Concerns of Equity and Access: Campaigns and Resources

Park access disparities between low-income, racially diverse and more affluent mid- and high-income neighborhoods in the United States is a subject of concern to park and recreation programmers and researchers. Studies find that youth in low-income, racially diverse neighborhoods have significantly less access to urban parks than their mid- to high-income counterparts (Rigolon & Flohr, 2014). Research demonstrates that the lack of a proximal green space may result in negative health outcomes for children as well as adults. Individuals who live closer to a greenspace or park are more likely to report higher mental and physical health benefits than those that do not. A recent post, entitled “Taking Park Access for Granted and Resources to Help” by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) on its OPENSpace blog shares current trends and efforts to mitigate these differences, in order to boost equity in access to parks among urban dwellers. The post outlines how limited access to parks and greenspace results in negative quality of life outcomes for many people.

In an effort to address concerns of equity and access, NRPA is partnering with the Trust for Public Land  (an NRF grantee) and the Urban Land Institute on a campaign entitled 10-Minute Walk.  This campaign’s vision is to ensure that everyone, in all neighborhoods and cities across the nation, has a good park within a 10-minute walk from their home. According to NRPA, “the 10-Minute Walk Campaign aims to increase park access, quality and funding with a 10-minute walk from home.”

NRPA also is committed to increasing awareness of equity, diversity and a

ccess issues. As such, NRPA is offering

multiple sessions at this month’s NRPA conference in Indianapolis focusing on these topics. A full list of these sessions can be found here. I want to highlight a few sessions from the conference that may be particularly interesting for those of us connected with NRF and the populations our programs serve.


Tuesday, September 25

The Age of Connectivity: Putting Trails and Parks at the Center of Our Communities

As transportation habits change and technologies, like autonomous vehicles, become mainstream, a new opportunity exists to prioritize trails and linear parks in places where we live. Explore how we can create the change we want and put trails and linear parks at the heart of healthy, thriving communities.

Is Proximity Enough? How Characteristics Like Awareness Effect Participation

Some of the driving aspects of community use (participation) and advocacy for parks and recreation agencies are related to the availability and proximity of programs and facilities (components of a parks system), and quality and satisfaction with those components. This session will look at the roles community resident and visitors awareness of park and recreation programs and facilities play.

Friends Groups and Foundations: A Key to Leveraging Resources for Your Park

A park can’t live on tax dollars alone – enter the friends group or foundation. These entities are not bound by the normal restrictions of local government and, as such, can get a tremendous amount done if everyone is on the same page! We will visit three Indianapolis parks with different approaches to community engagement: Holiday Park, Garfield Park, and Eagle Creek Park.

Wednesday, September 26

Advocacy by Design: Innovations in Parks and Public Places for Building Diverse Constituencies

This session explores ongoing efforts in Akron, Chicago, Detroit, Memphis and Philadelphia to reinvent how cities and local organizations engage people in improving, programming and maintaining civic assets.

Parks in Changing Communities

Many park planners and designers strive to create well-designed parks that generate positive and productive benefits, including human and environmental health. Looking at projects at multiple scales, from the individual park to the connected park system, this session will consider the tough questions of who change, what is changing, and what role do parks and designers play in this process.

 Thursday, September 27

 Best Practices When Approaching Diverse Communities and How to Engage Them

We need to create and implement new and original ideas to keep the community engaged. In this session, tips and best practices will be shared to better approach, work and build trusting relationships with these groups, so everyone can access the services that your department (organization) offers.

 These are just a few sessions that stood out to me from what looks to be a list of excellent and informative sessions being offered in regard to access and equity. For more information on sessions and the conference visit the Conference website here.


Rigolon, A., & Flohr, T. L. (2014). Access to parks for youth as an environmental justice issue: Access inequalities and possible solutions. Buildings, 4(2), 69-94. doi:




Interview with National Recreation Foundation Trustee – Jim Pearce

In this post I am sharing highlights from a conversation that I had with NRF Trustee, Jim Pearce. Jim lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and he helps NRF identify interesting and effective recreation programs for at-risk youth in the Greater Cincinnati area.  In my conversation with Jim, we talked about his experience as an NRF trustee and his perspective on the importance of recreation, as well as what he personally enjoys doing for recreation. We also discussed some of the programs he has sponsored over the years, including a unique collaboration between two grantee partners.

