Editor’s Note: Practices and procedures at parks and recreation departments are not usually one-size-fits-all solutions. There are some things that are universal — like safety regulations — but the variables that go into making a program or facility work best are legion and based heavily upon the needs and demographics of the locale.
We recently polled parks and recreation professionals from around the country for our annual Q&A feature and got some interesting responses, representing a diversity of subjects and opinions.
It’s our hope that you learn something of value and find a nugget of insight, inspiration or raw information. Or better yet, all of the above…
Next year, we’ll continue to expand on this concept but need your participation. Do you have a question that crops up a lot, and you don’t have a good answer?
Whether you have questions or have some great answers to the challenges of running a parks and recreation department, we’d like to hear from you.
Send us an e-mail at email@example.com, give us a call at (830) 257-1012, fax us at (830) 257-1020 or go to www.parksandrecbusiness.com.
Q: It seems that tighter-economy budget cuts are translating to smaller inventories of maintenance items such as lawn and garden tools, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, etc. How does the parks and recreation professional maintain and/or find that proper level of inventory to be sure stock is always available for these mandatory items?
A: Many purchasing divisions now employ a level of JIT (just in time) inventory by shifting the “storage” requirements to the supplier. That is to say that all of the bids are written on an as-needed basis.
Vendors are asked to provide a price based on the buyer’s simple request of the item, not the quantity, be it 1 or 20 (for example, one square-ended shovel = $3.25, 20 = $65). In this regard, the buyer is not required to store 20 shovels for a total cost of $65. Instead, he may need three (total $9.75) for that particular year and end up saving $55.25 in unnecessary stock.
Might the buyer overpay by not providing an absolute estimate that the supplier could discount? Perhaps, but the margin is slim and likely smaller than the cost of carrying extra inventory.
As you monitor your needs, the amount of shelf stock becomes more easily estimated but with the as-needed method, minimum estimates are never even required. It’s a win-win for both buyer and supplier.
– 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q:< My budget has been drastically cut. What suggestions do you have for keeping my athletic fields playable under tight budget situations?
A: In light of the current economy, many of you are facing some pretty severe budget cuts. Several things come to mind on how to cope with these situations…
First is to remember that safety is the biggest issue you face. You must provide a safe playing surface even if it is not the best looking. Regular dragging of the fields to keep them level and keep base plugs at grade is essential. Making sure safety signs are installed and readable and performing pre-game safety checks should be continued.
In terms of the fields themselves, look for any waste in supplies or manpower. For example, you might be able to apply broadleaf weed control or pre-emergent weed control every other year and still have satisfactory results.
Divide your fields into different management categories so you are using your manpower and supplies where they are needed most.
Look for additional ways to fund or accomplish work on your fields. For instance, user groups can line and drag fields and booster clubs can raise money for equipment or supplies.
Oftentimes, when manpower is cut, it is easier to justify purchasing new equipment to take up the slack. In general, equipment is cheaper than labor. Finally, put together a good PR campaign. Let people know why your fields are not up to snuff and work with them to find the right solutions.
– Dale Getz is a Certified Sport Field Manager (CSFM) for The Toro Company. Getz has 18 years of experience in turf management, including 12 years as the athletic facilities manager at the University of Notre Dame.
Q: What steps have you taken to reduce daily and seasonal maintenance at your ball diamonds?
A: We have implemented several things both on and off our three actual diamonds. This year we installed the Permaline permanent foul lines made with artificial turf and loose infill. Our crews installed this product in a short time on three outfields with the result being straight and bright foul lines.
We are pleased with the results and project our payback on this product will be within three years. This product eliminates weekly painting of foul lines and also eliminates crooked lines.
Our crews installed 20′ high permanent steel foul poles with the mesh top replacing wood poles that required painting and replacement every couple of years.
We have also gone to the two-colored plastic signs that have the letters routed to a contrasting color. These include the distance signs, home/visitor dugout, warning signs, and so on.
