WRPA 2021 Conference Breakout Session Block 5 

Session 5A: Day 2 Thursday, April 29 | 12:45 PM — 2:00 PM

How Parks & Recreation Can Support Mental Health Initiatives


Mental health issues throughout the United States continue to be a growing problem. The Parks and recreation industry can play a significant role in offering service and support for those who experience challenges. Research has indicated the benefits individuals derive from a walk in the woods, working out, riding a bike, or practicing mindfulness, among the myriad of services we offer.

Learning Objectives:

  • Discuss mental health issues and statistics related to mental health challenges in the United States.
  • List examples of nationwide efforts of cities, towns, and park and recreation agencies offering in support of providing resources for mental health challenges.
  • Discuss audience examples of efforts currently being done by audience members' agencies.

Presented by: 

Barbara Heller, Practice Lead/Manager, BerryDunn

Barbara Heller has 40 years of industry experience, including 30 years working for park and recreation agencies and 12 years as a consultant in the field, focusing on strategy, organizational development, leadership development, and best practices related to knowledge management and measuring organizational performance.

Lauren Kiefert, Program Specialist, National Recreation and Park Association

Lauren Kiefert is a Program Specialist for the National Recreation and Park Association. Lauren joined NRPA in January 2019 and works on various mental health and substance use prevention and education-related grants and projects. Lauren brings a wealth of knowledge to NRPA, having both educational and professional experience in the public health field. Prior to joining the association, she completed her Master of Public Health degree from George Washington University, with a focus on health promotion and prevention efforts.


Session 5B: Day 2 Thursday, April 29 | 12:45 PM — 2:00 PM

Community Outreach & Engagement with an Equity Lens 


Do your program participants and park users reflect the demographics of the community you serve?

If your initial response was ”I’m not sure”…or… “I’ve never really thought about that” - you’ll benefit from learning engagement strategies designed to support continuous Diversity, Equity, Access & Inclusion practices within your organization. Where is your organization today in serving the diverse needs of the communities you serve? Where do you want to be? How do you get there? How can you live up to your organization’s mission of service? 

Learn how to build trust and adapt to meet the evolving needs of diverse communities. Session presenters will share from their lived experience engaging vulnerable populations throughout the pandemic. If you’re aware of inequities in your level of service and want to learn how to apply DEAI practices, then this session is for you.

Learning Objectives:

  • To understand how DEIA efforts can be used to shift organizational culture.
  • To understand how to implement inclusive engagement strategies for continuous DEIA practice within the organization to build trust and to adapt and meet evolving community needs.
  • To understand how to build trust through increased transparency and willingness to champion the urgency of now, with a strong commitment to implementing strategies and recommendations, that lay a strong foundation.

Presented by: 

Courtney Acoff, Community Outreach & Engagement Specialist at Courtney Acoff

Courtney Acoff successfully navigated her way thru Metro Parks Tacoma, where she has created and served in inaugural roles to meet growing organizational needs and the District’s visions for evolving. Courtney currently serves as the Metro Parks Tacoma Community Outreach and Engagement Specialist, where she has become a passionate leader, builder, and connector. Courtney partners with external organizations to develop relationships and understand their organizational development/mission, in an effort to better meet the needs of Tacoma’s marginalized communities. As a Certified Diversity Consultant, her focus is to acknowledge the intersectionality of life, along with the complexity those intersections bring to service organizations.

Delia Flores, Community Center Supervisor

Delia Flores has served diverse communities in the field of Recreation and Leisure Services for over 15 years. She joined Metro Parks Tacoma in 2018 as a Community Center Supervisor and served as a Community Outreach and Engagement Lead. Delia has an insightful understanding of social justice and intersectionality both in an academic context and through her lived experiences. She serves as an ambassador who advocates for DEAI to internal and external stakeholders. Delia is recognized as an ethical and strategic leader with a deep commitment to DEAI work. As a Certified Diversity Consultant, she is a respected adviser and promoter for institutional and cultural shifts throughout the organization.

