Data Leads Us to Larger Discussions

October 26, 2023, Department, by Vitisia "Vi" Paynich

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

NRPA’s Research and Evaluation team provides timely and informative research studies that enlighten us about the park and recreation field and help us to navigate this ever-evolving landscape. This month’s “Research and Evaluation” issue highlights other important research that experts and innovative organizations are sharing with the park and recreation community. No matter if it’s NRPA original research or studies published by academic institutions or independent research firms, park and recreation data is meant to lead us to larger discussions.

In the cover story, “Planning for Equitable Greening,” on page 34, contributor Estrella Sainburg shares research-based case studies showing how cities are working to mitigate gentrification and displacement due to greening by incorporating equity and anti-displacement strategies into their system master plans. “Focusing research on gentrified neighborhoods is important and valuable for organizing and planning government services that properly meet the needs of communities and create equitable futures,” Sainburg writes.

Next, author Paula Jacoby-Garrett offers insights into how park and recreation agencies are supporting their constituents’ right to free speech and assembly while providing a safe and inclusive environment in the feature article, “Parks as Public Forums,” on page 40. What steps should be taken to make this possible? “Organizers and participants should undergo relevant training to ensure the responsible and effective use of parks as public forums. Training might include guidelines on respectful behavior, conflict resolution, waste management and emergency response procedures,” notes Jacoby-Garrett.

In the article, “Rural Communities Can Have Fun, Too!” on page 46, contributor Michael Patton discusses his experiences living and working in a small town — revealing the rewards and challenges. According to Patton, working “in a rural park and recreation agency means being more than just an employee — it means becoming an integral part of a close-knit community, contributing to its growth and experiencing the joy of making a meaningful difference in the lives of its residents.” However, he admits, “there also are unique challenges that come with this setting,” including lack of financial resources, community partnerships and collaborations, and sufficient staffing. What’s more, Patton offers tips for overcoming these hurdles.

Lastly, be sure to visit NRPA’s Publications and Research webpage to download some of NRPA’s latest reports, including the 2023 Engagement With Parks Report and 2023 NRPA Agency Performance Review. The data will help inform your decisions and, hopefully, lead to larger discussions with your staff, elected officials and your community members.

Vitisia “Vi” Paynich is Executive Editor and Director of Print and Online Content at NRPA.