We have installed new aluminum bleachers to bring our bleachers not only up to current code, but to reduce the painting needed on old 27-year-old rusted framed bleachers.
In addition, we use the solid rubber 3″ thick home plates with direct bury and also the direct bury pitching rubbers instead of the type with the pegs in them. We do receive several years of use by doing this and can drag right over them, if necessary.
Finally, we use a Cushman three wheeled ball diamond grooming machine that scarifies, levels and rakes in one operation. This has greatly reduced the needed manpower to properly prepare our fields for play each night.
– Bob Holling is the Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry for the City of Sun Prairie, Wis.
Q: How are you reducing other park maintenance items to concentrate on the bigger projects?
A: We constantly need to do more with less, so we have been able to draw upon some available funding to use the solid plastic material combined with a curved steel arch to install new park signs in 30 of our parks this past fall.
These signs replace all wood signs with routed letters that required re-painting about every other year. The new signs will last a lot longer without needing much attention.
In addition, we are using the new two color solid plastic signs on all of our new trail signs, including stop, turn, bike, rest areas, etc. These are being mounted on treated wood posts that are not stained or painted. Besides reducing the need for maintenance, they look a lot better!
For the past few years we have used the PVC coated picnic tables and park benches with a great deal of success. These are for new park areas and we are eliminating the wood as much as possible, since we constantly replace carved and/or broken boards. The PVC tables and benches have held up well in terms of weather and color.
For basketball courts, we have used the Bison heavy chain link net for many years with great success. They are strong and last for several years in some cases. In park settings, they simply are the answer for us. I know there are some solid fabric nets on the market, so you may want to look at those.
We are replacing the old 55-gallon drum that doubles as a trash container with the PVC coated receptacle and dome lid top that will eliminate re-painting, the “dented” look and litter scattered all over. We have done this during the past two years and will be completing this upgrade during the next two years.
In regards to daily operations, we have increased our riding mower size from a 6′ cut to an 11′ cut. As we have taken more park land to maintain, we have been fortunate to show that the larger mowers have been a big plus to not having to add more people, but to use them more efficiently.
We have also used the metal roofs on some park shelters with good success, which eliminates the re-roofing or patch work roofs that shingled roofs were leaving us with.
Finally, just be aware of color schemes on playgrounds that you select. The bright colors have faded quickly in the past and then need some attention if you want to maintain a good image in your park system.
When we have had to re-paint some equipment, we have found it to be much more cost effective to hire a professional painting contractor to complete this work.
– Bob Holling
Q: In the September issue of Parks & Rec Business, The Skatepark Decision Part 9 (page 12) it was mentioned that Phase II of Denver’s 60,000 square foot skatepark included $100,000 in repairs on Phase I. How did those costs break down?
A: That $100,000 figure included repairs, modifications and additions to the park as a whole. Repairs to Phase I, which totaled $43,151, included flatwork crack repair, crack repair to the bowls/ramps, sealing of existing coping and additions of steel angle iron to curbs and walls.
Additions and modifications to Phase I, totaling $63,840, included tree grates and guards, concrete seat walls around the perimeter, concrete splash strip/mowstrip and irrigation improvements.
We’re still trying to figure out if utilizing a colored concrete additive contributed to some of the concrete cracking since other concrete parks in the area (designed and constructed by the same consultant and contractor) show little, if any, cracking. Also, we learned to protect the edges with angle iron, rather than having the raw concrete edge exposed.
– Mark Bernstein is a Senior Landscape Architect in Denver’s Parks Planning, Design and Construction department.
Q: How do I establish a price for a service or program?
A: One must consider several aspects while setting prices: Political aspects, the objectives of your pricing and the stages of establishing a price.
In many communities, public opposition to fees, or fee increases is an issue. Therefore, pricing can become political and elected officials must be provided reasonable and logical justification for prices based on income redistribution, equity and efficiency.
