June 2021 E-Newsletter

A Message from President Michael McCarty

Greetings my fellow Academy Members,

As we celebrate Parks and Recreation this July, we should celebrate all that our Academy members are doing to inspire, influence and advance the parks and recreation administration. We have continued to evolve as a profession and we are also evolving as an organization. The many committees and task forces continue to do amazing work. We have a great pool of mentors and mentees, we held our first series of “Conversations that Matter”, the JEDI Task Force is finalizing their recommendations for the Board and the Board and Membership Committee are developing the plans for a membership-wide discussion on membership criteria and so much more. Let’s celebrate this work and Parks and Recreation!

I also want to commend those agencies that are having meaningful dialogue around issues of race, equity, inclusion and justice. Many have chosen to show this through thoughtful actions that all people are part of their community celebrating PRIDE month and Juneteenth. NRPA continues to provide incredible resources that show the importance of these actions and how they can improve health and wellness in underserved communities and populations.

Many states have already opened up from the pandemic restrictions and others are poised to follow soon. Park and recreation agencies across the country have led in the pandemic with finding new ways to connect with our communities, providing opportunities for health and reimagining what we’re all capable of. We will once again lead out of the pandemic re-creating the new normal with new services and a new appreciation from our customers, tax payers and patrons.

Finally, congratulations to all the Finalists in the National Gold Medal Award Program. These agencies are the best of the best of our industry. Thank you to Musco Lighting for their continued support and sponsorship of this amazing award program.

See you in the parks,


Finalist agencies have been announced for the 2021 National Gold Medal Award Program. One agency will be selected as the Grand Plaque recipient in that class. Finalist agencies come from 15 different states and Germany: Minnesota, Delaware, Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Utah, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Tennessee, Illinois, Texas, California, and Germany.

Class I (population 400,001 and over)

  • Chicago Park District IL
  • Cleveland Metro Parks OH
  • Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board MN
  • Virginia Beach Parks & Recreation VA

Class II (population 150,001 – 400,000)

  • Chesterfield County Parks & Recreation VA
  • Des Moines Parks and Recreation IA
  • City of Tampa Parks and Recreation FL
  • City of Wichita Park & Recreation KS

Class III (population 75,001 – 150,000)

  • City of New Braunfels Parks and Recreation TX
  • Provo Parks & Recreation UT
  • South Bend Venues, Parks & Arts IN
  • Waukegan Park District IL

Class IV (population 30,001 – 75,000)

  • Centerville-Washington Park District OH
  • Coppell Parks & Recreation TX
  • Grapevine Parks and Recreation TX
  • Park District of Oak Park IL

Class V (population less than 30,000)

  • East Goshen Township Parks and Recreation PA
  • Deerfield Park District IL
  • Town of Fountain Hills Community Services AZ
  • Vernon Hills Park District IL

Armed Forces

  • Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay GA
  • Naval Air Station Whiting Field FL
  • Naval Base Coronado CA
  • US Army Garrison Bavaria Germany

State Park Systems (awarded in odd-numbered years)

  • Delaware State Parks
  • Ohio Division of State Parks & Watercraft
  • Tennessee State Parks
  • Texas State Parks

The Academy thanks the National Gold Medal Award Program sponsor, Musco Lighting, LLC, for their continued support of this important program and the National Recreation and Park Association for their partner support.

2021 NRPA Conference Survey - Please Participate!

The Academy is currently conducting a member survey to assess member interest in attending the NRPA Conference in Nashville, September 21-23. Member feedback will enable the Board of Directors to discuss options at their July 14th meeting. Events that may be held in Nashville include the General Membership Networking and Meeting and the Annual Banquet. Should in-person events be held, the Academy must follow CDC guidelines as well as state, local, and NRPA protocols. As soon as plans are known we will share with the members.

If you did not receive the survey email, please email info@aapra.org and the link will be sent to you.

Conversations that Matter – What Conversations Would You Like to Have?

