it rekindled how much fun it was to play together. And, families realized once again how great their local parks are.”

Finally, we’d love to hear about some of the lessons you have gleaned from the pandemic these past 12 months. Or, simply share an inspiring story about your park and recreation agency or community. You never know…your story just might be featured in a future issue of Parks & Recreation magazine!

Vitisia “Vi” Paynich is Executive Editor of Parks & Recreation and Director of Print and Online Content for NRPA.