Pennsylvania Park and Recreation Professionals Day is July 19

PRPS_Park&Recreation_ProfessionalsDayIt’s a safe bet we can all agree on the following. That when:

•   you visit a park, it is clean, safe, and ready to use.
•   your family goes swimming, the lifeguards are well-trained and the water quality is optimal.
•   your grandchild visits the playground, you know it is maintained to all safety standards.
•   your loved one with a disability wants to camp, swim, paddle or fish, all facilities are well-marked, well-maintained and easily accessible.
•   you attend a public festival, all safety and security systems are capable and functioning.
•   your elderly parents look for enriching and companionable activities, they can always find them.
•   your children attend day camp, you are certain of their safe and appropriate physical, cognitive and social development.
•   you visit urban woodlands, gardens and greenspaces, the attractive assets are well-cared for and healthy.
•   your teens participate in youth sports, they thrive in the coaching, playing, and growing.
•   you want to bike to the park, grocery store, library or work, you are able to make those connections, free from all hazards.

I believe we can agree that these are all reasonable expectations of our park and recreation facilities and programs. And since they are, it is fitting to credit the park and recreation professionals who provide them.

The third Friday in July is Pennsylvania Park and Recreation Professionals Day. It honors the men and women who work tirelessly behind the scenes to provide the high quality programs and facilities we desire and expect in our parks and public spaces.

On July 19, we invite all Pennsylvanians to visit a park and enjoy its facilities and services in a tribute to all our park and recreation providers. And just perhaps they’ll mention a little thanks to the programmer, manager, maintainer, landscaper, facilitator, lifeguard, coach, event organizer or caretaker.

If you have a public event on or near Friday, July 19, we encourage you to make it an official Park and Recreation Professionals Day celebration, with special promotions and publicity. Invite your elected officials and allow them to eye-witness and publicly acknowledge your value to the community at large. Download the resources of the promotional toolkit here to assist in your local preparations. 

Park and Recreation Professionals Day is celebrated during National Park and Recreation Month, and is a function of the Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Society.

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Recreation and Parks’ Internet of Things

How parks and recreation contribute to everything important!

Love ParkHow parks and recreation contribute to everything important!

In the spirit of bringing holistic thinking and collaborative services to solving people problems, this simple list depicts how park and recreation systems contribute to improving personal and community living. By no means is it comprehensive, so please add your suggestions to expand this view!

Health & Wellness
Healthcare Costs
Healthcare Delivery
Medical Recovery & Immune Benefits
Connection to Nature for Human Health
Alleviation of Stress, Depression & AD disorders
Physical Activity & Healthy Lifestyles
Physical, Mental, Emotional Therapy
Mitigate Obesity and Chronic Diseases
Youth & Family Development
Nutrition, Healthy Food Production & Choices
Preventative Treatment for Criminal & Risky Behaviors
Prevention & Response for Opioids & Drug Abuse
Improved Functioning of People with Special Needs
Evidence-based Health Improvement Programs
Tobacco Bans in Public Spaces

Environmental Sustainability
Wildlife Habitat Preservation
Carbon Sequestration
Water Quality & Supply
Wetlands Protection & Riparian Buffers
Energy Costs & Conservation
Pollution Reduction
Air Quality
Connections to Nature
Brownfields Restoration
Climate Change
Preservation & Conservation
Heat Island Reduction
Natural Resource Management
Stormwater Management
Conservation Best Practices

Social Equity
Community & Neighborhood Engagement
Access to Economic and Socio-cultural Goods
Diversity & Inclusion
Cross-cultural Respect & Interaction
Children & Youth Services
Child Nutrition & Food Distribution
Equal Access to Parks & Recreation Services
Underserved Populations
Health Disparities
Neighborhood Green Spaces
Social Justice & Public Administration
Workforce Development

Economic Stimulation
Destination Tourism
Placemaking & Events
Concessions & Vendors
Connective Trails, Water Trails
Recreational and Cultural Attractions
Business Development & Attraction
Employment & Workforce Development
Recreation & Sports Equipment Sales
Property Values
Zoning & Enterprise Districts
Outdoor Recreation Industry
Growth of the Sharing Economy

