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It’s no secret that working in parks and recreation comes with its share of unpredictable, funny moments. You must really be ready for anything — and many times these moments provide those deeply-satisfying laughs you can feel throughout your entire body (whether it’s instantly or one of those “this will be funny when we look back on it” moments).

We’ve been asking you to share your funniest moments while on the job with us on our Instagram page, and the responses we’ve received are hilarious (we promise we’ve been laughing with you all). On this episode of Open Space Radio, we had the opportunity to chat with a few folks to get the full story behind their responses to our Instagram post.

On this episode you’ll hear from:

Eryn Mann, Marketing Coordinator, Henrico County Recreation and Parks (Virginia)

Eryn shares about the time a traveling cat circus inquired about using one of their venues for a performance. Sadly, the request was not approved, but the Acro-Cats (and the Rock Cats — an all-cat rock band) appear to still be touring.

Eryn also shared a couple other funny moments with us — the time she was chased by a cow during a farm animal Halloween photo shoot (the cow has been known to chase people) and the time she found a tree in one of their parks fitted with custom-made pants. Fun fact: Eryn’s only been with the department for two years — we have a feeling she’s in for some more funny moments!

Nicole DiCicco, CPSI, Assistant Director, Dover Parks & Recreation (Massachusetts)

Nicole shares about the time there was an accident in a very large tube slide (think poo emoji). According to Nicole, “there isn’t anything as funny as seeing two grown men having to squeeze into a (very stinky) tube slide AND one having to hold the other by the ankles to be able to reach the smeared mess to clean up!”

The mess was from the very top of the slide all the way to the bottom of what Nicole describes as “the tallest playground.” This will most likely be a legendary story in Dover for years to come.

Stephanie Harden, Center Director, Warren Road Community Center and T. Garrett Gymnasium (Georgia)

Stephanie shares about the time that one of her summer campers was answering her phone. Although presumably embarrassing, Stephanie couldn’t help but laugh when she walked over to her phone to find the summer camper say, “No worries, Miss Stephanie — I answered all your calls, took messages and told everyone you were in the restroom!”

As you can imagine, Augusta residents got a laugh — and according to Stephanie, everyone knows this summer camper and thought it was the funniest thing ever. You never really know what you’re going to get working with kids!

And we couldn’t let a “funniest moments” podcast end without sharing a few of our own funniest moments while on the job. Roxanne reflects on the time a person in a gorilla costume was chasing a person in a banana costume through the Starbucks that she worked at, and Cort talks about the time he was called “Curt Johnson” repeatedly on a live interview (Cort Jones, Curt Johnson, same thing).

We also reminisce on a hilarious video that NRPA staff put together back in 2015 to celebrate Park and Recreation Month!

Tune in to the show to listen to hear the full story!

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Happy Park and Recreation Month! Throughout July, we celebrate all of the great things that are happening in local parks and recreation centers nationwide. This year’s theme for Park and Recreation Month is Game On, and we’re excited to have some fun all month long!

On today's episode we’re joined by SaulPaul, a musician with a message. SaulPaul was a keynote speaker at the 2018 NRPA Annual Conference in Indianapolis, and he’s back to help us celebrate Park and Recreation Month this year.

On this episode, we chat with SaulPaul about why he decided to spread his “Be the Change” message to local park and recreation departments, and the work that he’s been doing in communities across the country to entertain, inspire and empower people. We also talk about why he feels parks and recreation is so vital to every community, as well as how he’s celebrating Park and Recreation Month!

We also talk about the inspiration for the #ParkRecTwoStepChallenge, which is a video contest open throughout July encouraging people to get creative, active and have some fun! Tune in to the episode below to learn more — and find out how you can win weekly prizes and the chance to have SaulPaul come film the official Park Rec Two Step music video in your hometown!

Related Links:

Park and Recreation Month

#ParkRecTwoStepChallenge

SaulPaul’s website

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We’re talking about a gross topic on today’s episode of Open Space Radio, but fortunately I’m joined by a few people who are on a mission to clean things up. Today we’re talking about cigarette butt litter, and how both Keep Tennessee Beautiful and Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful are doing their part in their state to reduce the amount of cigarette butt litter, which contains really toxic chemicals that can be detrimental to the environment.

On today’s episode I’m joined by Missy Marshall, who is the executive director of Keep Tennessee Beautiful and serves on the board of directors for Keep America Beautiful (KAB). I’m also joined by Edmond McDavis III, affiliate services and training coordinator for Keep Tennessee Beautiful and Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director of Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful.

Keep Tennessee Beautiful is a KAB affiliate whose mission is to inspire and educate Tennesseans to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment, and Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful is the first KAB affiliate to focus solely on a river — the improvement, protection and preservation of the Tennessee River, specifically.

