Confronting COVID-19: Parks, Public Spaces, and the Pandemic

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May 5
2:00 pm - 3:15 pm
Live Online
Online DC United States
ULI Building Healthy Places Initiative


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Confronting COVID-19: Parks, Public Spaces, and the Pandemic

Tuesday, May 5 at 2:00-3:15 pm EDT (Eastern Daylight Time) / 7:00pm – 8:15pm BST (British Summer Time) / 8:00pm – 9:15pm CEST (Central European Summer Time)

Parks and public spaces are important at all times, and they have proved especially essential during this pandemic. American cities including Oakland, Philadelphia, and elsewhere are innovating to maximize the potential of public spaces to preserve and enhance physical and mental health in these challenging times. In this joint Urban Land Institute/National Recreation and Park Association webinar, learn more about city strategies, and how parks and public spaces can be safely used to benefit individual and community well-being.


Confirmed Speakers:

Nicholas Williams, Director, City of Oakland Parks, Recreation and Youth Development (OPRYD)

J. Nicholas Williams

J. Nicholas Williams is the Director of Parks, Recreation and Youth Development (OPRYD) for the City of Oakland, California. A native of Oakland, Williams has served the citizens of Oakland as Director since June of 2016. Williams is dedicated to improving the quality of life of all citizens by engaging the community in the preservation and expansion of recreational facilities and programs. Before this, Williams established an impressive career as Assistant Superintendent of Recreation for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. Prior to Minneapolis, Nicholas served as the Director of Parks and the Director of Recreation at The City of Atlanta’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs, and Director of Community Building at Atlanta-based nonprofit Park Pride. Williams holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Morehouse College.


Kathryn Ott Lovell, Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks and Recreation

Kathryn Ott LovellKathryn Ott Lovell was appointed commissioner of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation (Parks & Rec) by Mayor Jim Kenney in January 2016. Ott Lovell is an active member of Reimagining the Civic Commons, a collaborative, national initiative that revitalizes and connects civic assets with the goals of civic engagement, socioeconomic mixing, environmental sustainability, and value creation. Prior to her appointment as commissioner, Ott Lovell served as the executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy and as Chief Advancement Officer for Mural Arts Philadelphia.  Currently, Ott Lovell serves on the board of directors for the Please Touch Museum, Schuylkill River Development Corporation, Parkway Council, Free Library of Philadelphia, and the Philadelphia Sports Congress.


Janet Fulton, Chief, Physical Activity and Health Branch, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Janet FultonJanet Fulton currently serves on the CDC’s Community Guidance Team for the COVID-19 Response and helped write CDC’s recent guidance for parks and recreational facilities. She has a doctoral degree in Epidemiology from the University of Texas School of Public Health. She has been at CDC for over 20 years studying patterns of physical activity in the US population and working to make opportunities for physical activity a national priority. She has published over 100 scientific articles on the epidemiology and promotion of physical activity. Before the pandemic, she enjoyed hitting fuzzy yellow balls and taking spin classes – now, she really enjoys going for long socially-distanced walks close to home. When she returns to her day job, she will continue working to improve physical activity levels in 27 million Americans by 2027 through CDC’s new initiative Active People, Healthy Nation.


Jennifer Murphy, Community Intervention and At Risk Task Force, WASH Team, COVID-19 Response, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Jennifer MurphyJennifer Murphy currently serves as the Team Lead on CDC’s Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) Team for the COVID-19 Response. She received her PhD degree in Environmental Microbiology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health. She has more than 20 years of research experience in designing and conducting field and laboratory studies that include microbiological, chemical, and physicochemical testing of water and other types of environmental samples. She has also participated in CDC-led waterborne disease outbreak response both domestically and internationally, as well as performed laboratory-based studies of disinfectants for use in waterborne disease outbreak prevention and response. When not working on the COVID-19 response, she serves as the Team Lead of the Environmental Microbiology and Engineering Team and leads the Global WASH Laboratory within the Waterborne Disease Prevention Branch.


Moderated by:

Rachel Banner, Director of Park Access, National Recreation and Park Association

Rachel BannerRachel Banner leads the 10-Minute Walk Campaign at the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), where she designs strategy and manages a team to deliver training, technical assistance, grants, research, evaluation and communications to ensure park professionals have the tools to improve communities through equitable access to quality parks. Rachel received her Master’s in Public Health from Tufts University and her BS in Exercise Science from Elon University, both focused on health equity, chronic disease prevention and the built environment.