There are typically four objectives to pricing:
Income redistribution or the decision of services or programs being supported or not being supported by taxes;
Equity -– everyone wants a fair price, but consideration should be given to the notion that those who benefit should pay for it;
Efficiency should always be an objective so that the community derives the maximum possible benefit from the services offered and from the scarce resources used to finance those services;
Revenue production, which should consider the availability and price of substitute services, the proportion of total costs that the direct cost represents and the ability to pay of the target market.
The stages in pricing begin with determining the proportion of the costs or types of costs which the price should recover. This is highly dependent on your objectives and must be established before the second stage of determining the going rate. That rate is determined through surveys of services offered by other government agencies as well as commercial private suppliers.
Then one must examine differential pricing opportunities such as: participant categories — such as youth vs. adult, resident vs. non-resident; time — such as peak time vs. non-peak, weekday vs. weekend; quantity of use — such as season passes; and incentives or special pricing designed to entice people to try a program.
The final stage considers psychological dimensions such as the image of the agency and the price-quality relationship –- are you the Wal-Mart or Neiman Marcus?
– John Powers is the Parks and Recreation Director for the Community Association of The Woodlands, Texas.
Q: What can I do to encourage parents/guardians to arrive on time to pickup their day campers?
A: This has become more of a problem as a lot of parents rely on day camps as daycare to help them make it through their workday.
Reminding parents/guardians about the established pickup time or sending the message that late pickups are unacceptable might have an effect but it could be a negative one.
Why not consider a more positive and lucrative strategy? There may be people who are racing against the clock and fighting traffic to get there on time who would be willing to pay for some extra supervision.
Give the option of an hour of additional camp programming that can be purchased at a reasonable rate — enough to pay for the supervision and supplies to implement it and affordable enough for the commuting parent/guardian who appreciates some extra breathing room between work and the scheduled pickup.
– Dr. Susan Langlois has more than 20 years of experience as a college professor, athletic administrator, camp director and sport facilities consultant. She is currently the Dean of Sports Science at Endicott College.
Q: Unacceptable parental behavior has become an issue at many of our recreational soccer league games. What can be done?
A: Many communities are having parents sign a “Code of Conduct” contract before their son or daughter participates in recreational activities.
Some communities also provide parenting training seminars for their parents. The NYSCA has “Guidelines for Communities”, which deals with parental behavior, how to write a contract, what types of behavior to expect, how to deal with inappropriate behavior, and so on. The Web site for the organization is www.NYSCA.org and will provide helpful information. The Center for the Advancement of Responsible Youth Sports (CARYS) is a great site for additional youth sports links and current information about coaching our young athletes (http://hdcs.fullerton.edu/knes/carys/home.htm).
One of the best resources for parents and for parks and recreation professionals is the Center for Sports Parenting at www.sportsparenting.org. Encourage your parents and coaches to get involved with providing positive feedback to our young athletes.
We in the educational system rely on the community to provide another critical learning ground for our children and adolescents about healthy physical activity and sports participation.
– Dr. Ruth A. Arnold is an Assistant Professor of Physical Education, Springfield College and IISA Level I Certified Instructor. Dr. Arnold has also been a camp counselor and director.
Q: When you audit an aquatics facility, what are the key components to look for that help you decide between renovating the existing facility and building a new facility?
A: An audit of your aquatic facility should provide you with a detailed description of the condition of your current facility. Once these facts are presented, your auditor should be able to present you with some options to assist you in making an informed decision about the life expectancy of your facility in its current state, and what your choices may be relative to renovation and/or expansion.
The key components assisting you with this decision will be the condition of your current facility and its ability to continue to operate effectively.
When our audit was performed, we were told that with minimal repairs ($15,000) we might be able to extend the life of our facility by about five years.
However, due to the age of our facility and its infrastructure problems, we would eventually be faced with the facility exceeding its life expectancy. The auditor provided us with a preliminary design of what we could do if we decided to build a new facility. The cost estimate for this scenario was about $3.5 million.
It is possible that an audit may also provide you the opportunity to renovate your existing facility for half of the cost of a new one. In this scenario, you are typically dealing with some portions of your old facility mixed in with some new elements. This can be a cost savings, especially if your community is operating on a very tight budget.