Infrastructure & Resiliency
Multimodal transportation
Urban Planning
Traffic Mitigation
Caretaking & Maintenance
Trail Access & Connectivity
Stormwater Management
Disaster & Emergency Preparedness
“Clean, Safe & Ready-to-Use”
Climate Change Adaptation & Mitigation
Landscape Architectural Design
Facilities & Resource Management
Technologies & Work Automation
Big Data & Anticipatory Intelligence

People Development
Community Leadership
Teambuilding and Collaborations
Personal Productivity & Creativity
Student Achievement & Engagement
Risk Resilience
Creative Play
Physical, Cognitive, Social & Emotional Development
Experiential & Lifelong Learning

Community Livability
Safety & Crime Mitigation
Historical and Cultural Preservation
Community Engagement
Forums for Public Art, Entertainment & Expression
Children & Youth Services
Safeguard Park Visitors and Recreationists
Public Spaces & Green Infrastructure
Urban Blight Mitigation
Connective Trails
Public-Private Partnerships
Business Development & Attraction
Research, Public Education & Advocacy

Recreation & Leisure
Aquatics & Athletics
Parks and Park Amenities
Arenas and Event Venues
Concessions and Supplies
Healthy Competition
Nature & Environmental Centers
Hunting & Fishing
Active & Passive Leisure Activities
Cultural & Historical Interpretation
Public Assets & Spaces
Community Gardens & Special Use Spaces
Integrated Services across Disciplines & Jurisdictions
Positive Youth, Family & Adult Development
Quality & Enrichment of Life

Opening the Swiss Army knife of integrated professionalism

Sharing expertise across disciplines and jurisdictions create better solutions.

SwissknifeProfessionalism: it radiates ethics and expertise, competence and character, and a good number of other worthy virtues—all good!

And yet…

What tends to be missing from the mix is enough mixing—among other disciplines. It’s not that we don’t have enough professionalism; it’s that it’s not shared enough.

Studies show that most governments, industries and organizations fail to collaborate across business functions when meeting customer and client needs. Such silo practices create an inability or unwillingness to share data, information, resources, or collaborate with others on shared missions.

For want of collaborative agility in our fast-paced society, a response delayed is an opportunity missed, a solution lost, and a future vanished.

That missing agility-ability is particularly far-reaching in the recreation and park profession. Because modern recreation and park systems are multifaceted physical and socioeconomic structures, they daily deliver foundational needs and essential human services.

Much of what constitutes the appeal and livability of our communities is our direct connection to our public spaces and our natural and cultural assets. Their facilities and features build a strong and resilient infrastructure. Their recreational opportunities bolster our wellness and life satisfaction. Together, our park and recreation systems contribute expansively to a healthy economy, environment and society in dozens of documented, tangible ways.

Park and recreation professionals are among the highest enablers of personal and community wellness, yet are often hindered by a lack of full interagency and interdisciplinary awareness, cooperation, and integrated services. Their public effectiveness in enabling community solutions would only improve with more interaction with their counterparts in public health, social services, community development, public works, transportation, food distribution and other services.

Moreover, many governmental agencies and public organizations do not yet readily identify parks and recreation as a go-to industry to help meet pressing social and economic issues. And while they may be willing to work toward positive change, they are often hampered by politics and/or bureaucratic structures that simply cannot move quickly on opportunities, make timely and productive decisions, or efficiently contribute to innovation.

To bring integrated solutions to complex public issues, we need integrated professionalism. Like opening a sophisticated Swiss Army Knife, we need to access a wide array of sharp professional tools, resources, capabilities and systems. Not only can we then combine savvy specialists and the best resources for the job, our collective synchronization of services spawns innovation, adds value, and reduces costs.

How can park and recreation leaders fashion such a purposeful toolkit?

