Date published: December 1, 2011
Perhaps it was keynote speaker Tony Hawk who set the tone for the most upbeat NRPA Congress in recent years when he encouraged parks and recreation professionals to "do what you love to do-love going to work." With that directive in mind, a record number of more than 7,000 professionals, citizen advocates, and exhibitors went forth and enjoyed everything the Atlanta meeting had to offer, from in-depth education sessions to spectacular socials to a massive trade show bustling with renewed energy.
Outgoing Chair Janna Rankin kicked off the Opening General Session on Tuesday morning, November 1st. She discussed how park and recreation professionals and supporters must rally behind advocacy efforts as saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund in order to protect the legacies of giants such as Frederick Law Olmsted, Gifford Pinchot, and Jane Addams. America's Backyard provides a vehicle to engage the support of all Americans, she said, because play is essential for a balanced life and now is not the time to back away.
NRPA is mobilizing the country through America's Backyard, concurred Outgoing President Dianne Hoover, who said that parks and recreation agencies are on the front line in keeping Americans healthy and happy. She also touched on the year's natural disasters to hit parks, the recent urban parks roundtable on sustainable funding, and the launch of the PRORAGIS benchmarking database system. She described new opportunities for professionalism, such as the NRPA Connect online networking system, the Certified Parks and Recreation Executive level certification, and reaching the milestone of 100 accredited parks and recreation agencies.
With Hoover serving as the last professional member president of NRPA, the Board of Directors voted to bestow the president's title on CEO Barbara Tulipane. Tulipane urged parks and recreation agencies to get ahead of the curve in these tough economic times by embracing a conservation message. Research performed for the America's Backyard initiative has revealed that the protection of open space and natural resources especially resonates with the public. The NRPA Conservation Task Force released its new report on best practices in conservation in Atlanta (see the November 2001 issue of Parks & Recreation), and Tulipane noted that parks must be a player in solving environmental challenges.
Keynote Address: Not a Subculture Anymore
"Hi, my name is Tony Hawk. I'm 43 years old and I'm a professional skateboarder," laughed Hawk, whose low-key and self-deprecating speaking style soon won over the thousands in the audience. Hawk briefly described his childhood and how skating improved his self-confidence, despite a lack of public skating facilities. After surviving the tough period when skating became "uncool," Hawk's career turned around with the extreme sports movement and he found that he now had a voice people would listen to.
So he founded the Tony Hawk Foundation, which has funded $3.9 million in skatepark construction in low-income areas in 49 states. Saying that the foundation is the most rewarding work he does, Hawk noted skatepark communities often serve as second families for kids. Many kids are transformed by the process of working to build a skatepark in their community, becoming impassioned advocates and engaged members of the community. He challenged communities to pay attention and support and understand these kids. With more kids skating than playing Little League, "it's not a subculture anymore," he said.
The new skatepark at the Historic Fourth Ward Park in Atlanta was the foundation's 400th skatepark, and Hawk said it serves as an example of the empowerment he would like to see in every community. The foundation offers a resource guide to give the steps to involve kids in the process and communicate the value of skateparks to community leaders. Skating is growing globally, Hawk said, so more skateparks are needed to broaden the fan base.
"Kids are very appreciative and thankful for a world-class skatepark," he said. "Look beyond the hair and tattoos-these are valuable members of the community."
An Aquatic Playground
After the Opening General Session, the doors opened to the trade show, featuring more than 400 exhibitors. A multitude of huge, colorful playgrounds rose from the trade show floor, while a steady flow of foot traffic helped exhibitors catch the meeting's upbeat vibe. Some of the more eye-catching exhibits included, appropriately enough, a skateboard ramp (with frequent live demonstrations) and 3-D ride simulator.
Meanwhile upstairs, dozens of continuing education sessions covered topics including citizen advocacy; employee and volunteer management; healthy lifestyles; leadership and management; planning, design, and maintenance; public relations and marketing; recreation programming; revenue and customer service; and sports. Most of the rooms were fairly full, with vigorous question-and-answer session interaction. the popular pRoRAGis session even overfl owed out into the corridor (see article page 64).
immersed in the underwater world at tuesday evening's social at the magnifi - cent Georgia Aquarium, attendees could pet sting rays, see beluga whales being fed, or while the evening away watching giant whale sharks lazily cruise past a twostory viewing window. on Wednesday, attendees could choose between the Quiz bowl, the best of the best Reception (see below), or networking dinners at local restaurants. thursday's night planned reception in centennial park was forced inside the congress center by rain, but that didn't dampen the spirits of those who hit the dance fl oor until late into the night.