In our case, it was decided that we could allocate the dollars to build a brand new facility for our residents at no additional cost to the taxpayers.
Another key component to consider is revenue. If you want to increase the revenue you produce from your aquatic facility, you will need to establish your facility as a destination. In a typical flat-water pool, the average stay for an aquatics user is around two hours. In a water park, the typical patron will stay at your facility for 4-6 hours. This increase in time spent at your pool can be translated into increased revenue at your concession stand, additional sales through rentals and an increase in daily admissions.
When marketed accordingly and priced appropriately, your newly transformed facility could be a good money generator. Don’t fall short on your features and do your best to provide the latest and most tried and true aquatic play elements. When put together, your facility should wow your residents and satisfy every potential aquatic user in the market.
– Peter Conces is the Recreation Supervisor for the City of Beachwood, Ohio.
Q: What have you learned about operating and maintaining a sprayground?
A: Spraygrounds are great features for any facility. They require fewer lifeguards and provide the patrons with a safe, fun and interactive space away from your larger facility. Children are occupied during rest hours and patrons are provided with a whole new element not related to moving water.
Although focused mainly on children, we found people of all ages enjoyed our sprayground. Our sprayground was designed to operate inside of our aquatic center. Its filtration system is tied into our tot pool, which is adjacent to it. The convenience of doing this was that it allowed us to operate two filtration systems inside of our aquatic center, instead of three.
The biggest challenge for us was keeping the sprayground free of floating debris introduced into the circulation system. Although our sprayground water was filtered through a sand filter, the pump operated separately by drawing water out of the surge tank. We had leaves occasionally block the small orifices of some of the features, causing the spray features to work sporadically at times.
I would highly recommend that the smallest possible screen filter be introduced into any design considered. Plus, most spraygrounds operate with a computer controller. This controller will synchronize your features to come on and off at different times. Try to learn how to use this controller as soon as possible and don’t be afraid to make adjustments. As we kindly referred to our experience, we wanted to see the water dance.
– Peter Conces
Q: Satisfaction Guarantee… Can it work for your recreation and parks programs?
A: We were confident that our programs and services were second to none and that our staff was recruiting the most qualified leaders to run our recreation programs.
Therefore, as a customer relations and marketing tool we implemented a Satisfaction Guarantee Policy that informed our clients of our commitment to providing quality programs.
The policy states if you are unhappy with any of our services, we want to know! We will suggest another program for you to try, or if you prefer, we will give you a credit or refund your money. That’s our Customer Satisfaction Guarantee to you.
Needless to say, some of our program supervisors were a little reluctant with this policy at first. However, in the six years that we have implemented this policy we have had less than a dozen requests from less-than-satisfied customers.
The policy also sends a positive message to our instructors that we are confident they will provide a quality program, show up on time, interact well with participants, and ensure that participants have a positive experience.
– Phil Bryan is the Superintendent of Recreation for the City of Rockville, Md.
Q: With all the different types if aerification available, what type is best for relieving compaction?
A: There are many types of aerification equipment and many different types of aerification techniques, from spiking and hollow tine to deep tine and water injection.
While we cannot address all of these methods, I do want to discuss the role of aerification in relieving compaction. In terms of actually relieving compaction there is no doubt that hollow tine is the best because it actually brings soil out of the ground, thereby reducing the bulk density of the soil. I would also suggest the larger diameter the hole and the deeper the hole the more you will relieve compaction.
When you reduce bulk density you actually make it easier for the soil to accept and drain water. You create an area for oxygen and carbon dioxide to exchange and you open a hole into which you can put topdressing materials such as sand.
Having said this, core aerification does not come easy. There are plugs that need to be picked up or broken up in some way. The weather conditions must be conducive to good grass growth. Play on the field should be suspended until the grass “heals” and you must have the time, manpower, equipment and budget to do the job right. That is where some of the other methods come in…
Solid tine and spiking, for example, can be done with relatively little damage to the turf so they can be done during season and when conditions are not “perfect”. Unfortunately, they do as good a job as core aerification.