Part of improving, protecting and preserving the river is to educate people about the harm that cigarette butt litter can cause to waterways and provide safe ways to dispose of cigarette butts. Tune in to the episode below to learn about how KAB’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program is helping improve the Tennessee River and the communities along the river through the installation of cigarette butt litter stands that not only provide safe disposal, but also feature educational art on the outside.

You’ll also learn how to get your own free cigarette litter stand from Keep America Beautiful!

Related Links:

Keep America Beautiful

Keep Tennessee Beautiful

Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful

To get your free cigarette litter stand, .

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On today’s episode of Open Space Radio, we’re talking inclusion. And, in celebration of June being Pride Month, we’re talking specifically about LGBTQ+ inclusion in parks and recreation.

In our research about LGBTQ+ issues and parks and recreation, we came across a blog by Jason Shriner, the marketing manager for the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation right here in Virginia. Jason’s blog talks about some of his own experiences and how working in parks and recreation means being a leader in LGBTQ+ inclusion.

Since he was right in our backyard, we invited Jason over to NRPA headquarters to pick his brain about inclusion and talk a little more about that blog.

On this episode, Jason shares how he got into parks and recreation (spoiler: he and Roxanne share a deep-rooted love of baking), how his own journey has led him to being a leader in LGBTQ+ inclusion and why he thinks inclusion is so critical in parks and recreation.

He also shares a few things that the City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation has done to ensure that its parks and facilities are more inclusive and welcoming to all, including:

  • Partnering with organizations like PFLAG (parents, families and friends of the LGBTQ+ community) and Team DC (an LGBTQ+ sports club in Washington, D.C.)
  • Offering LGBTQ+ specific programs like yoga and self-defense
  • Using gender-neutral and inclusive language in handbooks/policies
  • Replacing gender-specific, single-stall bathrooms with all-gender bathrooms
  • Adding sexual orientation and gender identity to agency’s non-discrimination policy

These are just a few of the amazing things that Jason has helped facilitate at his agency, so be sure to tune in below to learn more, as well as hear some small changes that you can make in your parks and facilities to ensure that everyone feels safe and welcome.

Additional resources:

NRPA’s Parks for Inclusion

NRPA Webinar: Promoting LGBTQ+ Inclusion in Parks and Recreation

Jason's article from the June issue of Parks & Recreation magazine

Jason’s blog that inspired this episode

City of Manassas Park Department of Parks and Recreation

PFLAG

Pride in Parks: The Role of Parks in the Pride Movement and Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community

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We have a lot of celebrations coming up this summer. Family Health and Fitness Day is this Saturday, June 8, Olympic Day is June 23, and the entire month of July is Park and Recreation Month! With all of these celebrations in mind, we wanted to highlight the ways in which parks and recreation are part of creating a culture of fitness, as well as making sure that everyone has access to fitness opportunities, regardless of their abilities.

Prepare to be inspired by today’s episode. We’re thrilled to be joined by Jennifer French, who has an amazing story of resilience after overcoming a snowboarding accident in 1998 in which she became a quadriplegic, to becoming a silver medalist representing Team USA at the 2012 Paralympic Games in sailing. We’re also excited to have Sam Mendelsohn, CEO of Greenfields Outdoor Fitness, which has been a leader in accessible outdoor fitness equipment since 2007. Greenfields Outdoor Fitness is also the sponsor of Family Health & Fitness Day, Park and Recreation Month and NRPA’s Parks Build Community.

Jennifer shares her story with us and explains the challenges she faced after her injury, as well as how she had to adapt to continue living an active lifestyle. She also talks about the things she does to stay fit now and gives some tips for others who may be in a similar situation.

Sam and Jennifer also talk about how they connected, and how Jennifer’s story inspired Sam’s work in creating accessible outdoor fitness equipment. Sam shares some of the trends he’s seeing related to accessibility and physical fitness in parks and recreation. They both agree there’s no one way to ensure that everyone in a community has the opportunity to get fit, regardless of physical or cognitive ability, and that getting the community involved is absolutely critical. No one knows the needs of a community more than the people living in that community.

Listen to the full episode to learn more about Jennifer and Sam’s inspiring work — it may even inspire you to go out there and get fit!

Related Links:

Family Health & Fitness Day

Park and Recreation Month

Parks Build Community

Olympic Day

Greenfields Outdoor Fitness

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On today’s show, we’re talking about one of NRPA’s Top Trends in Parks and Recreation for 2019: The prediction that park and recreation recycling programs may soon end.