Tell us a little about your experience as a NRF Board of Trustees member. 


I have enjoyed the work of the Board and the terrific people – both the other Board members and our staff.

Most of all, I have enjoyed the more personal and hands-on involvement in community grant- making that the NRF system requires. The NRF experience is unique, because at NRF I am not just a Board member, but I:

  • Am charged with having a comprehensive understanding of my community. I am always combing the landscape to find potential applicant organizations that are offering innovative programs building life skills in Cincinnati-area youth through recreation
  • Investigate the applicant organization’s reputation and track record
  • Orient the applicant organization to the NRF system and expectations
  • Serve as a sounding board for the organization as it crafts a proposal
  • Monitor the organization’s grant performance with site visits and check-ins
  • Review interim and final reports
  • Respond to NRF staff questions about the organization and its programs.

It has been an honor to represent the Foundation in the Greater Cincinnati community.

How does recreation play an important role in your life? 

I am not a golfer or tennis player. My lower back would not hear of it starting at an early age. I was a jogger up to 50 and then my back spoke to me again. I am a fisherman and belong to an angling club and join them for various outings. I have hooked my four grandkids, to various degrees, into the great joy of catching a fish. It’s a riot!

Now I prefer my therapeutic exercise regimen: Pilates 2-3 days a week and, on the off days, I walk one-two miles. Whether exercise is recreational by your definition or not, it is something that I do that makes me feel better, clears the brain and aids a restful night. It certainly kept me sane when I was working.

Is there a program you have sponsored via NRF that stands out as particularly innovative or successful? 

Shortly after I was invited to join the NRF Board of Trustees, I connected with staff members at the United Way of Cincinnati with whom I had worked in the past. I asked them which were among the best organizations in the youth recreational and development area. Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Cincinnati (BGCGC) and Camp Joy were high on the list. Recognizing the important work each organization does in the Greater Cincinnati region, NRF ended up awarded grants to each organization.

What I found most intriguing was the collaborative partnership between the two organizations – BGCGC and Camp Joy were working together to bring some of the BGCGC kids to Camp Joy for a week of summer camp. According to Camp Joy, experience at camp results in a multitude of positive outcomes for at-risk youth, such as as leadership development, increased self-esteem, and enhanced social skills. Most of the BGCGC kids loved the Camp Joy experience, and word got back to rest of BGCGC kids about the neat week their friends had at camp. Each year more kids wanted to experience Camp Joy. Resources were at capacity. Camp Joy and BGCGC were working hard to raise money to build on this success. NRF worked with Camp Joy on some strategies to enhance capacity, but at the same time, the Cincinnati United Way was raising less money and shifting priorities away from Camp Joy and BGCGC. As a result, Camp Joy’s summer capacity was again limited. Then someone came up with the brilliant notion: why not have winter weekend mini-camps at Camp Joy for BGCGC youth?

The human and financial efficacy of this approach is now being tested,and we are interested to evaluate the outcomes of this new program.

You have referred to the success of Camp Joy and BGCGC partnership. What would you say are some of the key elements of a successful program or what are some characteristics that you look for when you are considering programs that you would like to recommend for support?

  1. A solid, respected partner organization: Good reputation; good people (honest, committed); good business model.
  2. An organization with innovative programs and ambitious plans of what they want to accomplish. Quite often these kinds of programs may have some incremental risk attached to them. Supporting the status quo may be fine when one is trying to get to know an organization, but I like to see and help my experienced grantees move their organization forward. These kinds of grants do have higher risks.
  3. Program evaluation is key. An organization must measure success of outcomes, and then make program adjustments based on those results. There’s always room for improvement, and the best programs are always seeking to improve outcomes for the youth they serve.

Pictured Left to Right: Jim Pearce (NRF), Mike McGinty (Camp Joy), Sophie Twichell (NRF), Gunner Blackmore (Camp Joy).


Jim Pearce has served on the National Recreation Foundation Board of Trustees for over a decade. He has been influential in the Foundation’s leadership and strategic planning. Thanks, Jim for all you do for the NRF and for taking the time to share a little more about your story. 