The best case scenario is to have an arsenal of equipment at your disposal — hollow tine, as well as solid tine and slicing equipment — so you can choose the right equipment at the right time for your needs.
– Dale Getz
Q: How can you explain and justify how important parks and recreation is to a community?
A: No matter how supportive and knowledgeable a community may be about the value of parks and recreation, there is always reason to justify their benefit.
What we must realize is the world is changing and we need to change the way in which we view ourselves and how we present this view to the community.
We need to come to think of ourselves as more than just providers of open space and recreation programs but as catalysts for providing opportunities and experiences for people and as facilitators of individual, community, environmental and economic benefits.
As Kathy Spangler of The National Recreation and Parks Association stated, “We need to shift the way we perceive ourselves: it is not what we offer but the value we add to people’s lives.”
In order to be successful in justifying the importance of parks and recreation, we must qualify and quantify the positive impact they make to the overall quality of life. Doing so may be difficult, but there are many resources available to help you substantiate the value such as The Benefits of Parks and Recreation Resource Guide, NRPA, 1998.
Once you begin to relate what you do in real substantiated outcomes, and communicate that to everyone, you will gain understanding and support from the community.
– John Powers
Q: How can we, as recreation programmers, evaluate the success or customer satisfaction of a program?
A: There are a number of methods for doing program evaluations, and three groups of people from whom to seek input… the users, the programmers and the corporate partners (if any).
The easiest method is simply to have a post-event debriefing meeting to seek input from the programmers. This will not only help evaluate the success of the program, but help in avoiding problems in future programs. However, this method will give mostly anecdotal versions of the failures or successes.
Secondly, and perhaps more effectively, interviews may be done with the program users during and after the event. This will give a more accurate picture of success or failure.
Thirdly, post-event surveys may be distributed. Surveys are a great way to collect and document input, provided enough users participate, and provided the surveys are well-written.
You can find a sample survey form at www.parksandrecbusiness.com. Click on Forms and scroll down to June 2003 where you’ll see a sample survey under Community Build Playground Forms, Lexington Parks and Recreation.
– Bill Carman is the Deputy Director for Lexington (Ky.) Parks & Recreation.
Q: What is one program that is unique to the City of Gaithersburg that is generally funded by outside sources?
A: Art in Public Places… Public works of art contribute significantly to a community’s identity by providing distinctive landmarks and symbols. Public art installations have the unique power of impacting the hearts and minds of a community. They provide a vehicle for such memorable associations like the fountain in the park where your children play, a memorial commemorating an important person or event, the tender moment a child experienced with an endearing bronze bear, and the ultimate symbols of our country’s identity such as the Statue of Liberty.
It is the mission of the Art in Public Places Program (AIPP) to foster vitality through the arts in developing and redeveloping areas in the City of Gaithersburg.
The Art in Public Places Program seeks to promote the arts and educate the public. By developing public works of art throughout the city, the Art in Public Places Program works to create a sense of place and pride for the Gaithersburg community.
In the summer of 1997, the Mayor and Council of the City of Gaithersburg created a resolution forming the Art in Public Places Committee, and appointed the first members of this Committee.
The Art in Public Places (AIPP) Committee is charged to study and evaluate plans for art in public places and advise the Mayor and City Council relative to the implementation of such plans. The committee meets monthly at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn with city staff, identifying potential sites for installations of public art and works in conjunction with the site’s developer and/or the surrounding community to select the artist and the artwork that is most appropriate for that particular site.
The projects of the Art in Public Places Program are funded by developers as part of the site plan approval process, and at times additional funds are budgeted within the capital improvement project budget of the city.
– Michele McGleish is the Director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture for the City of Gaithersburg, Md.
Q: As planners of parks facilities, how can we obtain consensus in both the facility makeup and a master plan for a proposed park?
