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Secretary Jewell Addresses Urban Matters In Webinar

National Park News

Over 150 participants nationwide recently joined a webinar conversation with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Deputy Director Peggy O’Dell about parks and programs in urban environments.  They set the stage for the development of a progressive urban agenda as part of the Call to Action centennial strategy.

It is clear that the NPS role in urban areas is much more diverse than the park units themselves. The arsenal of NPS programs, matched with urban parks, can be an incredible force for people and their communities.  

More than 7 of every 10 people in this country live in urban areas of 50,000 people or more. Half of those urbanites live in the 50 largest cities. While there are many examples of individual NPS parks and programs that have been effective locally, they have not yet translated into an effective system responding to the needs of urban environments and populations. To highlight successes and identify needs, a growing group of people, are collaborating to elaborate an urban agenda for the National Park Service.

The “Urban Matters Engagement Series” is facilitated by the Collaborative for Innovative Leadership which is a response to Call to Action #31, Destination Innovation. Director Jon Jarvis has tasked the NPS Conservation Study Institute to work with Call to Action Champion, Midwest Regional Director Mike Reynolds, and a wide range of parks, programs and partners to inspire peer-to-peer collaboration, accelerate the sharing of ideas, and create a network for innovation to solve mission critical problems.

Following the Urban Affinity Caucus, the Collaborative was asked to take a creative approach to address the priority issues that emerged from the Caucus. This effort naturally lead to a collaboration with Call to Action #5, Parks for People that are tasked with enhancing the NPS connection to densely populated communities.

The Urban Matters webinar asked people to participate in a community of practice that would advance the NPS urban agenda around the following issues: 

  • Urban Innovations 
  • Urban Policy
  • Branding Urban NPS
  • Urban Parks as Portals to NPS Diversity
  • Introducing Youth to Nature
  • NPS Role in Economic Revitalization in Urban Areas

Each of these informal groups will meet (virtually) at least three times over the coming months. The objective is to gather information that will roll up into an urban agenda for the National Park Service by:

  1. Exploring pioneering efforts – identify the diversity of urban initiatives and exemplary work that can be shared and modeled across the Service;
  2. Identifying leveraging opportunities as well as barriers that are getting in the way of being successful in urban environments;
  3. Building a framework for aligning NPS parks, programs and partners that will maximize NPS capacity to serve urban communities.

If you are interested in joining the conversation and share your ideas, visit the Urban Matters Website.


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