Youth Outside

In these last few posts, we are providing additional resources for recreation programmers and administrators by sharing a few online recreation platforms and resources from leading organizations within the field. In the previous post, we highlighted OPEN Space, the official blog of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). This publication focuses on topics such as outdoor recreation, physical activity and health and wellness.

In this post, we are focusing on a relatively new organization—Youth Outside which was founded in 2010 in Oakland, California as the Foundation for Youth Investment. It was started through a $10.7 million grant from the Pacific Forest and Watershed Lands Stewardship Council as the result of a legal settlement. The expectation is that funds are distributed throughout northern and central California in support of outdoor and environmental programming for youth.

In 2015, the Foundation changed its name to Youth Outside, which more accurately represents the organization’s work to ensure that youth who have been traditionally or historically underrepresented in the outdoor movement have the opportunity to connect with the outdoors in culturally relevant and inclusive ways by eliminating barriers that could hold them back.

For example, they support organizations that remove logistical barriers that keep many youth from getting outside such as transportation, gear and program costs. But they also work to remove systemic barriers that are connected to dominant culture, institutions, and power dynamics. For example, youth who are traditionally underrepresented in outdoor spaces can feel unwelcome and discriminated against in nature. They rarely see their identities reflected in the people working in the outdoors or find signs in anything other than English. To truly connect with nature, these young people must interact with people who look like them, come from similar backgrounds and speak similar languages when they participate in outdoor programs.

Youth Outside accomplishes their mission through a variety of approaches:

  • They make grants to organizations who are working to remove these logistical and systemic barriers. For example, they’ve helped provide funding for field trips with an environmental focus for over 100,000 youth.

    7-OEI YES Camp 2016

    Image courtesy of Youth Outside

  • They provide a variety of training & capacity-building programs designed to support individuals in the building of the skills and confidence that they need to be leaders and educators in the outdoor field. They also engage organizations in recognizing and removing barriers within their own cultures and systems. One of their programs, the Outdoor Educators Institute (OEI), focuses on increasing the number of outdoor educators from a wider range of racial, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. This workforce development program weaves opportunities for young adults to learn outdoor skills such as backpacking, sea kayaking and rock-climbing with conversations around the need for equity, inclusion and cultural relevancy in current and future workplaces. The NRF supports Youth Outside’s OEI program, and its initiative this year (2018) to empower and advance young women from communities of color in the outdoor recreation field by hosting an all-female student cohort this year.

Image courtesy of Youth Outside

  • They are also committed to asking the hard questions and facilitating the difficult conversations needed to drive broader change across the outdoor field. The organization recently began a blog titled #DifficultTerrain which focuses on topics of equity and inclusion in outdoor education and outdoor recreation. This recently launched blog will provide salient information on these complex topics in the future.

Check out the Youth Outside website to further explore this organization and the work they are doing to help as many youth as possible have meaningful outdoor recreation experiences.

YO_vertical_1300px (1)

Image Courtesy of Youth Outside


OPEN Space: The Official Blog and Podcast of the NRPA

One of the purposes of this blog is to share resources that lie within the purview of the National Recreation Foundation, with focuses on areas such as, outdoor recreation, physical activity, and health and wellness.

Open Space

The National Recreation Foundation (NRF) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) are long time partners and share roots in the same organization, the war camp community service, dating back nearly 100 years to 1919. Today the NRPA is the leading professional association in the area of parks and recreation. The Association has a variety of offerings including, standards and certifications, a plethora of resources for individuals in the park and recreation field, educational opportunities, an annual conference and workshops throughout the year across the country. The NRPA hosts several publication platforms, including a blog and podcast entitled OPEN Space.

open space

OPEN Space shares information pertinent to parks and recreation departments, organizations, and professionals in the field 
of recreation. Posts include: NRPA news and updates, information on the NRPA annual conference, trends and current events within the field, and in-depth information on topics such as accessibility, inclusion and social equity, and discussions on funding options and opportunities.

Click here to begin exploring this resource.

