Path to Recovery: Local Agencies Respond to COVID-19
|Join NRPA President and CEO, Kristine Stratton, as well as leading park and recreation professionals, as they share critical information regarding their response to the COVID-19 pandemic and plans for reopening. Agency directors will share their approach and highlight key considerations that should be made in the reopening process. You will get crucial information, including current public health guidance, to help inform your decision-making on management and programming. We will also share our most recent survey data on the status of the field, as well as the latest updates to NRPA’s Path to Recovery framework.|
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President & Chief Executive Officer, National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)
In her role, Stratton leads the national organization that works to ensure all people have access to parks for health, conservation and recreation. NRPA is the national voice for the protection and creation of local parks, harnessing the passion and power of its more than 60,000 members and the millions of individuals they serve.
NRPA partners with foundations, federal agencies and corporations that recognize the critical role of parks in creating healthy and sustainable communities. The organization grants millions of dollars each year to its members to implement programs that have measurable objectives, such as increasing equitable park access, reducing obesity, increasing physical activity, saving wildlife, connecting children to nature and implementing green infrastructure in communities nationwide. Access to quality parks and recreation is a critical component to an individual’s success and to strong communities, and NRPA focuses on underserved communities to give everyone access to a great park.
A staunch advocate for environmental conservation and equity issues, Stratton believes strongly in NRPA’s mission. Before coming to NRPA, Stratton was the senior vice president of operations at Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest organization dedicated to litigating environmental issues. Prior to that, she served as the executive director of Waterkeeper Alliance in New York, New York, and before that she was vice president of operations at the Conservation Law Foundation in Boston, Massachusetts. She also served in several administrative and senior management roles at WGBH Educational Foundation, a public broadcasting station, in Boston, Massachusetts. Stratton holds a Master of Arts degree in environmental policy and planning from Tufts University and a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration from Boston University.
Superintendent, Seattle Parks and Recreation
Jesús Aguirre has served as the Superintendent of Seattle Parks and Recreation since June 2015. Aguirre began his career as a middle school science teacher in Los Angeles in the 1990s and most recently, served as the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia. Prior to that role, Aguirre served as the director of the District of Columbia Department of Parks and Recreation. Aguirre is a proud father of three children attending public schools. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA from the WP Carey School of Business at the Arizona State University.
Allegra "Happy" Haynes
Executive Director, Denver Parks
Allegra “Happy” Haynes has served since 2015 as the Executive Director of Denver Parks and Recreation and was also appointed in 2017 and 2019 to serve as the Deputy Mayor. Happy was twice elected and served from 2011 – 2019 as an at-large member of the Denver Public Schools Board of Education following six years as the District’s Chief Community Engagement Officer. Happy is a Denver native, attended Denver East High School and received a BA in Political Science from Barnard College at Columbia University and an MPA from the University of Colorado at Denver.
During a 40-year career in state and local government, Happy served thirteen years on the Denver City Council from 1990 – 2003 and was president from 1998 - 2000. She serves on several non-profit boards including the Colorado Trust for Public Land, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Denver Botanic Gardens and is a member of the Denver Chapter of Links INC. She was a founding board member of Mile High Youth Corps, Colorado Black Women for Political Action and the Foundation for Education Excellence. Happy is single, an avid jazz fan and loves gardening, sports and outdoor activities.
Greg A. Weitzel
Director, Las Vegas Parks and Recreation
Greg A. Weitzel is the Director of the Department of Parks and Recreation for the City of Las Vegas, Nevada. Mr. Weitzel previously served as the Director of Parks and Recreation for the City of Idaho Falls, Idaho since 2012. In Idaho, his agency received multiple awards for innovative programming and outstanding facilities and park development from several organizations. Prior to his appointment in Idaho, Mr. Weitzel was the Director of Parks and Recreation in the urban environment for the City of Allentown, Pennsylvania located between Philadelphia and New York City. His work in Pennsylvania was highlighted by earning the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Intergovernmental Cooperation and several Pennsylvania Recreation and Park Association Excellence in Programming, Park Development and Professional of the Year awards. Mr. Weitzel currently serves on the Board of Directors for the National Recreation and Park Association, an industry peer nominated position, where he leads the Public Policy Committee. An invited member of the White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors, Mr. Weitzel has significant experience addressing urban issues and working closely with federal, state and local elected officials. Mr. Weitzel is a Certified Park and Recreation Professional and earned a Master’s Degree in Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Park Administration from Illinois State University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Recreation and Park Management, Community and Therapeutic Recreation from the Pennsylvania State University, where he was also recognized with the Emerging Professional of the Year Award from the College of Health and Human Development. Mr. Weitzel has also helped to secure more than $1 million dollars for international humanitarian aid and lead teams to build one of the first playgrounds in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake and assisted in securing and building more than 40 other playgrounds in several third world countries as an ambassador for the non-profit organization, Kids Around the World. Weitzel has been married for more than twenty years to his wife Jennie and has two teenage daughters, Virginia and Ashley and enjoys hunting, fishing, mountain biking and playing guitar.
General Superintendent & CEO, Chicago Park District
Serving as Chicago Park District General Superintendent & CEO since 2011, Kelly is responsible for a $487 million urban park system that serves all 77 of Chicago’s neighborhoods, with more than 600 parks, 26 miles of lakefront, more than 50 nature areas, 12 museums, two world-class conservatories, 16 historic lagoons and more than 8,800 acres of parkland, as well as historic Soldier Field. Superintendent Kelly is a passionate supporter of open space and improving the quality of life for Chicago residents through parks and recreation opportunities. He measures success by the number of children served, and under his direction the Chicago Park District has seen exponential growth in registrations for award winning programs such as “Learn to Swim,” summer day camp, gymnastics and programming for young residents with special needs.
Kelly oversaw the development and completion of signature capital projects – including the creation of Maggie Daley Park, the renovation of Theater on the Lake and the Lakefront Trail Separation project. Last year, through a partnership with the Chicago Housing Authority, the Park District opened a one-of-a-kind new fieldhouse at Williams Park on the South Side. Current projects include the world-class indoor track and field facility at Gately Park, as well as a state of the art indoor recreation center on the near west side at Addams Park. Superintendent Kelly also has led the acquisition of more than 1,000 acres of parkland, along with the building and renovation of nearly 400 playgrounds. Under Kelly’s leadership, the Chicago Park District has earned various awards and recognitions including the 2014 National Gold Medal Award for Excellence in Park and Recreation Management by the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) and two successive accreditations by the NRPA's Commission for Accreditation of Park Recreation Agencies (CAPRA). He serves on the NRPRA’s board of directors and was recently elected chair of the organization’s board starting in 2020 – the first Chicago Park District chief to be selected for the position. The NRPA provides frameworks for recreation agencies throughout the country to measure their performance.
A native Chicagoan, born and raised on the city’s South Side, Kelly earned a JD from the DePaul College of Law in Chicago, and a BA in Political Science from John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. He is married, and the father of four children. Kelly and his family reside in the West Morgan Park community of Chicago.