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Park and recreation professionals across the country play a pivotal role in building resilient communities through equitable and sustainable practices. Resilient communities can withstand natural disasters and persist through hardship. As green space throughout the United States has become more scarce, new benefits of parks are being realized, such as designing new and existing parks to manage stormwater using green infrastructure principles. With park and recreation professionals being one of the largest groups of land managers in the nation, it is important that they are equipped with the knowledge and resources to do so effectively and efficiently. Implementing green stormwater infrastructure into parks with a goal of equitably benefiting communities can help ensure open space is used to its full potential, providing multiple environmental and social benefits — especially to those who have historically lacked them. According to the EPA, the benefits of incorporating green infrastructure include:
- Improving water and air quality
- Sustaining natural habitats for wildlife
- Reducing a community’s long-term infrastructure costs
- Helping combat the impacts of climate change
- Increasing publicly available recreation areas for urban residents
Given the many benefits of incorporating green stormwater infrastructure into parks, it is still up to the park professional to have the skills and knowledge to implement and manage these systems. With community resilience at the core of its mission, NRPA is committed to advancing the field of parks and recreation by helping communities across the nation implement and evaluate the impact of green infrastructure in new and practical ways. To support agencies across the country as they adopt green infrastructure principles, since 2019, NRPA has made a concentrated effort to develop resources, training and certificates to advance the field’s expertise.
NRPA has supported park professionals in undergoing the National Green Infrastructure Certification Program (NGICP). To date, NRPA has helped 92 professionals across 30 different states receive their national certification. The program is intended to provide the base-level skill set needed for entry-level workers to properly construct, inspect and maintain green infrastructure. Upon completion of training, scholarship recipients will be eligible to sit for the national exam to secure their NGICP certification.
In addition to the NGICP, in October 2023, NRPA offered scholarships to a cohort of 30 park and recreation professionals from diverse backgrounds and various agencies across the nation to complete NRPA’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure (GSI) Certificate Program. This program provides park and recreation professionals with introductory knowledge and tools to promote, oversee, advance and operate GSI in their park systems. Park and recreation professionals new to the field or those looking to gain knowledge in the area will be prepared to work collaboratively across departments and partnerships to enhance their community resilience with GSI in parks.
The GSI Certificate provides a comprehensive step-by-step learning forum online in nine course modules and a review course module. This certificate program provides participants with the assurance and foundation to successfully oversee a GSI project or program — from planning to evaluation and every step in between. The course modules provide real case studies and knowledge checks for successful knowledge advancement. The online courses have been designed with the working professional in mind and are self-paced. Successful applicants of this certificate will be able to:
- Demonstrate a strong commitment to working in parks
- Clearly articulate their personal and professional interest in the green infrastructure certificate program
- Describe how the training will support current or future projects within their agency and community
Through both programs, NRPA seeks to help build more resilient communities nationwide. For additional NRPA green infrastructure resources, click here.
Justin Taylor is a Program Specialist at NRPA.