National Recreation and Park Association Forecasts Top Trends in Parks and Recreation for 2018

As we are now fully into 2018 and with spring and summer just around the corner, it may be a good idea to consider some of the current trends in recreation and park culture and activity observed and projected for this coming year. The National Recreation and Park Association, the main organization body in our field of parks and recreation administration, recently published an article on its website outlining trends for the 2018 year. The following are some of the highlights from that article:


photo credit:

Parks Everywhere! An increasing number of people living in cities and urban areas has created a shift in focus to development of outdoor green spaces and city parks. Parks continue to emerge in a variety of unconventional spaces, including: old railway corridors, empty city lots, and even in unused underground spaces (e.g. New York’s “Lowline” park in a trolley terminal). It is expected that 2018 will continue to see park development and an increase in unused space transformed into community parks.

The Opioid Epidemic. In 2017, overdoses outnumbered murders by a ratio of 4-1, a number higher than ever before (The Philadelphia Inquirer, January 23, 2018). With what seems to be an out-of-control downward spiral of opioid use, parks may be able to assist. Cities and metro areas have begun to use parks and public spaces to combat this growing concern in a variety of ways. Parks and recreation departments have begun to develop programming focused on reducing the use and dependency on these drugs and getting people struggling with an opioid addiction the help that they desperately need. This linked article discusses the role that parks play in combating this epidemic.


Photo Credit: Atlanta Beltline

Partners in Evidence-Based Health Delivery: With an increase in research on health and wellness programs and more information on what works and what does not in terms of health outcomes, parks and recreation programs are expected to begin to implement these delivery curricula into their regular programming. It is expected that parksand recreation departments will continue to partner with healthcare agencies across the country as a means of health promotion. More on this topic can be found here.

Large Donations: Wealthy individuals, organizations and foundations continue to recognize the importance of parks and green space and are putting their money into these areas in masses. Millions of dollars have been gifted to parks and recreation departments such as, Central Park Conservancy ($100 million), River Parks Authority in Tulsa, OK ($350 million), Chicago Park district ($12 million), and many more ( Top Trends in Parks and Recreation, February 6, 2018). It is expected that these large donations will continue in 2018.

Focus on Park Sustainability: As a proponent of green space, parks have a natural connection with sustainable and environmentally healthful behaviors. It is expected that in 2018, there will be an increased focus on parks commitment to sustainable energy and land usage and will act as a model for the public on what responsible energy consumption looks like. The sustainability survey report from the NRPA provides a better understanding of the current sustainability efforts of Parks and Recreation departments.

bike picture

Economic Development depends on Parks: It is clear that economic development and quality parks and recreation opportunities go hand-in-hand. As companies look to develop operations bases, one of the reasons for commitment to a specific city is the quality and quantity of available green space for employees and their families. Parks and green space, as well as access to bike and walking paths, contribute to thriving metropolises, a characteristic that organizations desire for headquarters and business operations.

Follow this link for a full list of the projected 2018 parks and recreation trends.


Sustainability Survey Report:

Parks Combatting the Opioid Epidemic:

Play Fair, Play IX


For the last thirty-two years, a national initiative called the National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) has worked to encourage, bolster support and celebrate the achievements of the millions of girls and women who participate in organized sports in the United States. NGWSD also works to further expand sport opportunities for women and girls in the future. For 2018, the theme is “Play Fair, Play IX”. According to the U.S. Department of Education, “Title IX protects people from discrimination based on sex in education programs or activities that receive Federal financial funding” ( This year NGWSD hopes to further instill and implement the basis of Title IX by dedicating a day(s) to the recognition of the accomplishments of women and girls in sport. The NGWSD website states:


healthy-active-kids-widget“For more than three decades, the NGWSD has empowered women and girls to get moving, embrace physical activity and push past their limits. The courage, confidence and character gained through sports participation are the very tools girls need to become the strong leaders of tomorrow” (

Photo credit: NESTLE Corp.

The website hosts a plethora of “stories” sharing information on how participation in sports and athletics have positively affected the lives of a variety of girls and women athletes, such as: Meghan Duggan, an Olympic ice hockey silver medalist; Scout Bassett, a track and field paraolympian; and Sloane Stephens, a U.S. Open tennis champion and founder of the Sloane Stephens Foundation.


