"Our communities need us" is the message from National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA) Chief Executive Officer Barbara Tulipane. Acknowledging the realities of the economy and looking forward to future possibilities, Tulipane asks leaders in the field to come to Minneapolis for the 2010 NRPA Congress and Exposition — themed "Connecting Communities" — being held Oct. 25-29.

The conference brings together more than 6,500 park and recreation professionals, citizen advocates and industry suppliers for the industry's largest tradeshow, featuring the products and services of more than 400 exhibitors. Education sessions will cover topics ranging from environmental sustainability to revenue sustainability. Add off-site institutes, featured speakers and social networking for optimum opportunities to share, connect and learn.

Tulipane emphasizes that the goal of this year's conference will be to provide attendees with the tools and strategies to deal with the realities of the current economy while being prepared to do more when the economy improves. To assist with that goal, the keynote speaker at the Oct. 27 opening general session is Roch Parayre, Ph.D., senior partner at Decision Strategies International, who will focus on four areas:

  • Getting the tools to create that new market space. Attendees will learn to introduce and apply the frameworks and tools of Blue Ocean Strategy to their organizations and markets.
  • Creating a roadmap for making winning decisions every time, by alerting managers to common thinking traps and by offering practical remedies.
  • Gaining concepts, frameworks and techniques to link strategic vision to core capabilities.
  • Identifying areas of strategy requiring adjustment and monitoring as the future unfolds.

John Crompton, Ph.D. will speak at the general session on Oct. 28. Crompton, whose area of expertise is leisure and tourism services, will explore the evolution of parks and recreation and take a look at the role of parks in communities today. He will share his vision of repositioning parks and recreation agencies.

Crompton will explore ways to better justify the benefits an agency delivers, and will discuss the role and impact of parks in the following areas:

  • Influence of parks on property values.
  • Evidence supporting youth development services.
  • Benefits of physical activity provided by park and recreation services.
  • Impact of parks and trees on air quality.
  • Measurement of the economic impact of park and recreation services.

A variety of sessions will be offered at this year's NRPA Congress to help with the challenges currently facing the parks and recreation field. Billed as "your opportunity to create a blueprint for success," the sessions will include:

  • "The Brilliance of Branding Parks and Recreation" (Oct. 26)
  • "Edible Parks" (Oct. 27)
  • "You're Fired: The Politics of Organizations" (Oct. 27)
  • "Is Becoming a Special Park District in Your Future?" (Oct. 28)
  • "Cut to the Core! Effectively Managing Budget Cuts, Reductions and Downsizing" (Oct. 28)
  • "Implementing Efficiency Measures to Achieve Financial Sustainability" (Oct. 29)
  • "Five Key Areas for Revenue Sustainability" (Oct. 29)

In addition to keeping pace with current trends, attendees will be able to get outside and run or walk for fun at the 5K fun run/walk on Oct. 28. Minnesota's Lake Harriet is the picturesque setting for this year's 5K course.

Other outdoor recreation options include golf at Baker National Championship Golf Course. Located in the heart of Baker Park Reserve, the course has received the designation of "Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary" from Audubon International.

Attendees can also explore the Minneapolis area, including a Lake Minnetonka guided fishing trip, a city bike tour or a cave tour among a variety of leisure activities taking place before and during the conference.

The NRPA hosts this year's closing party at the home of the Minnesota Twins, Target Field, on Oct. 28. It will be a high-energy recreational evening designed to provide attendees with a chance to mingle and share experiences of the week.

For those wanting more, urban recreation begins following the closing party at the "Epic After Party." Just two blocks from Target Field, the Epic Night Club party for Congress participants starts at 8 p.m. featuring an evening of live entertainment. Doors open to the public at 9 p.m.

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