The Department of Parks and Recreation recently held its 15th annual Park Summit, during which more than 300 professionals representing cities, non-profits and unincorporated communities within Los Angeles County learned facts and information that will help them to better serve their constituents.

Held at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Arcadia, the theme of this year’s summit was “The Power of Parks,” which reinforced the value of parks in our neighborhoods, their impact on improving the lives of residents, and how Parks and Recreation professionals are making a difference in their communities through the work they do and love.

“The Park Summit was a huge success, and the large turnout is evidence of how much this event is valued,” said Department Director John Wicker. “Celebrating our 15th anniversary was a big milestone, and we look forward to holding this event for many, many more years!”

Natasha Watley – a respected motivational speaker who is a two-time Pan American Softball Gold Medalist, three-time World Champion, and a four-time World Cup Champion who also played on America’s Olympic team – was this year’s keynote speaker.

She spoke about how she introduced the sport of Softball to girls in low-income neighborhoods to help build their self-esteem, confidence and social skills. She also talked about her Natasha Watley Foundation, a community service non-profit dedicated to introducing softball to the girls of our nation’s inner cities.

During the event, there were also five popular and well-attended seminars:

  • Women in Sports – Women leaders from the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks and the Positive Coaching Alliance offered their perspectives on the challenges and successes of being a woman in sports, and how their impact as role models help shape younger women’s lives.
  • Transforming Communities Through Non-Traditional Recreational Planning – Led by Sara Daleiden, Founder of MKE <-> LAX, and Jimmy Kim, Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks, this discussion explored a wide range of themes centered around cultural exchange in public places.
  • Living The Vision Through Mindfulness – This interactive session explored how small changes in your breath, body, thoughts and day can make your life better. It was led by certified yoga instructor Sarah Little.
  • Recreational Programming: Timeless Innovations – This panel discussion was centered around drama, sports and visionary recreational programs. The speakers included Lisa Coffi, Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Shakespeare by the Sea; BK Atul Rai,  Director and President of the Southern California Cricket Association; Mary Clark, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Discovery Agents; and Charles Tresky, Business Development Manager for Go Ape.
  • Sustainability Efforts – Key strategies were presented for improving sustainable performance in the Los Angeles region, as well as typologies for planning sustainable projects in urban settings. The panel included Gary Gero, Los Angeles County Chief Sustainability Officer; Jessica Meany, Founder and Executive Director of Investing in Places; and Perrin Pellegrin, Managing Partner for Innovative Workshop Consulting.

The Park Summit ended with a special reception and performance by international singing sensation, Los 5, in the Celebration Garden. The event concluded with a stroll through the Arboretum to take in its natural beauty.