Photo credit: Mountain Bike for Her

While the specific day affiliated with the NGWSD for 2018 was February 7th, there are still events occurring across the country focused on further enhancing the dialogue and encouraging women young and old towards (increased?) participation in sports. In order to find events near you or to plan an event affiliated with the NGWSD organization, visit the website To follow NGWSD on social media or to share photos of your events on social media platforms, use #NGWSD.

Farm to School Act of 2017

On September 6, 2017, members of Congress introduced the Farm to School Act of 2017. This bill has received bipartisan support, and it expands the current US Department of Agriculture’s Farm to School Grant Program by increasing funding from $5 million to $15 million annually. During the first five years the program received over $120 million in requests from 1,600 applicants. The program was able to provide grants totaling $25 million to 365 applicants in those years, however, that only satisfies one fifth of total requests. Clearly, there is a high demand for this type of program. But, what does this money support? The following provides an outline and some resources that further explain the proposed program.


Farm to school is a common sense approach to child nutrition that empowers children and their families to make informed food choices while strengthening the local economy and contributing to vibrant communities. (


Photo Credit:

The program is flexible and often appears differently depending on the needs of the specific community, however, there are Three Core Elements of the program that remain consistent.

Procurement: The program provides funding for local food purchase and service in cafeterias and lunchrooms. This provides not only healthy food options for students but also supports local farmers, ranchers, and fishers. In 2013-2014, schools spent $789 million on local food. The Farm to School Act notes that of every dollar spent on this food, $1.60 goes back into local economies. This suggests that schools generated over $1.2 billion into local economies for food alone during those years. In addition, a goal is to reduce the obesity rate and prevalence of childhood Type II Diabetes by increasing the amount of healthy fruits and vegetables served to children.

Education: As a part of the program, organizations incorporate food, agriculture, and health and nutrition programming into their educational curricula.

School Gardens: The program supports school gardens which provide students with hands-on learning through planting, gardening, harvesting, and food preparation. In 2013-2014, an estimated 23.6 million students engaged in a Farm to School program. Here is an Example of a farm to school program in Michigan.


Photo Credit:

More information can be found at the Farm to School Website, which provides individuals and organizations with ideas, resources, and partners to aid in the development and with the ultimate goal of program success.

There is also funding available! Here are some examples of opportunities associated with this program.

Small Grants for plants and seeds ($200-$1,000)

GreenWorks Grants for Service learning projects ($1,000-$2,000)

National Institute of Food and Agriculture Grants ($945,400 available)


National Environmental Education Foundation Releases Teen Survey Partner Toolkit

Youth, and adults, in today’s culture are spending an increasingly less amount of time outdoors and more time indoors behind a screen. According to the Nation Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) the average high school student spends one hour outside each day, typically taking part in activities such as waiting for the bus or walking between classrooms. Outdoor experience has proven positive impacts on health and happiness. In one of the seminal studies on the topic of human health and the natural environment, Roger Ulrich (1984) found in his “view through a window” study that patients with a hospital room with a view of nature (i.e. trees) recovered from a minor surgery faster and were also observed to be happier and less combative with their care providers.  A more recent article found that outdoor experiences reduce the generation of negative emotions that we commonly associate as anger, sadness, frustration, or depressed moods, compared to similar individuals participating in a built or indoor environment (Bower, et. al., 2010)

During this time of the year here in the Midwest, it can be challenging to find the motivation to get outside, however, it is important to take what the research suggests to heart and make spending time outside a priority.Teens and the Environment

According to the NEEF 80% of adolescents prefer to spend time indoors, however, 92% understand that time spent outdoors helps make them healthier, and 88% recognize that time spent outdoors makes them happier. There appears to be a disconnect somewhere between this understanding and putting this knowledge into practice. The NEEF survey found that adolescents are very passionate and advocate for social causes such as “animal abuse and LGBTQ issues,” but less so about environmental issues. I would posit that this stems from the lack of experience. An individual is less likely to advocate for something with which one has had little experience, this is where the NRF and its grantee organizations step into play. The survey found that teachers, educators and leaders are the most trusted sources of outdoor and environmental education for adolescents, suggesting that these individuals, organizations and programs have the capacity of greatly influencing recreation tendencies towards participation and overall understanding of the outdoors.

NEEF offers a variety of resources that include facts related to this topic, social media post templates and suggestions, and program recommendations on their website as well as an overview to the survey here. 