Abigail Vizcarra-Perez, Diversity Outreach Specialist

Abigail Vizcarra Perez, MDiv joined Metro Parks Tacoma in 2018 as the first Diversity Outreach Specialist for Tacoma’s public parks, to achieve more equitable development of public spaces. She has been a DEI practitioner in private, public, and religious settings for 20 years. She leans heavily on her experience as the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants and sees professional networking as an act of social justice.


Session 5C: Day 2 Thursday, April 29 | 12:45 PM — 2:00 PM

The Sport for Everyone: How Junior Disc Golf Courses Get Kids Moving


An in-depth look at how Junior Disc Golf Courses affect today’s general, low-income & Xbox community. Focus on: family, children, school students/teams, and how disc golf has allowed people to be outside recreating during the pandemic. Plus liability, safety, development and installation topics, personal development on users, the effect on user groups, target users, and more!

Learning Objectives:

  • Learn how Jr Disk Golf impacts youths’ lives using US/YDGA 5-year student study. 
  • Better understand Disc Golf Course Risk Management.
  • Learn how to choose the right park. 

Presented by: 

Erin Johnson, Director, US Youth Disc Golf Association,

Owner and operator of the US Youth Disc Golf Association, JR Disc Golf Course Designer, Disc Golf Instructor, and Professional Disc Golfer.

Ryan Griffith, Assistant Recreation Director, City of Spokane Parks and Recreation

Ryan oversees three 18-hole municipal disc golf courses, 5 Jr Disc Golf Courses, Camp Sekani mountain bike park and Outdoor Recreation Programs. Ryan has worked to develop user group maintenance agreements and organizes volunteer groups for the care and maintenance of the facilities.


Session 5D: Day 2 Thursday, April 29 | 12:45 PM — 2:00 PM

Riverfront Park Renaissance: Planning, Realizing & Programming a Treasured Park for New Generations! (While nimbly responding to a global pandemic!)


This session is a model for how designing flexibility into a park allows programming to nimbly adapt to unforeseen circumstances and thrive while and meeting community needs in challenging times! Riverfront Park is a Spokane treasure, and the 2020 NRPA Best in Innovation Award winner is located in the center of the city and the heart of the region. The park was originally built as the home of Expo 1974 and then reshaped into an amazing Park, yet 40+ years after hosting the Expo, this much-loved regional center was showing its age and ready to be reimagined as an ever more vibrant and sustainable park. The ambitious process started in 2015 with its full completion in 2021.

Learn how the revitalized park has been embraced by the community, exceed expectations, and been a catalyst for the whole of the City and a springboard for the Parks and Recreation Department’s future plans. Also learn how the park adapted and thrived in a year shaped by the pandemic, valuable and inspired lessons for ALL parks and programs we can all learn from!

Learning Objectives:

  • See realized design strategies for integrating surgical interventions in parks while maintaining the existing character and treasured amenities.
  • Learn how a project can exceed expectations even as it has had to “pivot” from plans during the pandemic!
  • Understand how a dynamic and flexible park design allows the program to adapt and evolve to ever-changing, unforeseen needs and opportunities! 

Presented by: 

Guy Michaelsen, Landscape Architect

Guy is a landscape architect and urban designer who works extensively in the public realm, including parks, trail corridors, streetscapes, and commercial public spaces. His recent work includes the reimagining and revitalization of Riverfront Park in Spokane. He has a passion for inspiring others to imagine what can be, challenging the typical through entertaining presentations on a variety of subjects including empowering art in the design of public places and challenging the role and opportunities for urban landscapes. Guy is a strong believer in finding and creating awesomeness and the power of speaking things into existence

Garrett Jones, Director | Director, City of Spokane Parks & Recreation

Garrett is a seasoned Parks and Recreation Professional and Landscape Architect. Garrett has been Director of Spokane Parks and Recreation since 2019, rooted in his experience across a wide range of roles in the organization. His work has included guiding open space municipal projects from initial visioning through permitting, construction as City of Spokane Parks and Recreation Landscape Designer, Landscape Architect and Assistant Director of Park Operations for eight years, transitioning to Park Planning Manager in 2016. His leadership included guiding the department’s multi-million dollar budget and capital improvement programs, of which the redevelopment of Riverfront Park was included!


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