Begin by focusing on shared opportunities. Construct intentional working relationships within agencies and organizations whose missions coincide with yours. Educate decision-makers and stakeholders on the ways park and recreation services contribute to community wellness. Such tools may look like these:

·  Integrated Professionalism Forum. Facilitate open forums among working professionals in recreation, parks, conservation, health, public works, maintenance, transportation, resources, economic development, therapy and social work, and urban and land use planning.

·  Top Co-op Day. With help from fellow professionals, convene an annual meeting with department heads (or their empowered reps) whose duties include community and economic development, conservation and natural resources, drug and alcohol programs, education, environmental protection, health, human services, transportation, and labor and industry. Build meeting agendas from real world examples and cases of need; plot practical sharing and collaborative resolutions.

·  Cooperative Exchanges. Create themed opportunities to share joint concerns with representatives from state and county commissions who deal with crime and delinquency, children and families, rural affairs, physical fitness and sports, green government, museums and heritage, arts, opioids, etc. Invite members to Park Champion and other public recreation and park events.

These are some of the strategies outlined in PRPS’s new Strategic Plan: let’s work together to shape a sharp new collaborative future! What cutting-edge applications can you apply? What successes have you had? What other transformational tools can you suggest for more integrated professionalism?

PRPS Organizational Culture

Our collective behavior affects teamwork, productivity, quality and results – and our value.

31704567 - organizational culture word cloud on white background

At its recent meeting, the PRPS Board of Directors adopted the following statement on Organizational Culture:

The organizational culture of PRPS is expressed in the collective behavior of our leaders and members, and how our actions are perceived and received by others.

Our overarching values, beliefs and principles guide how we interact with each other, our clients, partners and stakeholders. Our behaviors affect teamwork, productivity, quality and results. That group dynamic in turn determines our corporate and community value.

To facilitate the highest levels of relevance, capacity and influence, we integrate the following core values into all operations with consistency and unity:


We uphold moral soundness in all member, partner, stakeholder and business interactions, adhering to truth, purpose, responsibility and trust.


We strive for superior workmanship, highest professional conduct, and exceptional quality productions in all endeavors.


We strive to create and lead organizational and industrial change, and develop and enable innovative solutions in strategies and results.


We respect, promote and empower diversity, inclusion, partnerships, cooperation, and multiple viewpoints and perspectives.


We practice and promote people-oriented leadership that connects diverse groups for common objectives, invests in their success, and celebrates their achievements.

By modeling, promoting, teaching, enforcing and rewarding these core values, we enable a shared future that fulfills the PRPS mission and vision.

The Member Code of Ethics and the PRPS Organizational Statement can be found on this page of the PRPS website.

50 ways parks and recreation pay out everyday!

Investment in these diverse community assets always produces a high return—with profitable benefits for all.

11174648 - multi-ethnic group of people outdoors.

Today’s recreation and parks are not your momma’s playground program! They are multifaceted physical and socioeconomic systems that daily deliver the foundational needs and essential human services of our modern existence. It’s not just fun and games anymore!

So much of what constitutes the appeal and livability of our communities is our direct connection to our public spaces and our natural and cultural assets. Their facilities and features build a strong and resilient infrastructure. Their recreational opportunities bolster our wellness and life satisfaction. Together, our park and recreation systems contribute expansively to a healthy economy, environment and society in at least 50 tangible ways—here hyperlinked to corroborating research and authenticating documentation.

