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The Best of the Best from 2014

What memories will stay with you from 2014?

Here at the Institute, there are several moments and milestones that stand out for me as we pushed forward with our mission to make parks and public lands part of the solution to major societal challenges.

Health Successes

In our health work, I vividly recall a day in late October when we helped host a training on park prescriptions for 180 professionals from San Francisco’s Department of Public Health. This training was the first of its kind and should lead to nature and outdoor activity becoming a major part of people’s lives. Looking around the room, I was inspired and energized by the passion and commitment of these healthcare professionals.

Another memorable moment happened in Charlotte, North Carolina, when the Institute co-hosted a second national park prescriptions meeting. I so enjoyed meeting with doctors, rangers and other parks and healthcare champions from around the country who are leading the charge on park prescriptions nationwide. It’s an honor for the Institute to be supporting this growing coalition.

 (Participants in the second National Park Prescriptions Convening, 2014)

Fostering New Leaders

A third moment that will stay with me from 2014 is when two young professionals, Ruth Pimentel and Hector Zaragoza, joined our Institute team. Hector and Ruth were the first cohort of a new Institute initiative, the Fellowship for Emerging Leaders. Designed to support and foster new young talented professionals in the parks and conservation world, it was a pleasure to have Ruth and Hector join our team for nine months in 2014. We wish them every success as they start on the next stage of their careers.

Making a Global Connection

A final vivid memory from 2014 for me is my time spent in Sydney, Australia, at the World Parks Congress. The opportunity to meet with 6000 dedicated parks and public lands professionals and decision makers comes around only once a decade. I was thrilled to present our work on the unique role parks can and should be playing in educating and empowering the public on climate change, including our new Climate Literacy Collaborative in the San Francisco Bay Area. It was an honor to be on stage with such luminaries as National Park Service director Jon Jarvis, and a thrill to speak at a session on the critical role of our urban parks and protected areas. But more important than the Institute’s moments in the spotlight was the chance to hear from other experts around the world, to share in their trials and challenges, and to learn from their successes.

Looking Ahead

Our work at the Institute is rarely dull. In fact, it’s a privilege to be part of a team dedicated to making our treasured parks and public spaces part of the answer to the huge problems that face us today – our healthcare and education crises, rapid urban development, climate change. The opportunity to make a difference is one that’s hard to pass up.

Looking ahead to 2015, we’ll bring more news through our blogs, website and social media on our plans, successes, hot-off-the-press news, and even our trials and tribulations (hopefully we won't have too many of these!).

Thank you for supporting us on our journey.

Chris Spence

Director, Institute at the Golden Gate

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