The National Recreation and Park Association is considering structural changes that could fundamentally change how members associate. That has some longtime aquatics leaders concerned the changes may be more about saving money in a downsized organizaton than anything else. 

A task force now is reviewing the option of doing away with the branches and sections structure of the organization. The task force is still finalizing its work, but the preliminary recommendation is to reconfigure them into a group of networks that would serve essentially the same function, said Lois Finkelman, chair of the NRPA Board of Directors. She added that though no final vote on the recommendations will take place until the task force has completed its report, the recommendations have received positive feedback from the board.

Under the current system, individuals can join NRPA as either a corporate member, industry professional or citizen volunteer. And a member can elect to be a member of a specific branch or interest group, such as aquatics. Branches are required to have separate leadership and governance. Sections are similar to branches, but don’t have enough members to qualify as a branch.

If approved, the new system would eliminate this structure and create looser associations united via the Internet, rather than by a codified structure.

Not everyone likes that plan, however. “I just don’t see that the networking groups are going to be as effective,” Terri Smith said.

Smith is an aquatics professional who’s held leadership positions in NRPA for more than five years. She and Juliene Hefter believe one primary motivating factor could be saving money. A move to networks could potentially save on staffing.

“I give NRPA a lot of credit for where I am in my life,” said Hefter, a past president of  NRPA's National Aquatic Branch. “I want that to be the same for future individuals.”

A vote on the issue is expected to take place at the 2010 NRPA Congress & Exposition in October, but Finkelman said if the task force completes its recommendations before then, the board could vote sooner.