Planting The Seeds Of Best-Maintenance Practices

It’s safe to say that in this industry, parks are the most visible manifestation of what is offered to each community. However, it’s also likely that park land is taken for granted — not only by residents, but also by the organizations that are responsible for developing and maintaining it.

Make a plan for park maintenance.

That’s not to imply that communities and agencies don’t value parks. Rather, in these still-challenging economic times, it comes down to doing more with limited resources — and something has to give.

In 2009, with budget challenges and frequent changes in leadership in its recent past, the Naperville Park District in Illinois recognized a disconnection between its park-maintenance standards versus the status of individual parks.

“We saw that we were at a bit of a crossroads with our parks maintenance,” explains Kevin Finnegan, director of parks.

“An aggressive, multi-year capital building plan brought forth many new park amenities across the district, but we lacked the additional budget dollars to bring each of our locations up to our established maintenance guidelines.”

Guidelines For Best Practices

In an effort to align park standards with maintenance practices, the district had to begin somewhere. So, Finnegan went to the district’s maintenance guidelines.

“We classify our different types of parks using six different modes,” he explains.

“Not only does this structure assist staff in prioritizing ongoing maintenance schedules and delivering a consistent product, but it also emphasizes best practices and good stewardship.”

Mode I: This “hallmark” mode includes not only those areas frequently viewed by the public, but also those areas that receive the greatest amount of use. An example is the Naperville Riverwalk.

Mode II: Typically reserved for sports complexes, this mode dictates a high level of maintenance to enhance turf quality due to excessive wear and tear. Also, many of these locations have significant shrub beds and ornamental horticulture that require additional maintenance.

Mode III: Reserved for neighborhood parks that host park district programs and have field space, these areas require more frequent maintenance due to more regular use.

Mode IV: These areas receive a moderate level of maintenance, but significantly less than for those locations classified by Modes I and II. Maintenance is managed for neighborhood recreational use.

Mode V: Comprised mainly of greenways and preservation areas, this mode dictates a moderately low level of maintenance, which is appropriate for native-plant species.

Mode VI: This is the lowest level of maintenance. Typically, newly acquired park land falls within this classification until it is developed for use.

The fruits of a well-maintained park -- happy visitors!

Having standards is one thing; being able to use the standards as viable guidelines is another. Finnegan knew that there was some catching up to do, so he worked with park staff to develop a four-step process to establish more consistent maintenance practices, including

1. Benchmarking

2. Implementing no-cost improvements

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  1. Planting For The Future
  2. Surveying The Land
  3. Maintenance Standards
  4. Waste-Free Spending
  5. Maintenance
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  • Departments