We 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…
Special thanks to all those who provided answers this year. They’re the cream of the crop in parks and recreation. If you get a chance, let them know that their contributions are appreciated.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call at (830) 257-1012, fax us at (830) 257-1020 or go to www.parksandrecbusiness.com.
Q: Do you have a process for the selection of modular playground equipment that you would like to share?
A: Yes, we have a system in our department that involves a request for proposal that informs the various playground equipment vendors of exactly how much money we have to spend on a 2-5, 5-12 or 2-12 age play structure.
Our request for this RFP includes what amenities on a play structure we do and don’t want included; a top view and three dimensional diagrams/drawings being required; a requirement to submit proposals that meet the latest CPSC, ASTM and ADA guidelines and standards; pricing for various types of safety surfacing; installation costs; and most important, the description of the rating scale to be used in awarding what vendor will receive the RFP.
The rating scale used for evaluating the proposals includes a weighted scale with various points awarded in the following areas: play value, layout/design, overall impression, safety/risk management, maintenance and warranty.
Points are awarded on a five-point scale for each of these items with various “importance” points also assigned for each item. The vendor with the highest number of total points will be awarded the proposal. All vendors are sent the results of the final point rankings.
I feel this system is a simple and fair process for awarding proposals. I have received favorable comments from the vendors in our state that represent the various equipment companies that this is a fair process which concentrates on getting the most bang for the buck. Our city’s Common Council also feels good with this system of awarding equipment and has approved every recommendation it has been presented with.
Over 25 playgrounds with four different equipment companies being chosen have been awarded with this system that is constantly being revised. If anyone is interested in obtaining a copy of our RFP system, please contact me. I do ask that anyone using it make adaptations for their local department’s benefit.
–Bob Holling is the Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry for the City of Sun Prairie, Wis. For further questions, Bob can be reached at email@example.com
Q: How do you stay on the cutting edge of programming and special events?
A: The City of Gaithersburg makes every attempt to be on the cutting edge of programs and special events! We hold an annual Local Entertainer Auditions & Presentations (LEAP) one-day event at the Gaithersburg Arts Barn that is hosted by the City’s Cultural Arts Advisory Committee and the Arts and Special Events division of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture.
This is advertised in the local newspaper and on the City’s Web site. Entertainers schedule an appointment on this day for five or ten minutes, depending on their performance.
The City of Gaithersburg invites all City employees who “book” entertainers, as well as surrounding local municipalities, the county recreation department and various non profit and private organizations.
Following a performance, an entertainer can be scheduled with any staff member for one or a variety of performances at any organization for the upcoming calendar year. In October of 2004, 40 performed on this day!
The City of Gaithersburg also meets two times per year with neighboring local governments, the City of Rockville, Takoma Park, Montgomery County, and Montgomery Village Foundation departments of recreation.
This was a result of the sniper incident two years ago when we were all in constant contact with each other regarding holding or cancellation of outdoor sporting activities and special events.
One of the governing bodies hosts the meeting and creates the agenda. The morning is a session in which teams meet by their special areas of Arts and Special Events, Camp and Child Care, Sports, Seniors, Aquatics, Youth & Teens, and Administration. A keynote speaker will preside over lunch who has information that all could benefit from, such as county demographics or county school rentals. In the afternoon, the divisions will give a brief summary of their morning discussions.
This bi-annual meeting has had great rewards of comparing programming, special events, reviewing calendars and not duplicating weekends of special events or performers and has opened the door to partnering for programming and special events! This meeting idea was awarded an “Innovative Program” award from the Maryland Recreation and Parks Association in 2003.
In addition to conferences and the two ideas listed above, city staff is always attending local events throughout the state seeking new ideas for fall festivals and other events, visiting other facilities picking up fliers and meeting with staff pertaining to customer service, registration processes, and programming.
The Team Leaders meet every November for a Fall Retreat prior to the assimilation of the fiscal year’s budget. At this time, staff can discuss deleting/replacing/adding new programs and events to the upcoming budget.
–Michele McGleish is the Director of the Department of Parks, Recreation and Culture, Gaithersburg, Md.
Q: How do you handle multiple departments soliciting sponsorships simultaneously?