We’re joined by Brendan Daley, the Director of Strategy and Sustainability for the Chicago Park District, which is leading the way in recycling and other sustainability practices, and Rich Dolesh, NRPA’s Vice President for Strategic Initiatives, who made this bold prediction at the beginning of this year.

On this episode, we explore why there’s a sudden fear that park and recreation recycling programs might end, and how we even got into this mess in the first place. We also discuss things like:

  • The recent changes in recycling practices
  • What agencies can do when the waste they collect is either not recyclable or the cost of having it picked up is too expensive
  • What types of recycling are cost-effective and should continue
  • Things that agencies can do to educate the public regarding recycling
  • Simple things individuals can do to improve their recycling habits

The future of recycling in parks and recreation should not be taken lightly, and even with recent changes to many recycling practices, there are still things we can do to make sure that this critical conservation and sustainability effort continues. Tune in to the show to find out how.

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On today’s episode, we’re talking about the need for parks and recreation to adapt to younger generations and a changing society. We’re joined by Mark Foote, the aquatics superintendent for the City of Chandler Parks and Recreation in Arizona — who you may recognize from one of our past episodes, “What Are Your Park and Rec Pet Peeves?”

Mark discusses why he thinks it’s especially important in parks and recreation to be able to change the approach to certain things, like hiring, to attract and retain different generations — specifically Millennials and Gen Z. We also explore the current claims about a lifeguard shortage, and why Mark believes that there actually isn’t a lifeguard shortage, at all (he may just convince you, too).

Tune in below to find out what sparked Mark’s passion for parks and recreation, and what things have kept him engaged in this field since his very first aquatics job at the age of 17. You’ll also hear some simple things that his agency has done to attract and retain an incredible staff, as well as create the culture of a big, happy family.

You won't want to miss Mark’s thoughts on the “Chick-fil-A model” and how a few very small things can make all the difference in an organization’s culture.

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In this episode we are talking about the case — or really the many, MANY cases — for open space. While it would take several libraries to thoroughly go through all the reasons why open space is important, we went to the expert on land use policy and economic development issues.

Ed McMahon is the senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute (ULI). Ed is a sought after thought leader and author on economic development and land use policies and trends. During the past 30 years, he has worked with more than 600 communities in all 50 states on a wide variety of land use and economic development issues.

In this episode, Ed helps us answer questions like why placemaking is so important and why land developers should always invest in parks and open space. He also talks about why initiatives like the 10-Minute Walk Campaign – a joint initiative between NRPA, ULI and the Trust for Public Land (TPL) – are beneficial to all cities.

Resources mentioned:

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On today’s episode, we’re talking about park conversions. In recent history, we’ve seen some pretty remarkable conversions of abandoned or unused commercial and industrial space — such as the internationally acclaimed High Line in New York City and The 606, a rails to trails conversion in Chicago — into vibrant public spaces.

But the reverse is happening, too. Even though parks and open space are vital to every community, parks are being converted to non-park uses. In some cases, the conversions of these parks are for other valuable public purposes, such as schools or roads, but the net effect is the same — the parks are lost.

Joining us on the show today are two experts on the issue of park conversions. Rich Dolesh, NRPA’s Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, and Dr. James Kozlowski, an attorney and Associate Professor in the School of Recreation, Health and Tourism at George Mason University, share their experiences in cases where park land has been threatened by being converted into other uses. Fortunately, some of the cases that we discuss have a happy ending — the parks were saved. However, this is not always the case.

Tune in to learn what you can do to try to save your beloved park if the threat of being developed for something else ever comes its way. It’s not an easy feat by any means, but it’s not as difficult as it may sound, either!

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On today's episode of Open Space Radio, we’re joined by Aaron Hipp, an Associate Professor of Community Health and Sustainability at NC State University’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management.

Aaron is currently conducting research on topics such as how, where, and why our public built environments impact health behaviors such as physical activity and recreation, and the effect of the environment where we spend most of our time, such as work, school and sleep, on leisure time physical activity.

On the show, we discuss how, statistically, children and people of color have the lowest rates of physical activity as compared to other demographics, and this lack of physical activity has large implications on the health outcomes of communities of color. We examine why these disparities in physical activity exist between demographics, and how parks and improved accessibility to them can be used to close this gap.

We also take a look at Aaron's work on a study through the Physical Activity Research Center (PARC), which is focused on understanding how parks are used by children in communities of color. The study focused on evaluating park use through observation, intercept surveys and community surveys. 

Aaron also gives some advice on how a time and resource limited agency can perform this type of research through:

  • Not being afraid to move forward
  • A systematic/purposeful approach
  • Partnerships/collaborations

Tune in to the episode to find out more!

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