Making a Case for Renewable Energy Resources

March 23, 2023, Department, by Vitisia "Vi" Paynich

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On May 11, 2023, the Biden administration will officially end the coronavirus (COVID-19) national health emergency declarations. Throughout these past three years, the global health community has released studies about the short- and long-term health impacts caused by COVID-19. However, one particular report worth noting comes from Boston University’s School of Public Health, which found during the first year of this global health crisis, travel by road and commercial aircraft declined by 50 and 60 percent, respectively. What’s more, when cities issued shelter-in-place mandates, air travel fell by 96 percent. Researchers discovered that “ultrafine particle concentration [air pollution] dropped by nearly 50 percent due to reduced aviation and road activity during the first few months of the pandemic.” While this data is by no means a panacea to climate change, the dramatic images of smog-free city skylines from around the world reveal what is possible when we reduce dependency on fossil fuels in favor of renewable and clean-air transportation alternatives.

This gradual change toward electric-powered vehicles and equipment used in park maintenance is highlighted in the cover story, “The Electrification of Parks and Recreation,” on page 34. NRPA Editor at Large Richard J. Dolesh takes a closer look at some of the renewable energy resources available for parks and recreation and offers insights from some field professionals who recognize their responsibility to their community and the planet. “This is a race against time,” says Andy Sheffer of Seattle Parks and Recreation. “First and foremost, this is about climate change. We want to protect and preserve the environment.”

Next, author Jennifer Fulcher shares why park and recreation agencies are pivotal to preparing for and responding to wildfires in the article, “Mitigating the Risk of Wildfires,” on page 40. Paradise (California) Recreation and Park District knows first-hand the critical role it plays in implementing these prevention efforts. In 2018, the Camp Fire that ravaged the City of Paradise became the most lethal and devastating fire in the state’s history. “Paradise has done…an amazing job, led by their rec and parks district…of really taking this on as an opportunity to look at new ways of innovating around land-use planning, building code [and] transfer of development rights,” says Jonah Susskind, senior research associate for SWA.

Lastly, contributor Mary Chow discusses the architecture industry’s decision to shift from sustainable design to design “that reconnects humans and nature through the continuous renewal of evolving socioecological systems,” in the article, “Embracing Regenerative Design,” on page 46.

This month’s Conservation issue celebrates the important sustainable work park and recreation agencies across the country are doing — from taking a community solar approach to reducing carbon emissions to helping park maintenance staff transition to electric-powered equipment in an effort to thwart climate change. These are the real-world examples that not only make a case for renewable energy resources, but also demonstrate the field’s commitment to preserving our parks and natural spaces for future generations.

Vitisia "Vi" Paynich, Executive Editor and Director of Print and Online Content, NRPA