  1. facilitate physical activity and healthy lifestyles
  2. advance social equity and access
  3. preserve and sustain environmental quality
  4. connect people to nature for human health benefits
  5. facilitate positive youth and family development
  6. reduce carbon footprints and pollution
  7. nurture physical, mental, emotional therapy
  8. promote healthy food production and choices
  9. create popular public spaces through green infrastructure
  10. preserve wildlife habitat and connective corridors
  11. administer preventative treatment for drug abuse, and criminal and risky behaviors
  12. reduce stormwater management costs
  13. fortify tourism and economic development
  14. improve physical, cognitive, social and emotion functioning of people with special needs
  15. foster creative play
  16. mitigate urban blight and brownfields
  17. stimulate business viability and diversity
  18. reduce heat island effects and energy costs
  19. buffer extremes of flood and drought
  20. foster community engagement
  21. develop athletic skills and healthy competition
  22. preserve and enhance biodiversity
  23. facilitate and promote public-private partnerships
  24. strengthen motor and cognitive skills in young children
  25. build experiential learning, team cooperation and leadership
  26. rejuvenate mental clarity and alleviate stress and attention deficit disorders
  27. safeguard park visitors and recreation participants
  28. foster risk resilience and independent mobility skills in children
  29. enhance property values
  30. facilitate meaningful leisure experiences contributing to quality of life
  31. provide teen mentoring, workforce preparation, and vocational training
  32. boost student performance and educational attainment
  33. administer child nutrition and food distribution programs
  34. create multimodal transportation alternatives and reduce traffic congestion
  35. reduce healthcare costs
  36. rejuvenate employee productivity and stimulate creativity
  37. provide forums for public art, entertainment and expression
  38. expedite medical recovery and boost immune systems
  39. foster diversity and cross-cultural cooperation
  40. reduce crime and increase community safety
  41. enable access to economic and socio-cultural goods
  42. improve air quality
  43. promote and regenerate community resilience, cohesion, and vibrancy
  44. generate $140 billion in economic activity and support 1 million jobs
  45. preserve and interpret historical and cultural resources
  46. reduce taxes
  47. stimulate recreation-related equipment and supplies sales
  48. mitigate youth crime and deviant juvenile behaviors
  49. establish a sense of place and belonging
  50. serve as civic repositories of social capital and community wellbeing

(Please contribute additional ways, references and resources!)

Park and recreation systems are the attractive masterpieces of our most vibrant cities and communities. It’s there we connect nature and neighborhoods for our individual, social, environmental, and economic well-being. Investment in these diverse community assets always produces a high return—with profitable benefits for all.

Don’t be a Twit

Curtailing or eliminating park and rec services only cuts off our nose to spite our face

hand on chain-link fenceRoald Dahl, the celebrated author, wrote a delightfully disgusting story for children about a wretched, extra-specially horrible couple named Mr. and Mrs. Twit. Not only are they dirty, ugly, and mean-spirited, they are also stupid, and fall prey to their own nasty tricks.

The Twits built their house without any windows, because they didn’t want every Tom, Dick and Harry peeping in to see what they were doing. It never occurred to them that it made it more of a prison than a home.

It’s the Twits I think about when I hear of another municipality cutting its recreation and park budget.

Sure, you can build a house more cheaply without windows. It’ll save on materials and labor. It may reduce heating and cooling costs. It may even save on maintenance. But who would want to live there?

I contend that recreation and park services are an integral, essential feature of any well-built, open community. They must not be mere window-dressing—just a frivolity for good times, but the first to discard when things turn grave.

Park and recreation services impact every aspect of modern living, from stimulating our economic activity and mutual wellness, to safeguarding our natural environment and collective resiliency, to strengthening our social capital and communal livability.

These essential services don’t just offer benefits to be enjoyed only in prosperity, but advance practical solutions to many of our most intractable issues. That these channels become all the more critical to real people during economic downturns, societal distresses, and natural calamities are all the more reasons to keep investing in their outcomes.

Where else are you going to find the resources and expertise to nurture physical, mental and emotional therapy? Fortify economic development and tourism? Administer food distribution programs? Reduce crime and increase community safety? Foster diversity and cross-cultural cooperation? Create transportation alternatives and reduce traffic congestion? Preserve and enhance biodiversity? Administer preventative treatment for drug abuse and risky behaviors? Facilitate positive youth and family development? Strengthen motor and cognitive skills in young children? Expedite medical recovery and boost immune systems? Raise student performance and educational attainment? Establish a sense of place and belonging? And provide many other critical services?