A: Step one involves forming a planning committee representative of all of the potential park users. Step two is to obtain and document both what the group wishes to include in the “shopping list” of facilities for the park, and obtain and document those things that the group wishes to avoid.
These issues are best discussed in an open-forum meeting of the group.
Design professionals will need to facilitate the process to make sure that issues and facilities that are totally inappropriate for the site’s capabilities are avoided.
Step three is to allow the group to prioritize the facilities and issues. This can be done by creating large lists hung on the wall, and allowing the committee members to “vote” by using different colors of sticky-dots — the more dots, the higher the priority. Prioritization is important because it allows the group to see what is important and what is not-so-important to the group as a whole. Therefore, issues and facilities may be eliminated, or at least, earmarked as relatively unimportant and thus phased later in capital budgeting.
After the prioritization is complete and the consensus achieved, the design professional can incorporate the facilities and issues into a draft plan which can evaluated and revised by the group.
– Bill Carman
Q: What is the safest surface to put on a playground?
A: There is no one best surface. The type of playground surface that is appropriate for your play environment depends on the ages of the children, the part of the country that you live in and the kind of maintenance that you wish to perform. For instance, pea gravel is not appropriate for pre-schoolers as it may become part of their diet.
If you do not have time to spend maintaining a loose-fill surface (pea gravel, sand, wood chips, chopped rubber, etc.) consider a poured-in-place or rubber mat product. However, never put asphalt, cement, dirt or grass under and around playground equipment.
In the process of selecting a surface, consider the ages of the children who will be using the playground, the kind of use it will receive, the ability to maintain the surfacing and the total cost of the surfacing, including the replacement costs on an annual basis. The total cost of loose-fill may be as much as the initial cost of a rubber or poured-in-place product.
If the playground is locked and only used certain times of the day, then rubber tiles or poured-in-place may be a good choice. If the agency has lots of maintenance personnel, loose-fill may be a good choice.
However, no matter what the choice, be sure materials are thick enough proportionate to the height of the equipment and maintained in the use zone where a child may fall. Only then will there be an appropriate surface to cushion the fall.
– Donna Thompson, Ph.D., is the Director of the National Program for Playground Safety. She holds the rank of professor of physical education at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, and has been associated with playground development and safety for over 30 years.
– Susan Hudson, Ph.D., is the education director for the National Program for Playground Safety. She is the McElroy Professor of Youth Leadership Studies at the University of Northern Iowa, Cedar Falls, and has been associated with the development and design of playgrounds for over 25 years.
Q: What are some important safety considerations to look for in the regular maintenance of playgrounds?
A: Unsafe conditions include broken equipment, such as open s-hooks, metal that is worn where swings hook on, slits or holes in plastic slides, spaces that are between 3 1/2″ and 9″ where children’s heads can be caught and they can strangle.
Look for places on slides where they connect to the deck where strings can get caught. In addition, look for spaces between the bottom of the guardrail and the deck — that space should be less than 3 1/2″.
In terms of surfacing, we recommend that the loose-fill surfacing be at least 12″ deep. That will provide excellent impact attenuation if children fall.
– Dr. Donna Thompson and Dr. Susan Hudson
Q: How high should playground equipment be?
A: When adults were growing up, playground equipment tended to be built at extraordinary heights. However, since that time, most equipment is being built at a lower level. Why is that? We have learned that the higher they are, the harder they fall.
Research that comes from New Zealand and confirmed by Canada indicates that children who fall from heights over six feet are twice as likely to be injured.
What implications does that have for playground equipment heights? The National Program for Playground Safety recommends that equipment for preschoolers be no higher than six feet in height or no higher than the height of the reach of the tallest user.
For school-aged children, we recommend that the equipment be no higher than eight feet. We do not want children to be put at risk.
Adults tend to confuse the difference between risk and challenge. Risk is the possibility of individuals being injured. Challenge is the possibility of children reaching their ability to accomplish a task. We continue to want children to have play value in their play, but height does not guarantee play value. No research indicates that the higher the equipment, the more play value; height only increases risk. Therefore, continue to ask, what is the purpose of the equipment and how much challenge will be given the children? Remember to look at the equipment from the child’s perspective, rather than the adult’s.
