Master Plan

Two years ago Plainfield, Ind. had a great plan for updating its parks, but no department specifically devoted to parks and recreation.

Now it’s in the midst of a fast-track multi-million-dollar renovation and construction.

With new state-of-the-art recreational facilities and miles of trails being planned, the town was ready to hand over its vision to a full-time parks and recreation director, which appeared in the form of Chuck Prince.

Prince is a 20-year parks and rec veteran who enthusiastically took the challenge. His job would be to build the new department from the ground up.

It didn’t hurt that the community was solidly behind the plan, and that the local food and beverage tax would help feed the need for new recreation facilities and programs. Additional funds would come from grants and the sale of bonds.

Fortunately, the cash flow has continued uninterrupted, in part through the community’s backing and the fact that the new department has lived up to its promises.

“We’ve been told by the state that why we’re so successful at getting grant money is that when we’re awarded grant money we actually do what we say we’re going to do and we get it done quickly,” says Prince.

“They know when Plainfield submits a grant that we’re serious about it and we’re going to get it done.”

Though not funded by grant money, Plainfield’s new skatepark is a good example of the department’s dedication to getting things done quickly, efficiently and economically, while maintaining an extremely high quality standard.

Skatepark Microcosm

“The skatepark was not on the original plan. It’s the typical story that a group of about 50 kids came in to a meeting. I knew they were coming and put them on the agenda. They did their research, came in with a spiral-bound presentation and a video tape and gave our council a presentation. It was so well prepared and professional that the council asked me to form a committee and start researching the issue, which we did,” says Prince.

“Our park was standing up and being used within a year of that meeting.”

Prince and his staff (currently three full-time employees) came back with a three-phase proposal. The first phase would require a budget of $250,000, and was recently completed for about $235,000.

Prince credits a thorough plan that convinced the town council to use money from the beverage tax to get it done.

“We didn’t throw out a slab, put a fence around and put the ramps up. We have a nice Poligon 36′ hexagonal shelter, tables, trees around it and it’s supervised,” says Prince.

“There’s often adult supervision, and if the adults aren’t there we have a staff of high-school kids trained in first aid, with two-way radio contact with our police and fire departments and they have cell phone contact as well.”

Prince’s research uncovered two recurring themes that would need to be controlled in order to make the skatepark a positive addition to the community -– trash and graffiti. Though Prince said he didn’t necessarily believe that the skatepark would attract secondary problems, like smoking and bad language, any potential problems would need to be nipped in the bud.

“We’ve had about 2,500 kids participate since we opened the park, and we’ve had no complaints about language or behavior. We’ve never had a decal stuck on anything, nothing spray painted — I’m knocking on my wooden desk right now — but we’ve never had the slightest problem at that park,” says Prince.

“We’ve had a couple of injuries, and our kids simply pushed the button on a walkie-talkie, provided first aid and the ambulance arrived within a few minutes.”

Prince says it’s one of the benefits of living in a small town, as they were able to coordinate supervision with local authorities in a matter of a couple of days.

Prince’s background is in aquatics, and he’s taken lessons learned from his experience and translated it to other recreational programs, going as far as calling the skatepark supervisors skateguards.

“In recreational facility management there are some core priorities you need to have no matter what the facility is. You have to know the type of injuries that are likely to occur, and you need to train for those injuries,” says Prince.

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