Gathered to explore the theme “Connecting Communities,” hundreds of park and recreation professionals assembled May 8, 2014 at the Los Angeles County Arboretum for the 12th Annual Park Summit.
Presented by the Department of Parks and Recreation, the summit welcomed attendees from 48 cities — as well as regional agencies, conservancies and other advocates for parks, healthy recreation and open space. Director Russ Guiney said the summit has grown from “an incredible networking opportunity” into “an indispensable forum for sharing ideas on how to meet today’s challenges, and an occasion to receive important information that helps us prepare for and shape the future of our profession.”
On that note, the Summit certainly did not disappoint. Participants were able to attend a number of informative workshops, including:
- A session on Youth Employee Skills Education, during which Bruce Saito of the L.A. Conservation Corps stressed the importance of hiring at-risk youth.
- Two workshops featuring Jennie Sumrell of PlayCore. In one, “Making Play a Priority in Your Organization & Community, she noted that this emphasis is essential because “play is the work of children.” In another, entitled “Promoting Community Health & Wellness Through Adult Outdoor Fitness Parks,” she detailed how these state-of-the-art facilities are playing a key role in the fight against America’s obesity epidemic.
- Alexis Lantz of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, discussing healthy design.
- Francine Rizzio (Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Parks Bureau), Charlotte Robinson-Perkins (Department of Parks and Recreation) and Alfred Lomas (Inner City Visions) on “Community Building Through Unique Partnerships.
- Vicki Israel of the City of Los Angeles and Erika Mitchell of the Santa Monica Boys & Girls Club, on how agencies can create and maintain positive relationships with nonprofits.
- Colleen Janssen of the Rancho Simi Recreation and Park District, on initiatives that create empowered volunteers who can help agencies bridge budget and program gaps.
- Steven Loy, Ph.D. of California State University-Northridge on the free, community-based fitness program 100 Citizens.
- Karla T. Vasquez (VELA: “The Light of the Community”) and Lauren Dunning (Los Angeles County Department of Public Health) on “Active Living, Healthy Eating.”
- Alina Bokde, Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust, on how grassroots community outreach can help move a parks vision forward.
As expected, one of the day’s highlights was the keynote address by Andy Lipkis, founder and president of the organization TreePeople. In an impassioned speech, Lipkis recalled how what is now Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area sparked his interest in the outdoors, recounted the history of the “citizen forestry” movement he helped start and called for greater cooperation in combating the effects of California’s devastating drought.
Saying the work of park and recreational professionals “is truly about healing communities,” Lipkis praised summit attendees as “pre-responders” on matters of conservation and the environment that will shape the future of the planet.
The summit also featured a number of other speakers: California State Parks Deputy Director for External Affairs Sedrick Mitchell, who spoke about several issues, including his agency’s FamCamp program; Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District Administrator Jane I. Beesley, who spoke about new funding opportunities as well as the $46 million in grants her agency has facilitated since last July; Doug Houston of the Houston Group, who provided an update on state legislation affecting parks and recreation in California
Several organizations and companies acted as sponsors of the event, including Clif Bars; City of Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks; City of Paramount Community Services & Recreation Department; City of Santa Clarita Parks, Recreation & Community Services Department; Lowe’s; Los Angeles County Regional Park and Open Space District; Score Sports; and the Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation.