Develop A Maintenance Plan

Key players to involve in the conversation

By Randy Gaddo

Editor’s Note: This column, “LBWA” (Leadership By Wandering Around), is based on the premise that, in order to find out what’s going on in the field, a parks and rec leader has to leave his or her desk and “wander around” the area of operations, talk to people, ask questions, and kick around ideas with the individuals in the thick of delivering services to the public. So the author will bring up issues and ask the leaders among the readership to share their knowledge and experiences. 

Maintenance issues generally draw fire from the community quicker than any other aspect of parks-and-rec operations. Regardless of how imaginative or solid a program or activity is, or how qualified an instructor may be, if maintenance of a facility is lacking, it will become the focus, and not in a good way.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / kirstypargeter

Some maintenance departments might be tempted to just stay off the skyline, using the “no news is good news” approach. There is some logic to this mindset, and depending on individual department circumstances, it may indeed be a workable tactic; avoiding major negative issues may be the best you can accomplish in the current anemic economy. On the other hand, it may be compared to the ostrich sticking its head in the sand; the problems are there, and it’s only a matter of time before one of them becomes a crisis.

The issues that departments face vary because each has its own social, political, economic, climatic, and other variables. Common issues, such as overused sports fields or facilities with little downtime for proper preventive maintenance or uninformed clientele who don’t understand the complexity of proper maintenance may be evident. Although a one-size-fits-all solution is difficult to develop, every department can benefit from a maintenance plan.

Look to other departments for examples. A quick Web search will provide example after example from across the nation. Some maintenance plans are embedded in comprehensive master plans, some are stand-alone, and some are focused on specific items, such as tree maintenance.

Generally, it’s best to project a plan for at least 5 years, always emphasizing the next year’s requirements.  For those groups just developing a plan, perhaps starting with 1 year and dividing it into four short-term planning cycles is more manageable. The plan can gradually be projected out to 5 or more years to consider a long-range budget more effectively. Regardless of longevity, a realistic financing section should be a critical part of any plan.

Involve Everyone

Developing an effective plan must involve everyone in the discussion phase. This serves a dual purpose:

  • It brings all perspectives that impact maintenance to the table.
  • It forces discussion among these staff groups in a non-crisis environment where all members can learn what the others do.

Plus, the experience also will create buy-in with greater acceptance from the people who helped develop it:

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