I Rise Up for Parks and Recreation

June 16, 2022, Department, by Kristine Stratton

Kristine Stratton 410

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

It’s Park and Recreation Month! July is the month we celebrate the essential role of parks and recreation in communities everywhere. It’s the month when park and recreation professionals across the country are at their busiest, and it’s the month where our impact on communities is perhaps most visible. This month — Park and Recreation Month — is a wonderful chance to celebrate, promote, inspire and advocate for our field. And this year’s theme — Rise Up for Parks and Recreation — is a call to action.

Our vice president of public policy and advocacy, Elvis Cordova, has grown fond of asking, “What have you done for parks?” when talking with elected officials and our allies. This year’s Park and Recreation Month theme of “Rise Up” is our way of inspiring all of our community members to support the work that we do day in and day out. It’s especially inspiring to read the stories in this issue because they are testaments to how rising up for parks and recreation means rising up for community, for inclusion, for health and well-being, and so much more.

One story — that of Earvin “Magic” Johnson Park — is an example of what can happen when people unite to support a vision; when people rise up for community, for strength, for equity. I had the pleasure of visiting the park and community center around the time the latest phase was nearing completion. Norma García-Gonzalez, director of County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation, had generously hosted a gathering of the county’s park and recreation directors to share challenges and successes and how NRPA can support them. Among the stories we heard that day was the one told in the article.

Thanks to voters across the state of California rising up for Proposition 68, there are unprecedented resources for local community investment through parks — investment that will go where it is most needed, rooted in equity. Thanks to local community members rising up to participate in visioning and planning, the center and surrounding land have been designed to deliver spaces, programs and resources that the community members most wanted. And, thanks to the leadership, grit and determination of the Los Angeles County Parks and Recreation team, parks and recreation is rising up to strengthen the resilience, health and well-being of millions of community members.

From California to Michigan to Arizona and thousands of communities in between, park and recreation professionals and advocates, like you, are rising up for your communities. Our July Park and Recreation Month theme is a call to action for you as well. You have the opportunity to rise up to support all the members of your community, especially the ones who may not be benefiting from your essential work. Rise up and tell your stories, make your voices heard, help your community leadership understand that there is more need for what we do — and that where there is more need, there is more opportunity.

We are all tired, especially from the grueling past two years, but we also are fueled by the deep conviction we have that parks and recreation makes a huge difference in people’s lives. Story after story flows through these pages, through your community centers, onto your ballfields and playgrounds, and along your trails and green spaces. Those stories — the one from this year’s photo contest winner who hosts the annual Piestewa Fallen Heroes Sunrise Memorial event and the one from last year’s winner whose son found peace in their local park — inspire us to rise up and advocate for this incredible field.

Every day is a chance for us to ask ourselves and our community members, “What have you done for parks and rec today?” And, every day is a chance for us to answer. Today, like the sun, I rise up.

Kristine Stratton is NRPA's President and CEO.