– Dr. Donna Thompson and Dr. Susan Hudson
Q: What types of training should be provided for volunteer coaches?
A: Volunteer coaches should receive education on how to appropriately work with children in a sports setting, and be held to a strict code of behavior.
The City of Rockville has implemented a certification program using the program developed by the National Alliance for Youth Sports (NYSCA) for our youth sports programs, along with having a certified youth sports administrator that oversees all youth sports programs.
By going through this certification training, all volunteer coaches are required to read and sign a coaches’ code of ethics and live up to that code of ethics while coaching.
With all the abuse and violence in youth sports today, it is important for each organization to set up a screening policy for all volunteer coaches that will be working around children.
In Rockville, it is mandatory that all volunteer coaches go through a background check and fingerprinting process before they go out and practice with their team.
There also should be coaches clinics offered for each sport where volunteer coaches receive sports-specific training on coaching techniques and philosophy.
– Lou Clark is the Sports Specialist for the City of Rockville, Md.
Q: What are basic elements that should be included in a cost recovery and revenue and fee policy for a recreation and parks department?
A: In order to provide a fair and equitable method to establish fees and cost recovery policies for various service areas, it is desirable to have an overall revenue and fee policy. This policy should be in synch with the community’s values and the department’s mission statement.
It should include statements of philosophy, guidelines, and cost determination structures to manage fees and charges, while remaining flexible enough to deal with new programs, changing demographics and to ensure that services are available to all members of the community.
An effective revenue and fee policy must be based on accurate determinations of costs, including direct, indirect, overhead and capital improvements, some or all of which may be offset by user fees.
Other options to enhance revenues should be explored, such as corporate donations, grants, partnerships, etc. The policy must provide for what will be perceived as fair implementation of fees and tax support for similar programs.
In Rockville, services and facility uses are grouped into fee-level categories based on whether they are perceived to have community-wide benefits versus primarily benefiting the individual participants.
Activities that benefit the entire community, such as drop-in use of recreation centers, programs for at-risk youth, basic recreation services for senior citizens and others receive substantial tax support.
Fees for activities that primarily benefit the individual user, such as private rentals of facilities, trips and tours, advanced skill level classes and sports are set at self-supporting levels.
Communication to customers and constituents is key to successful implementation of the policy. How well the guiding philosophies, the rationale for revised fees and the timetable for implementation are explained will make or break this effort.
– Burt Hall is the Director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Rockville, Md.
Q: Why are recreation and parks departments so much involved with providing after-school care programs, and what are the basic goals and elements of a strong program?
A: In the early days (before the recent advent of “after care” programs) sports and recreation activities provided safe havens for kids after school.
Children and teens have always spent non-school hours involved in arts and crafts projects, group games, board games, dance groups, drill teams, team sports, nature clubs, acting clubs, cultural and educational field trips, and the like.
Our after-school programs, like many around the country, have long been supported by parents and considered important to the quality of life for their children.
The concept of “after care” has evolved from the expressed need of working parents. This need has been fueled by the huge increase in two-earner and single-parent households. Considering what we already had in place, the new “after-school care programs” are a re-definition of what we already do.
Parents now need after care more than ever, and they want their after care programs to include elements that resemble recreation programs.
In fact, even the childcare provider training classes incorporate recreation activities in their curricula. For the City of Rockville, we have identified the following Important Objectives which make our programs strong:
• To provide an environment that is physically and emotionally safe, nurturing, and comfortable;
• To promote academic enhancement and study habits by allowing quiet time, and by communicating with both parents and staff;
• To encourage the positive personal growth of each participant;
• To inspire creativity through different arts mediums and handicrafts;
• To provide exposure to a variety of sports and games fundamentals;
• To promote civil behavior and positive character development — heightened self-esteem, self-confidence, teamwork, sportsmanlike conduct, sense of responsibility, and respect;
• To engage each participant in health-fitness games and activities;
• To host trips and events for cultural awareness, exposure and enrichment;
• and, to promote a sense of stewardship among the participants by conducting nature education and awareness activities.
