Parks and recreation organizations have a lot on their hands. Managing all of the green spaces and recreation facilities, improving the health and well being of their community, and creating conservation initiatives isn’t an easy feat. Despite the great work parks and recreation workers do, there are some who go above and beyond the call of duty.
These heroes are selfless and willing to put in extra work to make a large, positive impact for people’s wellbeing. They lead community initiatives, generate change throughout the industry and represent parks and recreation in the best way possible. Here are 5 parks heroes we think deserve some praise.
Children & Nature Network is a great initiative to ensure children and families are connected to nature worldwide. Louv published Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Defecit Disorder and also co-founded the Children & Nature Network, which he is now the Chairman Emeritus of. Their aim is to invest in local grassroots leaders who they inspire and support, to create a future where all children play, learn and grow with nature. His About page describes him well, as a highly decorated writer who “would rather hike than write.” Check out all of their great, inspiring initiatives.
Some people just know their calling. Susan Trautman is one of those people. She’s literally been building parks since childhood. Eight after graduating from high school, she helped the Missouri Department of Natural Resources allocate federal land and water funds. Trautman is now a veteran in the parks and recreation world; her accolades and her accomplishments are highly noted.
She’s currently the Executive Director of Great Rivers Greenway, while also being the Chair of the National Recreation and Parks Association. Through the NRPA, she provides support, resources and networks for helping all parks and recreation organizations serve their communities better.
The National Parks Conservation Association is one of the biggest leaders in protecting and conserving the national parks that make America beautiful. The natural wonders, its animal habitants and all of the incredible benefits they provide need to be acknowledged and respected. Mark Wenzler is the man to do just that, serving as the NPCA’s Senior Vice President of Conservation Programs.
Wenzler is using his skills and past experience to his benefit. A lawyer by training, he worked as an environmental prosecutor for the New Jersey Attorney General. Later on, he would enforce environmental laws around the country, before switching to policy advocacy with the National Environmental Trust. He’s been with the NPCA for over 10 years now, helping preserve our ecology.
Karen Kidwell | San Francisco Parks Alliance
While residing and working in parks and recreation in New York and San Francisco, Karen saw firsthand the importance of parks in urban settings. With a large appreciation for green open spaces, Karen joined the San Francisco Parks Trust, which later joined forces with Neighborhood Parks Council in 2011 to form the new San Francisco Parks Alliance. This effectively combined both organizations experience in philanthropy, advocacy, park and open space policy, and community mobilizing. Now, Karen focuses on improving the visibility of parks and recreation as a vital public service.
Richard Toussaint | Harlem (Manhattan), New York
Richard Toussaint is a passionate guy who is keen on green space and active living. Toussaint played a large role in building a new park in Harlem; one located in the waterfront he used to visit all the time as a kid. Many decades ago, the construction of Harlem River Drive made it inaccessible to most. Worse, when the cement factory closed down in the 60s, the area became derelict and underutilized.
In the early 90s, Toussaint proposed to transform the derelict waterfront into a green space the community could enjoy. “A person could bike to work,” Toussaint says. “What do you do with this land? You make it into a recreational transportation piece for the community to use.” He shopped around an image he sketched of a bike path, which convinced the parks department to adopt a large number of those ideas. With think Richard is a true parks hero worth highlighting.
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