May 20th was the launch date of the Academy’s Conversations that Matter. Using the white paper prepared by Academy Member Jamie Sabbach, entitled The Future of Parks and Recreation…Crisis or Prosperity, we gather each week via Zoom to talk about each part of the paper. The final conversation will be June 24th. The Academy wishes to continue these conversations.

What other subjects / issues you would like to discuss with your peers? These are intended to be conversations where you can ask questions, challenge your own thinking, or gather ideas from your peers. Send a paragraph or even 2 sentences sharing your ideas. We will take it from there in terms of framing the issue. Send your ideas to Jane H. Adams, janeacycle@gmail.com.

The Journal of Park & Recreation Administration – An Underutilized Resource

The Academy sponsors the Journal of Park & Recreation Administration which frankly is an underutilized resource by our members. Academy members receive a discounted subscription fee which gives you access to the research being conducted across the US. A review of articles in the Journal show it is addressing hot topics such as social justice issues in parks and recreation (vol 38, number 3); innovative methodologies in park and recreation management (vol 39, number 1); the power of data to tell a compelling story (vol 38, number 4); and using social media data to understand park visitation (vol 38, number 2).

Another article, First in Our Hearts but No in Our Pocket Books: Trends in Local Government Financing for Parks and Recreation from 2004-2014 (vol 35, number 3), can provide valuable insights into fiscal issues. Read it here.

To subscribe to the Journal ($50/annually), click here. Be sure to select the AAPRA member rate from the dropdown menu. The subscription is good for a year from when you subscribe.


The Academy has 18 committees and task forces providing administrative support, member services, and outreach activities. The Academy appreciates the leadership, time, and passion the chairs and committee members bring to this effort. Here is a 2021 progress report:

Advocacy Task Force
The Task Force is engaged in conversations about emerging legislative issues including how the AAPRA Board of Directors and its members can advance efforts regarding Access for All from a macro level (human rights, access to public spaces/programs) to a micro level (youth sports, access to restrooms, locker rooms as a few examples) based on recent legislative actions occurring across the country regarding LGBTQ+ persons. The Task Force identified several strategies as supporting NRPA’s position on the issue; working with the Academy’s JEDI Task Force to develop a toolkit, a white paper; and even hosting a Conservation that Matters for engaging Academy members in a thoughtful and meaningful discussion.

Bylaws Committee
The Bylaws Committee reviewed proposed changes and updates to the AAPRA Bylaws. These changes/updates were submitted to the Board of Directors in April. The proposal included two (2) important suggested amendments (authorizing electronic voting by the members in the election of the board and guests at meetings) which were inadvertently not included in the 2020 recommendations and are needed to be submitted to the membership for approval. Simultaneously, Red Barn Communications offered to have the Academy’s bylaws reviewed by a staff member who has extensive experience in association bylaws. This review by Patty Anderson, CAE, IOM, resulted in additional recommendations. Simultaneously the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) TF suggested the bylaws be reviewed with inclusion and equity in mind. This effort on DEI may bring forth continual changes so one option is for the Bylaws to contain a statement that the Board shall establish a separate DEI policy. This will give the Academy the opportunity to stay current with DEI efforts through its policies without the continual need for member approval. The Board of Directors is working through these suggested changes and will forward to the membership shortly.

Career Development Task Force Hosts Successful Zoom Meeting
After months of planning, coordinating with other Academy Committees, and recruiting, the Career Development Task Force held an amazing Virtual Roundtable with Former Externs on May 5th. Twenty-four people attended including former Externs and Buddies and Academy members representing the Career Development Task Force, the Mentoring Committee, the Academy on the Move Committee, and the Extern/Buddies Committee. This was positive a career development engagement for those who attended, and the Task force received requests to repeat these two or three times a year.

Two goals were met, career development was provided to our future leaders (and hopefully future Academy members) and these former externs were updated on Academy ops and re-engaged. We worked with the Academy on Move Committee to get these individuals excited to keep in contact and involved with all our organization’s efforts.

In addition, the Task Force convened and discussed ways to finish and publish the White Paper which continues to be developed. It was proposed to turn the white paper content into a series of articles in the NRPA Magazine and then follow up with a session or two at an upcoming NRPA Conference. There’s also a potential to “present” some of the paper’s topics via the Open Space Parks and Recreation Podcasts.

