Clues

To that end, how does the parks and recreation professional maintain and improve facilities in light of this awareness? And further, how does the parks and recreation professional avoid the trap of only serving the sector with the obvious need?

Have we have become so accustomed to accommodating the smaller sector that we may ignore the less vocal majority? Certainly methods to measure whether or not the public is being properly served is easily garnered through user surveys and levy passage, but what about the day-to-day measures of simple user satisfaction?

Fortunately, the public will usually tell you by leaving clues — clues we must remain diligent in seeking and reading. Overflowing garbage cans indicate the need for more receptacles; dirt paths cut across sidewalks indicate where pathway connectors should be placed; vacant playgrounds indicate antiquated equipment or a lack of perceived safety by parents; worn paths into the woods near restroom facilities indicate that pit toilet facilities may need to be serviced more regularly.

The public is telling us what they think. Now take the other tack. By providing additional or larger capacity garbage receptacles, or installing pathway connectors where the preferred path has been indicated, or servicing playgrounds and restrooms with consistent attention, we are telling the public what we think.

That is, quite simply, that their satisfaction is important and the facilities offered to them should be as neat, clean, state-of-the-art, and easy to enjoy as possible.

The facility checklist, then, might include the following:

1. When was this structure/area built?

2. When was this structure/area most recently updated?

3. Is there regular traffic through this area?

4. At a glance, do you notice outdated amenities or construction methods?

5. Is there evidence of needs not being met and substitution taking place (like a steel trash can used as a burn barrel)?

6. Has there been a major repair to the area recently from general weathering and/or simple wear and tear?

Should review of questions such as these indicate that the facility has outlasted its intended useful life, then it can be easily concluded that continuing to leave the area unattended sends several clear messages to the public about commitment to their needs and wants.

If the park and recreation professional demonstrates to the public a clear presentation of his concern over what they think, he/she will be providing well-kept, safe amenities and their interpretation will be positive and their relationship with the entity strong.

Ronald D. Ciancutti is the purchasing manager for Cleveland Metroparks, a metropolitan park system that encircles Cuyahoga County and includes more than 20,000 acres of natural land, six golf courses, seven nature centers, a variety of special interest facilities and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. Ron can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.

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