Parks & Recreation in the Plastic Age

As humans, we have lived through the Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, but now have unofficially entered the Plastic Age.  Unfortunately, because plastics are so resistant to decomposition, archaeologists may be studying all of the water bottles, dental floss and disposable diapers that we leave behind.  

Our use of plastic can have a negative local and global impact as evidence by this albatross’ consumption of many small bits of plastic.

We know plastics are everywhere, but how prevalent is it in the parks & recreation world?  Probably more widespread than you realize. The majority of your equipment and tools are primarily made of plastics or have elements of plastic in them.  Your programs?  Many of them rely heavily on a single-use plastic items.  Events?  I’ll just say balloons and bottles of water.  What about in your parks?  Check your trash & recycling cans and the edges of your woods because I’m sure you’ll find evidence of visitors bringing and leaving items behind.  

There is no doubt that plastics aren’t going away, but much like naturalizing our neighborhood parks, the parks & recreation field has an opportunity to lead by example and reduce its use of plastics for the betterment of everyone.  At the same time, this approach could save your department money.  

Simple ways to get started:

  • Buy high quality, commercial grade tools and supplies to reduce the frequency of breaking and needing to be replaced.
  • Borrow instead of buy.  Reach out to departments in your area and see if they have what you may need for that one-time use.  
  • Attempt fixing an item instead of just tossing it.  Some employees may like the challenge of making the repair and it shows you value reuse.   
  • Instead of cheap, plastic giveaway items, focus on bettering “the experience” of your participants at your events and avoid those items all together.  Those participants will remember what they did and felt well after that item has been thrown away.  
  • Avoid working with instructors that offer programs that rely on kits with excessive waste.  
  • Provide a cooler of water and encourage BYOB (bottle) at your park clean-up events.
  • Strive for at least one waste-free event a year.  Promote it as that and solicit the community for ideas of how to achieve that status. 
  • Install bottle refilling stations at your most popular parks and don’t forget to publicize it.
  • Consider and purchase products that are made of plastic alternatives such as hemp, paper or bamboo.  

While we each have the pleasure of hosting thousands of people a year at our parks, programs and events, we also have an obligation to do so in a way that shows thoughtfulness towards our environment and lessens our impact as much as possible.   

PRPS Scholarships: A Way to Boost Your Career

The Pennsylvania Recreation & Park Society (PRPS) offers a variety of scholarships for students and professionals in the Park and Recreation field. Applying for one of these scholarships can provide you with the opportunity to attend our annual Conference & Expo on March 17-20, 2020 at Seven Springs Mountain Resort for FREE!

At the Conference & Expo, you will have the opportunity to engage and network with professionals, gain new ideas and learn best practices from experts in the field, stay on top of industry trends, and learn about innovative products and services to take your career to the next step.

Recent student scholarship recipient, Abbie Miller, shares her experience as a Conference & Expo attendee: “The Annual PRPS conference and expo is a great way to network and learn new experiences about the field. Being a student means that I am always learning and attending this conference truly has helped provide me with new information on different avenues that I can take my career options with in the future. This was my second year going to this conference and I hope I can make it for a third next year!”

PRPS offers four student scholarships, which cover the cost of registration, meals, and lodging to attend the Conference & Expo.   The Crawford Scholarship also includes a $500 scholarship award.

Andy Memorial Scholarship – Temple University undergraduate in the School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management

Crawford Memorial Scholarship – Full-time student in the Recreation & Parks major

Jones Memorial Scholarship – Full-time student in the Recreation & Parks major

Williamson Memorial Scholarship – Full-time Penn State University undergraduate in the Recreation, Park & Tourism Management major attending the University Park campus

PRPS offers three scholarships for professionals in the field, who are interested in furthering their careers through conference attendance and other professional development opportunities.

