Advancing equitable access to high-quality parks

A parks advocacy organization, NRPA is making it easier for two local park and recreation departments to engage residents and track their impact attracting visitors that reflect the diversity of surrounding communities.


Building trust, time, and resources to respond locally

Even as they strive to be inclusive, park and recreation leaders face barriers to engaging and building trust with residents. Racial residential segregation and histories of exclusion impact park visitorship, with attendance at many park and recreation programs failing to reflect a city’s diversity. As they seek to close the gap, park and recreation leaders know that evaluating visitorship and perceived access is a foundational step. But without the time, funding, capacity, and inter-departmental relationships needed to gather and make sense of data, park and recreation leaders struggle to identify where and how they should start to improve access to critical health infrastructure like parks.

You need to ask yourself as a parks leader: Do you have residents working alongside with you? Do you have that trust? Have you said ‘I'm here to amplify you, your wants, and your needs for your community’?



Working with local leaders to better serve resident needs

NRPA is creating a training series and an IHP companion guide geared toward park and recreation professionals to aid two parks departments — Perris, CA and Crawford County, AR — as they work to put communities first. 

The Framework is being applied to:

  • Affirm the value of community engagement · For example, one training session focused on the mechanics of inclusive community engagement — with one department exploring how to use arts and culture as a platform for elevating and reaching community members. 
  • Weave evaluation into existing ways of working · In another training session, NRPA walked park and recreation leaders through the Framework and brainstormed an evaluation plan for a specific site. The process helped parks leaders craft a focused evaluation plan with a set of priority metrics.

The mission of the project is to provide the historically marginalized, the disenfranchised, and the isolated the ability to act as the decision makers, to energize cultural diversity, and to activate their collective community power.


Evaluation sometimes falls by the wayside because they are so busy and strapped for cash. How do we make evaluation more accessible? One of our biggest goals is to help them advocate to get more money to do this work.


One of the benefits of IHP is taking a cutting-edge approach to meaningful engagement. Lots of people are using these concepts, IHP puts it into a Framework, and we are translating it into a guide. We can use it in all our programs.