Sustainability Means Walking the Talk

March 28, 2024, Department, by Vitisia Paynich

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

As I write this month’s column, the Texas Panhandle is battling the Smokehouse Creek fire that has engulfed more than 1 million acres, killed two people, destroyed about 500 structures and reached 74 percent containment, according to Texas A&M Forest Service. What’s more, this massive blaze currently stands as the largest and most devastating fire in the Lone Star State’s history and the second-largest wildfire in U.S. history. Although this isn’t the news that I long to share for our Conservation issue, this tragedy serves as a stark reminder that we all have a responsibility to protect our natural environment and to preserve our planet’s ecosystem for future generations. For the park and recreation field, these efforts begin with adopting equitable sustainability practices “for the more than 11 million acres of public land that it collectively manages.”

Of course, our sustainability work is not exclusive to our public lands, but also impacts our shared waterways. In the cover story, “Yamaha Rightwaters,” on page 32, contributor Joshua Grier shines a light on the organization’s efforts to collaborate with other nonprofits and key stakeholders to not only help clean up our marine habitat, but also to advocate for legislation that supports resources for restoring and protecting marine life from non-Indigenous species. “In addition to combating the spread of non-Indigenous species directly, Yamaha Rightwaters’ efforts include connecting experts together to help educate the public and enact change on management practices,” Grier notes.

Back on land, NRPA’s Michele White profiles seven park and recreation agencies across the country that have participated in our Resilient Park Access program in the article, “Building Equitable and Resilient Communities,” on page 38. White explains that through this cohort and with “grant funding and technical assistance from NRPA,” these cities have helped “to advance equitable environmental resilience at the local level” by embracing a three-layer system change mindset.

Lastly, in the article, “Dynamic Park Design,” on page 44, author Gracie Swansburg highlights how high-tide waters, massive flooding and seawall breaches caused by storm surge compelled Boston-area parks to make dramatic improvements using climate-resilient design practices.

These real-world case studies are a testament to our field’s commitment to creating park and recreation infrastructure that, according to NRPA’s Sustainability in Parks and Recreation report, “helps mitigate the impact of severe weather and climate change while agencies develop resources to improve tree canopy equity, help native habitats flourish and reduce the climate impacts from their own activities.” After all, true and meaningful sustainability is about walking the talk.

Vitisia Paynich is Executive Editor of Parks & Recreation Magazine and Director of Print and Online Content at NRPA.