Best of the Best and Gold Medals
A special "best of the best" reception on Wednesday evening, november 2nd, honored the national Award winners and the agencies receiving cApRA accreditation in Atlanta (see article page 59). the 2011 national Awards recognized the inspirational people and outstanding programs that remind us daily of the phenomenal work being done in the fi eld of parks and recreation. the honorees were individuals, agencies, and corporations that have made outstanding professional and volunteer contributions to parks, recreation, and environmental conservation.
*barb king environmental leadership- Jean "susie" schreiber
*barb king environmental stewardship- city of boulder parks & Recreation, colorado
*Dorothy Mullen Arts and humanities class i-summer entertainment series, Fairfax county park Authority, Virginia
*Dorothy Mullen Arts and humanities class ii-bimbé cultural Arts Festival, city of Durham parks and Recreation, north carolina
*Dorothy Mullen Arts and humanities class iii-south Westminster Arts Group, Westminster, colorado
*Dorothy Mullen Arts and humanities class iV-big Deal productions, buff alo Grove park District, illinois
*excellence in inclusion-Agency- city of Miami Dept of parks and Recreation, Florida
*excellence in inclusion-individual- terri Johnson
*excellence in Military Recreation- Joint base pearl harbor-hickam MWR, pearl harbor, hawaii
*excellence in teaching- Gwynn M. powell
*excellence in Water safety- Make A splash, Recreation and parks, bakersfi eld, california
*national health & Fitness-indy parks Fitness & nutrition education program, indianapolis, indiana
*national humanitarian-corporate- Fairfax county park Foundation, Virginia
*kudos Marketing campaign-Fox Valley park District, Aurora, illinois
*kudos Marketing piece-Fairfax county park Authority, Virginia
*kudos public Relations-oc parks, irvine, california
*national literary-Robert e. Manning
*national partnership-city of bell Gardens, california
*park or Facility Design class i- Johnson creek, Arlington, texas
*park or Facility Design class ii- bethesda park, Durham, north carolina
*Ralph c. Wilson Award- ernest W. burkeen, Jr.
*theodore and Franklin Roosevelt Award for excellence in Recreation & park Research-David scott
*Recognition of signifi cant eff orts (R.o.s.e.)-christopher Williams
*national Voluntary service- harold l. strickland
*national Distinguished citizen- Dennis Flanagin
*national Distinguished professional- John F. Whitmore
*national new professional- tiff any Johnson
*Robert W. crawford Young professional-kara kish
in addition, nRpA network Awards are designed to honor nRpA members for their signifi cant eff orts in specialized areas of parks and recreation. individuals were chosen for their contributions to advancing the movement through professional service, volunteerism, and education. Recipients- nominated from nRpA's 20,000 members-were chosen by the association's interest area and regional networks.
*citizen network-Dennis Flanagin
*pacifi c northwest network- Jackie McAvoy
*Aquatics network-John F. Whitmore
*Armed Forces network-sherry Yates
*Great lakes network-Rita Fletcher
*Mid-Atlantic network- thomas J. shuster
*Midwest network-colleen craig-Davis
*new england network-Mark berry
*park Resources network- ernest W. burkeen, Jr.
*southern network-cindy Messinger
*Aquatics network-beth Gegogeine
*Armed Forces network- elaine-Jane Mitchell
*Mid-Atlantic network-tiff any Johnson
*Great lakes network-kara kish
*pacifi c northwest network-tim barker
*southwest network-christian D. Moore
*Young professional network- Michael D. clark
*outstanding Graduate student- Michael bradley
*outstanding undergraduate student- shaun patrick Miller
*outstanding student club- ARM/A.s.c.o.t.s., texas state university-san Marcos
At the opening General session, the prestigious Gold Medal awards were presented in fi ve population classes. in partnership with nRpA, the American Academy for park and Recreation Administration administers the national Gold Medal Awards for excellence in park and Recreation Management program. Musco lighting llc sponsors the awards program. the 2011 Gold Medal Grand plaque recipients were:
*class V (population less than 25,000)- city of Fairfax parks and Recreation Department, Virginia
*class iV (population 25,001-50,000)- town of parker parks and Recreation, colorado
*class iii (population 50,001-100,000)- city of Waukesha parks, Recreation and Forestry, Wisconsin
*class ii (population 100,001-250,000)- city of lakewood Department of community Resources, colorado
*class i (population 250,000 and over)- portland parks and Recreation, oregon
*state park system-Michigan
nRpA prides itself on off ering park and recreation professionals the best in educational opportunities, networking, and advancement through the Annual congress and exposition. Attendee feedback is being used to continue to improve and provide the best congress experience. Join us next year october 16-18, 2012 in Anaheim, california.