A Season of Transformation

April 25, 2024, Department, by Kristine Stratton

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

It’s wonderful to be digging into the May issue, as spring is such a productive transition time for our field. Park and recreation professionals across the country are onboarding seasonal staff, gearing up for the big summer program push and managing what is often an intensive season for capital projects. The demanding nature of spring and summer programming on facilities and assets often can put into high relief the need for new designs, features and spaces. Spring isn’t just a time for transition; at its heart, it is a time for transformation.

The spring cycle in nature is a powerful one — with wild rain and windstorms, tiny seedlings breaking through the soil, wildlife looking for mates, and that special something in the air that smells of newness. In parks and recreation, spring means evaluating operating budgets, assessing equipment, getting fields in top condition for the busy summer season and revisiting capital budgets. It means filling gaps in special event schedules and thinking creatively about community engagement and revenue-generating opportunities. Spring is a forceful mix of challenge and possibility. In the same way that nature transforms from season to season, I invite you to think about how spring can be transformative for your work. In this month’s issue, we have three feature articles that are all about transformation and the power of creativity mixed with perseverance.

Spring is a great time to pull out the maps and revisit plans with a fresh perspective. Reading the story of Bonnet Springs Park in Lakeland, Florida, on page 34, will inspire that fresh perspective. Many of you have assessed your park-to-community ratios and the percentage of community members with access to parks, green spaces and recreation opportunities. Our colleagues in Lakeland did the very same but didn’t stop there. They identified a parcel of land and set about transforming that land from a harmful brownfield into a space that will deliver powerful health benefits to their community and visitors for years to come.

The impacts of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continue to reverberate. In the same way that parks and recreation served as a beacon of hope during the worst of it, our field continues to grow in demand and expectations. Look at virtually any downtown business district occupancy rates and remote-work figures and you can see opportunities for parks and recreation. Both constituencies — businesses and home-based workers — want amenities that serve their health and well-being needs. Parks, green spaces and recreation opportunities are in increasing demand. How are you leveraging this time to think differently about serving the community? “The COVID-19 Factor,” on page 40, sheds light on this.

Finally, May is National Water Safety Month, so this month is always a vital opportunity to promote water safety and the water features in your communities. In the spirit of channeling that spring creativity, “Designing Modern Aquatics Centers,” on page 44, is full of creative ideas, case studies and advice on how to think differently about your aquatics assets.

As always, in Parks & Recreation magazine we seek to lift up your stories, shed light on trends, and reveal creative approaches to solving problems and serving communities. This spring, in keeping with the season of productivity and transformation, we are squeezing in as many of these ideas as possible!

What unexplored opportunities for transformation exist in your community?

Kristine Stratton is NRPA's President and CEO.