Through integral park and recreation systems, that’s where.

Our collective wellbeing is framed in our communities’ windows to recreation. Not only do they enhance the desirability of living and working there, shed light on the issues, enable an exchange of fresh ideas, and facilitate engagement between diverse groups where there had been only walls before, they are the most effectual conduits for progress we have.

Curtailing or eliminating them only cuts off our nose to spite our face—which is also counter to the resolve of sensible people.

A Penn State study revealed that 91 percent of Pennsylvanians support keeping existing funds dedicated to parks, recreation, trails, conservation and open space. And 82 percent support increasing funds for these purposes, even if it would cost the average household $10 more annually.

Here’s what we need to view from our window on the future: for our own good, we must continue to invest in parks, public spaces, recreation and green infrastructure.

See, it’s the windows that make the profound difference between a mausoleum and a home. Just who are we investing for? Don’t be a Twit.

Park and Recreation’s Big Picture Issues

a starting discussion to improve our industry’s comprehensive benefits.

hikingThe park and recreation profession is a diverse and comprehensive industry that improves personal, social, environmental, and economic health; promotes unifying and comprehensive solutions to societal issues; and advances standards of living wherever its unique contributions are sought and valued.

In preparation for developing a series of statewide issue-based strategic plans, I am enlisting help to articulate the big-picture issues that continue to restrict the industry’s full potential.

These issues, here in draft form, but when objectively presented and referenced, may then serve as a starting point to build political and operational strategies to improve the overall capability of the industry’s delivery of comprehensive benefits.

Please add your suggestions below to clarify or refute these issues or identify others, as well as for supporting references and strategies; or send them by September 30 to

1. Universal Value Recognition

A) Most governmental agencies and public service organizations do not readily recognize or identify a positive contributory role within their purview for parks and recreation as a go-to industry to help meet modern social issues (i.e. health, social services, public works, community development, etc.); and B) While the profession is an essential community service and problem-solver, and one of the highest enablers of wellness and life satisfaction, many professionals and volunteers don’t sufficiently engage in their responsibilities to evidence that belief.

2. Effective Business and Leadership Modeling

The traditional business model of park and recreation services is outmoded and ineffectual, as is the paradigm of autocratic leadership in a pluralist society. Many agencies lack the abilities to assimilate best management and leadership practices from nongovernmental applications, and to create publicly responsive and relevant value propositions, a performance-driven organization, sustainable funding, and compelling community leadership.

3. Sufficient and Sustainable Funding

Lack of adequate funding prolongs and exacerbates social inequities, environmental harm, and unsafe and poorly maintained facilities. It stifles economic prospects, innovative solutions, new opportunities, and responsive services, as well as the vocational appeal to new careerists.

4. Industry-wide Integration

The comprehensive park and recreation industry includes many diverse disciplines and related fields, but a lack of full and continual interagency and interdisciplinary awareness, cooperation and integrated services impedes the highest effectiveness and influence of the entire profession.

5. Professional development

Many routes lead into the dynamic industry in a changing society, but many professionals do not actively develop leadership and maintain adequate training in all competencies. Many do not seek further training after their formal educations, keep up with changes and trends in the profession, or sustain their own active learning or self-improvement plans, which effectively and continually diminish their own capabilities and influence.

6. Community Resilience

Cities and communities everywhere are facing unprecedented environmental, social, and economic challenges, which in turn make them more vulnerable to degradation and less able to restore, let alone improve, complex services and systems that meet high livability standards. In its unique central role, the park and recreation profession unites people across social, racial, and economic divides, and can be a catalyst to help communities become more resilient and better adapted to thrive.

7. State and National Leadership

While the National Recreation and Park Association provides leadership in many national issues, it remains a challenge for statewide professional associations to rise to a similar position of influence in state and regional matters. Without establishing the state association as a readily recognized industry leader and trusted change agent, interpreter of societal trends, and advocate of public policy, it cannot achieve its fullest potential in relevant capacity and profound influence for its members, profession and public.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful response!