– Karen Rawlins is the Recreation Programs Supervisor for the City of Rockville, Md.
Q: Parks are constantly evolving, with new and innovative equipment being developed. What type of experiences do you think we will need to provide in the future?
A: Throughout history, parks and urban open spaces have provided a structure for fostering learning and providing recreational opportunities.
We have all seen in the last couple of years the changes and innovations being offered, from skateparks to water parks. Understanding your community, as well as trends regionally and nationwide, will help with keeping up.
Seeing change with a positive vision, utilizing the traditional amenities — such as multi-use fields (football, soccer), basketball courts and playgrounds — also includes areas for rock walls, climbing courses, BMX tracks, paint ball courses, and other events that we now classify as “extreme”.
– PJ Perry is the acting director of parks and recreation for Rio Rancho, N.M.
Q: Volunteers seem to create more work than if I would have my own staff complete the task. What is the value in working with volunteers?
A: The most important value that volunteers create is community pride. The more volunteering you have in your community, the greater sense of ownership they will have.
Once the project is over they will help offset maintenance costs by having many eyes on that location. They will lead the clean-up efforts.
In our community we use Eagle Scouts to develop or re-develop parks, medians entryways and site clean-ups in conjunction with keep-your-city-clean efforts, and help in the coordination of volunteers for community-built playgrounds.
Additionally, master gardeners, church groups, neighborhood associations are very crucial to community development.
– PJ Perry
Q: In-ground concrete, or above-ground modular skateparks… which is right for my community?
A: There are many factors that would need to be addressed when answering this question, such as budget and community need. For us, modular equipment enhanced the need for concrete bowls and amenities.
When we first proposed a skatepark for our community the usual opposition was heard… “There are not enough skaters to support the expense,” and so on.
But once we put in our first skatepark, the need was evident. Then we constructed our second and third modular parks.
Now that we have shown beyond a doubt that our skateparks are the most-used pieces in our park inventory we are going to construct a park with both concrete bowls and modular elements to create a park that will provide a complete experience. Remember, skateboarding is fourth-most popular sport in the world.
– PJ Perry
Q: We are planning a skatepark project and understand youth involvement in the design process is essential. How would you recommend working with them to achieve effective results?
A: You are correct. Including the youth population is an essential part of any skatepark project. They will tell you what their ability is and have a variety of ideas regarding types of equipment needed for the park. Remember to include bike riders, in-line skaters and skateboards to get a well rounded use perspective.
Also, because skateparks are very different from other recreational facilities it is important to have an expert in skatepark planning and design on your team to facilitate the process.
There are many factors to consider. For example, age, riding discipline, skill level, and even riding style play a role when determining your design. An expert in skatepark planning and design will know how to translate the information learned from the locals and provide concept design solutions that meet your wants, needs, and fit within budget.
Make sure to enlist an unbiased consultant or company. This way the materials or manufacturer can be selected based on the wants and needs of the community with the least limitation.
It takes years of experience to effectively design even the smallest skatepark project. The local youth — even experienced riders — still need to work with experts in design to end up with a skatepark designed for long-term success.
– PJ Perry
Q: What can I do to attract more seniors to bus trips that we sponsor?
A: A great strategy for making parks and recreation programming more attractive is to add value by meetings the needs that are a product of a new trend.
What if you added a digital photography lessons as part of the trip’s package? More and more people have digital cameras and are not always familiar with all of the features that come with them, how to take a better photograph, and the options out there to turn a digital photo into a great memory.
How can you afford to offer this value without adding to the costs? Staff it for no cost by asking the owner of a local photo finishing business to offer the lessons as part of the trip. The owner will probably jump at the chance to promote the photo finishing business and will enjoy experiencing the trip with potentially new customers.
– Dr. Susan Langlois