The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) was created on August 14, 1965, when five national park and recreation organizations merged to form one united agency.1 What started as a joining of like-minded organizations continues to be a center for connecting advocates, suppliers, professionals, and government leaders concerning the vital role of parks and recreation.
As a non-profit organization, NRPA is located in Ashburn, Virginia, with an additional office in Washington D.C. for their Public Policy team. A twenty-one member Board of Directors of citizens and professionals directs the ten branches and eight regional councils. Additionally, NRPA works with three national affiliates and 52 state affiliates.
Membership dues, charitable contributions, and conference and event sales fund the NRPA. For members these membership benefits include: educational opportunities, recreational research, an industry magazine (Parks & Recreation Magazine), members only publications, networking opportunities, scholarships, insurance and travel discounts, and a strong advocacy program. On their website, NRPA also is a clearinghouse for both job and employee seekers within the parks and recreation industry.
The NRPA educates the public, professionals, and government leaders through their Congress and Exposition held each year in a different location throughout the United States. The keynote speakers, session leaders, and exhibitors all present the best of current research, practices, and resources in the recreation industry.
Besides their annual Congress, NRPA also hosts a variety of schools, workshops, forums, and conferences. Currently, there is a Directors School, Supervisors' Management School, Park and Recreation Maintenance Management School, and a Revenue Development and Management School.
Through NRPA's authorization by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training CEU, they can award Continuing Education Credits (CEUs) for their schools, online trainings, webinars, workshops, and trainings. Courses on developing customers, funding, and leadership are some of the topics available. Through the National Certification Board, NRPA offers four certifications: Certified Park and Recreation Professional (CPRP), Certified Park and Recreation Executive (CPRE), Aquatic Facility Operator (AFO), and Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI).
Continuing their mission to educate, NRPA started publishing the digital magazine Parks & Recreation in December of 2009. They also have electronic newsletters, books, and their annual Schole publication. Research in play, parks management, public relations, and health issues are reflected in the NRPA's Journal of Leisure Research and their Therapeutic Recreation Journal.
As advocates, the NRPA focuses on issues concerning health and welfare of all people, environmental stewardship and sustainability, children and nature, transportation and livable communities, and public parks. This platform shapes the NRPA Public Policy Team, who lobbies nationally on Capitol Hill. The Advocacy Action Center, the Advocacy Resource Center, and the Advocacy Insider are all NRPA tools to aid the professional in influencing national and local policies. Additionally, NRPA has partnered with the Urban Parks Coalition and seeks national initiatives in the areas of play, environmental stewardship, and healthy lifestyles.
As the “Voice of Parks and Recreation,” NRPA annually recognizes members and supporters who excel in the industry through the Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management, the Robert W. Crawford Hall of Fame Award, the nine National Agency and Organization Awards, and the ten National Individual Awards.2 They also award one Fellowship and two Scholarships for participation in the annual NRPA Congress.
From the beginning, the NRPA has sought “to advance parks, recreation, and environmental conservation efforts that enhance the quality of life for all people.”3 This involves the “firm belief that green space, community parks, and recreational activity are vital to the overall health and welfare of people.”4