Earlier this month I was in Houston for the National Recreation and Park Association’s (NRPA) Congress and Expo 2013. The NRPA Board invited its partners and vendors to submit responses to five questions:
- What are three trends that are impacting public parks? How will these trends impact the country and/or the association?
- What are three trends that are impacting the parks and recreation professional?
- How will these trends impact the country and/or the association?
- NRPA recently embraced three pillars: health and wellness, conservation and social equity due to the critical role park and recreation play in these areas. Do you think that agencies are effectively positioned to make a meaningful impact in these areas? If not, what would agencies need in order to be considered a “player” in these three areas?
- What resources or data can you provide that supports your ideas/positions?
- What makes your company uniquely able to talk about these issues?
Once on site, the group discussed at length the various issues facing the industry. Our conversations were thought-provoking and the general outlook was positive regarding the future of parks and recreation.
Specifically, I addressed why the park itself needs to change in two fundamental ways to stay relevant: the experience offered and the story told about it.
Once upon a time, the value of parks was beyond debate. But that is no longer true because there have been significant changes in society that affect how public outdoor recreation places are viewed, including budget cuts and technology enabling more sedentary lifestyles.
I stressed that parks and recreation professionals will still play a huge role in the future of parks. But there must be a strategy shift. The industry as a whole must stop playing defense and start playing offense. And instead of using logic to fuel our arguments, we must start using emotion, both ours and that of those we serve. Only then will we be able to appeal to people’s innate desire for outdoor community play spaces.
How do you envision the parks of the future?