The PRPS Professional Scholarships are:

Milliren Professional Scholarship – Recreation & park professional who has worked three years or less in the field.  Scholarship provides $500 toward the cost of attending the PRPS Annual Conference & Expo

Snyder Community Service Award – Recreation & park agency that provides recreation services to persons with disabilities on an ongoing basis.  Scholarship provides registration, meals and lodging for one agency representative to attend the PRPS Annual Conference & Expo

PRPS Career Advancement Scholarship – PRPS member wishing to attend Professional Trainings & Conference or obtain Professional Certification.  Maximum award of $500 toward continuing education registration fees.

In addition to our Conference and Expo scholarships, we also offer two scholarships, which provide registration and lodging to attend the Therapeutic Recreation Institute.

The Therapeutic Recreation Scholarships are:

Moyer Memorial Scholarship – Current PRPS Therapeutic Recreation Branch member holding CPRP, CPRE, or CTRS certification

TRI Scholarship – Current PRPS member

The online form is now available for the Student Scholarships. Apply today! For more details on the scholarships visit

Tool Shed Update: Mythbusting Your To Do List

Everyone has a busy season. The retail community is approaching their busy season, CPAs are swamped during tax time, and a majority of those in the Recreation Profession feel the crush during the summer months. This is a generalization and there’s no doubt that ones busy season can vary depending on your branch and/or project load. However with regards to the Rec Professional, this spring/ summer was no different for this humble public servant.

Last summer I wrote about the figurative tools in our tool shed, and how having the correct tool makes all the difference. I’ve always been big on using lists to help organize and keep my due dates and tasks in the forefront. However, my tried and true list system was failing me. I needed an upgrade! The number of tasks I was adding to my list kept growing and items were getting buried as new additions were creeping into the margins. I found myself scanning my lists repeatedly to make sure I wasn’t overlooking something. Not efficient. Not productive.

Fortunately for me, I stumbled across an update that would enable me to glance at my sheet and have a cleaner grasp at the days work ahead. Adam Savage of “Mythbusters” fame was discussing a listing method he uses to keep track of his projects. This is the part of the blog where you may be asking, “Is this guy comparing, not forgetting to order port-a-johns to the certified smarty pants that built a working Iron Man suit?” Guilty as charged. I can get pretty dorky about my lists, so this may be more impactful for me than others. On the plus side, it’s incredibly simple to implement!

The system in a nutshell is as follows:

(i.e. get ready for some hot list talk)

Instead of numbering or making a dash or dot beside the items in your To Do List, draw a little box to the left of each task. Use that box to then illustrate the completion process of that task. For instance, if you’re half way done with a project, shade that box in half way. If you’ve only just begun a task, shade the box a quarter of the way.


I fell in love with the clean look of this easy-to-grasp method.  Where in the past, when I completed a task, I was sloppily crossing out the task and my lists became muddled and not reader friendly. With the box method, when a task is complete, the box will be completely shaded in and I still have complete visibility of what the task was.  See Wired article for more details.

At the time of this discovery, I was working on special event prep, writing a grant, working with consultants on a pool feasibility study, and trying not to lose track of my everyday responsibilities.  I ended up making an 11 x 17 mega list with four quadrants and then implemented the box listing to those quadrants depending on the topic.  Top left was Fun Food Fest, bottom left was my grant, top right was the feasibility study, and bottom right was everything else.


My pride and joy.

This solution clearly tickled me, as I’ve now written a 500 word love letter illustrating the virtues of a To Do List. (Sorry ladies, I’m off the market!)  Not only did the boxes help keep me on task and organized, I felt the satisfaction of seeing those boxes fill up as tasks were closed out. The wired article listed above also discusses the momentum building that occurs when you mentally see yourself completing task after task.

I know there are more organized individuals out there than myself, and there surely are tweaks that can be made to this. (Shout out to the four-color pen club and your color coding ways!) I like to joke, but I sincerely hope this silly simple solution may increase your productivity. Share your favorite organization tips in the comments, and let’s keep our professional tool shed growing!

Outside the Cubicle!

We have all heard the metaphor to think outside the box, but is that far enough? This catchphrase has become widely used in business environments, especially by management consultants and executive coaches, and has been referenced in a number of advertising slogans. To think outside the box is to look further and to try not thinking of the obvious things, but to try thinking of things beyond them.