Extern Committee
The 2021 Extern Program received 23 applications. The History and Past Extern Involvement Subcommittee is reviewing ideas generated during the Virtual Roundtable for former externs hosted by Academy on the Move, Mentoring, and Career Development Task Force and Committees. The committee is considering scheduling a summer Zoom call for Former Externs. The Externship Manual update is completed. Recruitment of Mentors and Buddies for 2021 Externs was delayed approximately one month due to many professionals’ uncertainty about attending the 2021 NRPA Conference in person. Mentors and Buddies recruitment is underway; matching with Externs to be completed by early July. The committee hopes to hold the Extern Social on Monday, September 20th, in Nashville.

40th Anniversary Task Force
Earlier this year, the 40th Anniversary Task Force mailed the AAPRA Historical Benchmarks 1980 -1990 document along with a redesigned lapel pin to commemorate AAPRA’s 40 years as an organization. In addition, we are soliciting video-taped comments from past presidents who are still active in AAPRA. We are asking the past presidents to share each of their own perspectives about their year as president of AAPRA, and the organization’s impact on the profession, as well as wishing everyone “HAPPY 40TH ANNIVERSARY AAPRA! The video clips will be edited into one video with the goal of displaying the video at our next AAPRA banquet (hopefully in Nashville), as well as shared on the AAPRA website.

Legends Committee
The registration deadline for Legends Nominations ended June 4, 2021. Telling the story of these Legends, is so important to those coming into the park and recreation field. It is also important to those of us who have made our life's work out of getting people to have fun in the outdoors! The committee will be reviewing the nominations in the coming weeks. Thank you for spreading the word how important the Legends Program is to the profession!

Mentoring Committee
The registration for the Mentorship Program ended June 4th. It appears we will have just over 50 pairs for 2021. This is about half of what we had in 2020. One reason for the large increase last year could be that folks were working from home (during the pandemic shutdown) and had more time to commit to this type of program. The Mentoring Committee has gathered reference materials that will make conversations between the Mentors and Mentees easier!

10 Mentors Needed!!
We have 67 Mentees and Only 57 Mentors!
ONLY 19 Mentors are Academy Members!
Time to Step Up and Help Young Professionals!
Contact Stacey Dickey, sdicke@nbtexas.org

Nominating Committee
The Nominating Committee has identified and notified all potential nominees for office in 2021/2022. The slate of officers will be presented to the Academy Board at the July 14th meeting for approval. Once approved, candidates will submit bio information, a statement of why they want to serve on the board, and a picture. Each Academy member will receive a mail ballot and we encourage each of you to submit a completed ballot by the designated date. Election results will be announced prior to the NRPA annual conference.

We wish the very best for each candidate and appreciate their willingness to serve the Academy.

Social Media Task Force
The Social Media Task Force is developing a calendar for 12 months of social posts to be placed on existing channels (Women in Parks and Recreation, Mentoring Parks and Recreation Professionals, etc.)

Each month a task force member will be paired with a former Extern to determine content and groups to post to. This was a preferred approach rather than creating a new Facebook group for Academy members that would require a continual marketing campaign in order to stay relevant in feeds. Rather, the Committee will focus on already active and successful pages to post content about Academy programs and focus. This will hopefully introduce Academy work to professionals at many levels.

Urban Directors Committee
The Urban Directors Committee did extensive outreach this year and have submitted three nominations to the Board of Directors. The Board will take action at their July meeting.

Positioning Parks and Recreation as ESSENTIAL

AAPRA Extern’s Story of Doing so During a Pandemic

Thomas G. Venniro, CPRP, Director, Hilton-Parma, NY Parks and Recreation Department, 2012 AAPRA Extern

The concept of ‘essential services’ took on a whole new meaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. Under typical circumstances, parks and recreation service providers have attempted to position themselves as essential for years. In 2020, those efforts were magnified as agencies fought to stay relevant and in business. As we navigated a new reality with terms such as quarantine, masking, and social distancing, the industry as we knew it no longer existed. As depicted in the following case study, agencies were forced to implement innovative strategies to adapt, survive, and thrive as an essential service.

