Parks and Recreation Newsletter, Fall 2008
National Recreation and Park Association Geographic Information System Project
by Jim Speck, ASLA

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) is undertaking a project, with the support of the American Park and Recreation Society, to identify a minimum set of variables (“attributes”) and values to describe parks, trails and recreation facilities. It is called the “GIS Standards and Data Model Project for Parks, Trails and Recreation Facilities.” Its goal is to create consistency in the data that is maintained by communities in their GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Simply put, the groups are trying to put some structure around what to count and how to measure it. Members of the Parks and Recreation PPN have an opportunity to be involved in this process.

Historically, NPRA produced a per capita standard that, in the mid-1990s, evolved into an 8-step planning process to determine a community’s level of service. The GIS Standards Project will provide structure for the baseline function of system inventory, which generally occurs before the planning process even begins. The deliverables of this project will be a standard with required and optional variables to include in any GIS database for park, trail, and recreation facility layers, and a downloadable data model that can be imported into any GIS system. In addition, there will be full documentation regarding the attributes, values, and their definitions. At this time, NRPA is not attempting to replace or modify the 1996 Park, Recreation, Open Space and Greenway Guidelines by James D. Mertes  and James R. Hall (currently out of print). Rather, it is evaluating new technologies and practices  and how NRPA can provide updated practices regarding the processes illustrated in those Guidelines.

NRPA is not attempting to collect data during this project. Instead, it is considering possible attributes and values about parks, trails and recreation facilities. These include: (1) a basic set of consistent information being captured by all communities across the U.S.; (2) data in addition to basic reference information that is related to management, accessibility, sustainable/green infrastructure, homeland security, etc; (3) improved ability to compare data consistency among agencies; (4) improved ability to compare information across levels of government; (5) state inventory requirements for each Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan; (6) considerations for tracking and distributing Land and Water Conservation Fund amounts; and (7) contributions to national or international atlases of protected areas.

PPN Chair Jim Speck, ASLA, is participating in monthly conference calls on this project, and will update PPN members at the Parks and Recreation PPN meeting in Philadelphia. Interested PPN members may contact him for more information, or contact NRPA staff lead Meredith Bridgers, at 703-858-2191 or For additional information, go to the NRPA website

Jim Speck, ASLA, is Director of Planning and Construction at Metroparks of the Toledo (Ohio) Area, and can be reached at:

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Alison Jumper, ASLA, Chair
(479) 444-3469