Maintenance Standards

One great way to monitor the success of your new standards is to conduct surveys on a regular schedule. A typical survey may be used by park staff and management to gauge the level of buy-in with its new standards, but can also be an excellent way to involve park advocacy groups, neighborhood associations, sports user groups or even elected officials.

This process allows a park agency to be even more transparent, both to its own staff and to the community for which it’s providing a service.

If you go this route, make sure to develop an easy-to-digest Survey Summary, which provides information on the percentage of standards met each quarter. This information, not all the survey detail, can be invaluable for budget preparation, justification and exploring the total cost of ownership of maintenance activities. This information will also assist you in prioritizing your maintenance efforts, identifying future capital improvement projects and flagging potential deficiencies in staff allocation and supervision.

It also helps when you get the call that your maintenance budget needs to be slashed. With this data, you can go to your municipalities’ decision-makers and show them what, exactly, it means if they cut your budget.

It’s much easier for them to make a decision (or not cut your budget) when you can demonstrate that the cuts will mean you only mow the town square park once a week, which means the grass will be over three inches high most of the time, and that you will not be able to afford the annual re-seeding of the youth sports fields, which could cause both parent complaints and an increase in sports-related injuries in the coming season.

Jim Carr is the founder of Jim Carr & Associates. He has worked in municipal government for 25 years, many of them as Maintenance Superintendent for Portland (Oregon) Parks and Recreation, where he directed Grounds Maintenance efforts for more than 3,000 acres of parklands encompassing over 365 multi-use athletic fields. You can reach Jim via e-mail at

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