Located in western New York State, Hilton-Parma Parks and Recreation Department serves a population of approximately 17,000. Early in the pandemic, the department adopted the mindset that the community needed it as much as it needed the community, and the staff would do all they could to prove that. When traditional services could not be offered, the department took the lead on all things COVID, town wide. This included developing guidelines, securing and distributing PPE, and coordinating community mask distribution events. Programmatically, Hilton-Parma took guidelines and restrictions in stride. In the beginning, when in person recreation was prohibited, the staff produced a one-of-a-kind, award-winning Virtual Program Guide and completed the process of becoming a licensed childcare provider. As in person programming became an option with restrictions, they pushed forward with offerings with little hesitation and public safety in mind. For these efforts, they were rewarded with overwhelmingly positive attendance and feedback.

Ultimately, the department had to reinvent itself to show how valuable it could be in the most challenging of times. Many other departments across the nation did the same, effectively positioning themselves as essential as ever. Contact Tom at tvenniro@parmany.org

Member News

Bob Rossman Receives Recognition for Publication
Academy member J. Robert Rossman and co-author Matthew D. Duerden have received a Silver Award in category 9, Business Intelligence/Innovation, for their book Designing Experiences in the Axiom Business Book Award program. In Designing Experiences, the authors offer fundamental theories and methods to design experiences from start to finish. Readers are challenged to take the user’s perspective to design experiences that matter. The Axiom Business Book Awards brings increased recognition to exemplary business books and their creators. To learn more, click here. Order online and save 30% at www.CUP.COLUMBIA.EDU; enter code CUP30 for the discount at checkout.

Bill Clevenger Retires After 34 Years of Service
Bill Clevenger, Decatur Park District's (IL) Executive Director, will retire in September 2021 after 34 years in that position. During his tenure the district has been named an NRPA Gold Medal Award finalist and winner, acquired and maintained the Illinois Accredited Distinguished Agency Designation, became an AZA Accredited Zoo, maintained a Part 139 Certificated Commercial Airport designation, & retained a top bond rating and attained risk management accreditation. Prior to Decatur Bill was the Director of the Charleston, WV Parks, Recreation and Public Grounds and faculty member at James Madison University. Bill was elected to the Academy in 1998. The Decatur Park District announced Clay Gerhard, current Decatur Park District Director of Operations, will be the next Executive Director starting September 3, 2021.

Resources You Can Use

Coloring Outside the Lines

Nina S. Roberts, Professor, San Francisco State University, Department of Recreation, Parks, & Tourism, pens a column, Coloring Outside the Lines in Park Stewardship Forum (PSF), "Community resilience and conservation connections." PSF is an online, interdisciplinary, open-access journal co-published by the University of California–Berkeley’s Institute for Parks, People, and Biodiversity and the George Wright Society. Full issue with Landscape Conservation theme: https://lnkd.in/geCZEqq. Articles from PSF are free and can shared without restriction. Also check out the George Wright Society, an interdisciplinary nonprofit devoted to better research and management in parks, protected areas, cultural sites, and other forms of place-based conservation: georgewrightsociety.org

Park Audit Tutorial – June 30th

The Large Urban Parks Committee of World Urban Parks in partnership with Marmak and ORFA has developed and is prototyping a new Park Audit database for information about parks from around the world. This tool will enable members to research other parks from around the world, get in contact with fellow recreation practitioners, and compare best practices. Learn more on June 30th, 2021, at 3:30 PM ET Free Registration!

Brunch and Learn Series - July 12-16

The National Association of Park Foundations is offering a speakers services July 12-16. To view the program, click here.

Finally, Trust for Public Lands Releases 2021 ParkScore Index

The ParkScore Index is the national gold-standard comparison of park systems across the 100 most populated cities in the US. The index measures park systems according to five categories: access, investment, amenities, acreage, and new in 2021, equity. This tool can help your agency bridge the park equity gap. Access the report here.

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