Reach for It

The National Recreation & Park Association's annual conference took place in Las Vegas in mid-September, and the association was (and is) celebrating 50 years. At the same time, the National Swimming Pool Foundation is also celebrating 50 years of service. And here at Recreation Management, I just passed an anniversary and am now at the beginning of my 10th year covering this fascinating, fun and friendly industry.

In just the nine years that I've been learning about recreation, sports and fitness facilities—the ins and outs of their operations, the innovations in the products they use, the creative projects that exemplify lofty goals, like conservation, education, wellness and so much more—there have been some impressive changes and developments. Considering the 50 years dedicated to the industry by these two associations, we're looking at a totally different landscape.

Think about it. Looking at municipal swimming alone, consider how much has changed. Once upon a time, there was no such thing as a municipal pool. They were fairly common when I was growing up, but at that point, the only program offered was learn-to-swim and the only kind of pool to be found was a rectangle with maybe a diving board or two.

These days, the rectangular pools where we learned to swim are a thing of the past. Modern municipal aquatic facilities are more waterpark-like, adopting some of the successes of the private waterpark industry to bring more to citizens and provide a draw beyond just a place to splash and swim.

The park where my community pool was located was also home to our annual 4th of July fireworks, and I can still remember how much I hated having to use the restroom facility there. For whatever reason, the stalls had no doors. Since then, manufacturers and industry professionals have come a long way in understanding how to make restrooms safer without sacrificing a sense of privacy.

Waterparks and restrooms are just two areas that have seen dramatic change and development over the past 50 years (and we cover both of them in detail in this issue). But there are so many more.

Think about playground safety (at my grade school, we played on equipment installed over asphalt), access to parks (the NRPA and various other associations have made it a mission to make sure parks are within walking distance for every American and continue to work toward that goal), fitness amenities (whether free activities on equipment at the local park or a paid gym membership, 50 years has seen vastly huge changes in the way Americans look at fitness and wellness) … the list can go on and on.

Fifty years has seen huge and impressive developments in every area of this industry. And it's because of organizations like the NRPA and NSPF—and, more importantly, the people who make up those organizations, and their dedication to a mission. To make parks more accessible for people of all abilities and backgrounds. To make swimming safer and more accessible. To conserve. To help people find pathways to wellness.

All along the way, there have been people hard at work, reaching for something better and different. And that's not about to change. In fact, looking forward, it's only going to get better and better. Is there something you believe in? Something you want to achieve? Reach for it. One day at a time eventually becomes a year at a time, and soon enough, 10 or 20 more years will have passed like the blink of an eye and we'll be amazed again at how far we've come.


Emily Tipping
Editorial Director,
Recreation Management

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