The world of recreational programming comes with many challenges and opportunities when creating new and exciting events and activities. Remember there isn’t anything that can not be done and there is always more than one way to get the same success.

In my 20+ years of recreational programming I’ve learned to toss the box out the window and instead think outside the cubicle. Every interaction, every event you attend, and every idea handed to you is fuel for a new event or activity. Throughout the year I attend trade shows for CAI (Community Associations Institute). At these trade shows, tables are filled with engineering firms, collection firms, banks, equipment contractors, insurance company’s, etc. Companies that really do not have much to do with recreational programming. Instead of ignoring the tables, I make it a point to approach every table and speak to every company. I make every face to face meeting count. Many of the companies I have approached at these trade shows I have asked to be a part of the annual job fair I host at the community I work for. Often times these companies have never been asked to attend a job fair. The job fair gives them the opportunity to market their company to your community, and it helps to make your job fair more successful, while also providing new opportunities for everyone involved. Furthermore, you have now built a new relationship with a company that you can ask to provide sponsorships for future events.

So remember just because “we’ve never done it this way before” doesn’t mean you can’t do it another way. Stop living in a 3 dimensional world and think outside the cubicle!

“The World is But a Canvas to the Imagination” ~ Henry David Thoreau

5 Levels of Leadership

EverWear Whirling Climb

The neighborhood playground where I grew up contained an old but popular multilevel merry-go-round – the EverWear Whirling Climb, it was called – “40 and more children at one time!” Mounted above its rotating platform were three higher levels of successively smaller diameter.

The wildest ride was always found on the crowded, lowest level where centrifugal force could fling you out on the grass, where your head could continue to spin. Climbing to the second level where it was less crowded, but where you could grasp the rail, offered an easier go-around. On the third level, where there were even fewer riders, it took only one hand to anchor your soul to the earth while turning in a smaller orbit. But the pinnacle of derring-do was in achieving the post-top of the merry-go-round, where there was room for only one to stand, unassisted by any device, save your own guts, and pivot eight feet in air.

(By today’s safety standards, it was a veritable spinning factory of kid-tested hard knocks—it’s truly a wonder that so many of us survived such childhoods!)

In his excellent book, 5 Levels of Leadership, John Maxwell describes the advantages and challenges of each level of leadership, as well as the beliefs and behaviors that enable the ascendant professional to continue the climb to the pinnacle position. But as that old whirler illustrates, those who strive to rise through the various levels of organizational leadership must contend with the particular challenges of each successive level to attain the top spot.

(Maxwell’s book formed the basis for many leadership lessons with the participants in the first PRPS Leadership Academy, which hosted its in-person workshop in September. The participants are still working on a Class Project—to be revealed soon for the engagement of all PRPS Members!)

Can you identify the levels at which you are currently operating? (You won’t be at the same level with every person you lead!) What level do you aspire to?

Level 1. Rights. People follow because they have to. At its lowest level, leadership is a matter of title only, where potential is recognized and some authority is awarded. However, those who rely on their position to force others to follow often wind up devaluing them. Emphasizing rights over responsibilities can strand both the leader and the organization at this lowest level. Because the organization cannot function on a level higher than its leader, the best people bolt for better business elsewhere.

Like the crowded merry-go-round, leadership is difficult at this lowest level, where forces tend to keep both people and priorities unsettled. The astute positional leader, therefore, realizes that rights are not enough, and people, not position, is his or her greatest asset. She must aspire higher!

Level 2. Relationships. People follow because they want to. The leader builds a foundation of relationships that focuses on the value of other people, creating an enjoyable and energetically-charged atmosphere nurturing trust, two-way communication, and possibilities.

Relational leadership eases the wayward pull on the followers, yet the upwardly-mobile leader understands that relationships alone are not enough. He or she must also deliver the goods!

Level 3. Results. People follow because of what you have done for the organization. Productivity brings reality to the vision, momentum to the mission, and credibility to the leader as others clamber aboard for the ride to results. The results-oriented leader helps people define, commit to, and experience the success of the vision.

Although exertion declines as the leader ascends, he or she realizes that productivity is not enough to reach the next level; developing people is where that’s at.

Level 4. Reproduction. People follow because of what you have done for them. Developing people is a distinctly higher level than most leaders reach, but it ensures that organizational growth can be sustained. Because only leaders can develop other leaders, level 4 leaders focus on recruiting, modeling, equipping and empowering their people to succeed as leaders themselves.

Level 5. Respect. People follow because of who you are and what you represent. Pinnacle leaders create a legacy within the organization and extend their vision and influence beyond what they could see on the lowest level. Honing all their skills, they and their followers develop a collective strength equal to the expanded mission.

While it takes considerable time, commitment and growth to rise through each level of leadership, going the other direction can happen very quickly! (As a couple of my old playground pals can attest!) But the time to mount the ascent is now. Assemble your followers, treat them right, teach them well, and together climb!

It’s time to get smashed!!!


Not you and me…it’s time for spotted lantern-flies (SLF) to get smashed! Last fall, East Goshen Township did a SLF “Smash a Thon” and it was a ton of fun! We kicked off the campaign at our Pumpkin Festival with a proverbial “first pitch” as I dressed up in a SLF costume and let the kids wack me with pool noodles!

This fall, I figured it was time to challenge some of my friends across the great state of Pennsylvania! After all, many of us are increasingly being affected by this devious, little invasive species! The 2019 fall campaign dates will be Monday, October 7th through Thursday, October 31st and our goal is 1,000,000 smashed SLFs!

Here’s how it will work!

  1. Register your community by emailing me at
  2. Download the official smash score sheet at:
  3. Market to your community however you see fit – feel free to give weekly prizes etc.
  4. Weekly scoring will be totals from Sunday to Saturday for a given week.
    1. 1 point – Smashing one SLF
    2. 50 points – scraping one egg mass
    3. 100 points – having a tree treated or removing a Tree of Heaven
  5. Email me your community totals each Monday by 12pm to be posted to the leader board on the PRPS Facebook page at
  6. The winning community will have the most SLF smashes per resident (to make the playing field even) as of the end of October 31st.
  7. I encourage everyone to have fun with it! Have residents post pictures to #SLFsmashcampaign and your social media pages!
  8. The community that ultimately comes out on top will win bragging rights, and the much coveted “Golden Fly Swatter”, to be presented at the PRPS Fall Membership Meeting.

Let’s get smashing!

Future Professionals Take the Stage

Future Professionals can now compete for the opportunity to present posters during the PRPS Annual Conference & Expo. This shows our association’s continued commitment to supporting students. As a student myself, I think this is a great addition to the conference! Not only do selected students receive a potential discounted rate on presentation day, they also gain valuable skills and experience.

I first attended the conference in 2017. LHU’s Student Recreation Society held an interest meeting to tell students more about the benefits, and while I was interested, it was my first semester as a recreation management major. I thought, “Maybe save it for next year.” However, my professor, Dr. Dombroski, pulled me aside and said, “Would you be interested in assisting with my presentation at the PRPS conference?” Three weeks into my first semester and an offer like this is given to me? I had to take it!

Of course, I was nervous. I stuttered and couldn’t keep my hands steady while we rehearsed, but when the time came, I felt my words coming out clear and steady. The nerves didn’t completely melt away, but I did it. Before college, if you told me I would speak at a conference, in front of professionals, some of whom had been working in the field as long as I had been alive, I would have laughed. Now, I see that presentation as ripping off a scary bandage. Public speaking is an attainable skill.  

You may be asking how this relates to the poster presentations. Well, when Dr. Batty first discussed the idea with me, I felt a lightbulb click on above my head. Here is the chance for other students to have the same experience I did, but in a way that would be (hopefully) a little less nerve-wracking. This opportunity shows that PRPS continues to be committed to its student members.

Last spring, a handful of students presented research at the conference. It was great to see so many professionals stopping to connect with students and ask about their work! If you have a student or intern who has ideas you think should be shared, don’t hesitate: Encourage them to send in their poster topic for the chance to present.

Look for more details to come out in the conference and expo registration guide!