The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is the leading not-for-profit organization dedicated to building strong, vibrant and resilient communities through the power of parks and recreation. NRPA advances this vision by investing in and championing the work of park and recreation professionals as a catalyst for positive change in service of equity, climate-readiness, and overall health and well-being.

NRPA’s network of more than 60,000 park and recreation professionals and advocates represents public spaces in urban communities, rural settings and everything in between. NRPA champions and supports the field of parks and recreation through professional development, advocacy, grants and programs, research, publications and more.

Every day, in communities across the country, the people of parks and recreation are providing essential services and confronting the most pressing issues of our time — advancing mental and physical health, creating climate-ready parks, supporting equity and inclusion, and so much more. We know we cannot solve these challenges alone. By partnering with like-minded organizations — including non-profits, government agencies, academics and corporate leaders — we bring strength to our programs and mission.

Our Mission

To advance parks, recreation and environmental conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people.

Our Vision

We seek a future where the full power of parks and recreation is widely recognized for creating a better life for everyone by building strong, healthy and resilient communities.

We advance this vision by investing in and championing the profession as a catalyst of positive change for equity, climate readiness and overall well-being.


Our Beginnings

The early roots of NRPA lie in the industrial revolution — the birth of manufacturing, cities and rapid urbanization. As open spaces disappeared and people moved into more densely concentrated neighborhoods, it was clear that a lack of green space for play and recreation had detrimental effects on our society. NRPA’s origins can be found in:

  • The early 1900s push to create safe spaces for children to play.
  • The determination in 1928 that thoughtful design, planning and maintenance of parks and recreation facilities is a “community duty”.
  • The recognition in the 1940s and ‘50s that recreation provides important therapeutic benefit.

On August 14, 1965, five founding organizations merged to create the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) — the National Recreation Association (NRA), American Institute of Park Executives (AIPE), American Recreation Society (ARS), the National Conference on State Parks (NCSP), and the American Association of Zoological Parks and Aquariums (an affiliate of AIPE). These founders, who fostered our country’s early park movements, set out to accomplish goals that we carry on today. These include fostering excellence in parks and recreation, engaging communities, cultivating public demand for high quality parks and recreation, and elevating the role of our field.

The world has changed since the beginning of NRPA’s story, but one thing has remained ever true, parks and recreation are essential to healthy people and communities. Everyone deserves a great park. And great parks depend on our community heroes – park and recreation professionals.


Learn More About NRPA

News Stories