2017 Crawford Prize Recipient

The National Recreation Foundation proudly presents Susan Teegen as this year’s Crawford Prize Recipient. Since 2003, the Crawford Prize recognizes a living person who has dedicated him or herself to enhancing recreation opportunities for youth. Each year, the Prize is awarded to an individual, whether professional or volunteer, who has made an extraordinary contribution in advancing recreation programs for at-risk youth. Susan truly embodies what the NRF looks for in a Crawford Prize recipient as a champion, supporter and influential educator for the youths she serves.

Susan Teegen_P-0426 (2017)

Pictured: Susan Teegen. Image courtesy of ArtWell

Susan has made empowering youth her life’s work. In addition to educating her work includes, counseling, mentoring, and advocating for social justice in response to issues such as poverty and racism. Through this work she has witnessed youth flourish when they were given opportunities to learn, explore and create. Susan’s graduate work at Princeton Theological Seminary focused on the intersection of art, healing and transformation. She completed her studies at the University of the Arts in painting and printmaking. Her experience working with youth and her understanding on the transformative power of art, culminated into an idea for a program.

In 2001, Susan founded ArtWell. Artwell’s mission is to support young people and their communities through arts education and creative reflection to discover strengths, face challenges and awaken dreams. Since it’s inception Artwell has partnered with over 400 private, public and charter schools, as well as, faith-based and community organizations to connect with over 35,000 youth in the greater Philadelphia area. Artwell’s art education programs utilize art as a tool for deep reflection, enhancing communication and academic achievement. ArtWell transforms the lives of young people facing discrimination, poverty, violence and everyday challenges. Susan has proved her proficiency in developing partnerships and encouraging community support through connections with local artists, schools,educators and education systems to engage students and their communities.


Pictured: Left to right. Susan Teegen, Pina Templeton (NRF Trustee), and Bob Stuart (NRF President)

The National Recreation Foundation is honored to present this award to a very deserving recipient. Join us in congratulating our 2017 Crawford Prize winner, Susan Teegen.

NYC Organization Works to Address Lack of Diversity in the Outdoors

One of my favorite parts of the trend of social media is that I get introduced to all sorts of new and innovative programs. I take special note of those that fall within our scope at the NRF and feel that is important to share them. Programs are able to use the social media platform to share program information, attract participants, and garner support both in terms of public support and financial assistance. As many of you know I am an avid rock climber. I support and follow several rock climbing specific organizations on Facebook and Instagram, such as, the American Alpine Club, the Access Fund, and the American Mountain Guides Association. Several months ago the American Alpine Club posted about Brothers of Climbing (BOC), an organization based out of New York City.


Founded by Makhail Martin, BOC is dedicated to making outdoor recreation, and specifically rock climbing, accessible to populations that may never have been thought of rock climbing as a viable recreational activity. Martin, who grew up in Queens New York, comments on the perception of climbing and the outdoors in which he grew up, “Out here (Queens) there’s no rock climbing gyms, there’s no mountains… There’s nothing out here like that, my idea of the outdoors is the backyard, you know?”
BOC (1)

Photo Credit: REI

BOC is working to ensure that minority populations not only have an opportunity to experience the outdoors but also provides a community of support and familiar faces that encourage continued participation. One BOC member mentioned growing up being told, “black people don’t go outside and that it was a dangerous place.” As a result many minority youth do not have outdoor experiences while growing up. As one BOC member says, “It just goes back to not being exposed to the outdoors, and the problem is that we are telling ourselves that we can’t do it and then on the other end there is no one telling us that we can do it, so it’s a problem on both sides of the coin, and we have to attack it from both sides.” Martin states, “BOC’s mission is to increase involvement of minorities in the outdoors, right now we’re starting with climbing but I want to see more of us participating in outdoor activities, because if more of us where out there it would just be more of a common thing.” BOC has grown from just a few members to thirty or forty members regularly attending organization events, programs and trips.

While this organization is not youth specific and works more with younger adults, programs like BOC provide useful tips and techniques on how to develop influential programs that cultivate change within participants and the communities in which they serve. Attached are two short videos that provide more information and a deeper look into the work that BOC is doing.

Solo No More

REI Presents: Brothers of Climbing