A: Designated staff (Special Events Coordinator) has developed a database of giving. The database includes information such as staff who solicited, department, company name, contact name and phone number, and dollar amount or in-kind service.
This is critical as it is vital to know the point of entry. Is this a local, regional or national office? Moreover, who is the decision maker? Identifying the decision maker might not be as easy as it seems. Because sponsorships can originate from a variety of departments decision makers could hold a variety of positions (CEO, Marketing Manager, Accounting Manager, etc.)
Staff meets with the Special Events Coordinator 10–12 months prior to an event to set up a plan of action. One part of this plan of action is to research potential sponsors to see if it is the right fit. For example, you wouldn’t want a tobacco product distributor as a sponsor for a youth program.
Future plans include the packaging of all company events into one sponsorship package. This would help alleviate numerous staff simultaneously approaching a business and give more credibility to our program.
The Special Events Coordinator also works closely with our Community Relations Department to develop specific sponsorship packaging material. This includes the initial meeting as well as final report material.
–John Powers, Director; Mike Riggens, Senior Manager, Programs; Kelly Dietrich, Project Manager, The Woodlands Parks and Recreation Department, The Woodlands, Texas
Q: How do you ensure that your agency has enough staff to guard your beaches and pools in order to stay ahead of the national shortage of lifeguards?
A: Provide several opportunities for completion of training requirements:
1. Junior Lifeguard Program
2. Lifeguard Apprenticeship
3. In-Service and Recertification Programs
The Junior Lifeguard Program targets youth 8-15 years of age who have an interest in swimming and lifesaving. This is your agency’s farm system for future lifeguards. This program teaches basic lifesaving techniques with an emphasis on sportsmanship, all based on FUN activities. There are also competitions held throughout the year at both the local and citywide level.
In Chicago we also offer a Lifeguard Apprenticeship for high school teens ages 14 to 18. The program provides instruction at neighborhood high schools and parks throughout the city during the school year.
There are 25 teens registered in each apprenticeship. They meet three days per week for three hours per day. There are two ten-week sessions, one in the fall and one in the spring. Each teen receives $15 per day as a stipend to develop their skills. Teens are taught skills from basic swimming to advanced lifesaving techniques. Candidates who successfully pass all requirements are eligible to be hired for the summer season.
All seasonal staff is involved in in-service training and recertification each spring prior to the summer season.
–Randy Ernst, Chief Program Officer, Chicago Park District
Q: I have noticed more Moms at home during the day in my community. We stopped offering many daytime classes for Moms and toddlers some time ago. Should we be looking at daytime programming again?
A: Fifteen or more years ago, when you offered programs for moms and tots during the day, the registrations were through the roof. Then we saw a deep decline in stay at home moms and dads who were interested in programs.
Statistics now show a growing number of parents now choosing to stay at home to raise children or to work from home with flex hours. This now means we need to respond to this return to daytime programming.
However, we need to understand that this new market needs variety and flexibility in this programming. Think in terms of shorter session lengths, a variety of offerings that can be selected on an ala carte type menu of services and a return to some of the traditional recreation roots.
Many of this generation’s parents are starving for help in childhood games, songs, arts and crafts and fitness activities for their children.
A renewed interest in some of the toys, games and crafts of the ’50s and ’60s is hot. You can see evidence of this on the shelves of crafts and toy stores throughout the country. Everything old is new again, especially with this generation of parents. Get in on this trend. It is an area that is strong for parks and recreation.
–Judith Leblein is a marketing and operation consultant for Water Technology Inc., based in Beaver Dam, Wis. She has more than 20 years of experience in parks and recreation, and has recently been inducted into the World Waterpark Hall of Fame. Judith lives in New Jersey, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (973) 595-6940
Q: What is Check 21 and how does it affect me?
A: Check 21 is The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act that was signed into law back in October of 2003 and became effective October 28, 2004.
The purpose of the legislation is to improve the overall efficiency of the Nation’s payment system by authorizing check truncation (destroying the original paper check at the time of deposit) and the creation of a new negotiable instrument called a substitute check. The substitute check, an image of the front and back of the original check, will then allow banks to clear the check electronically without the need for a paper check to be physically transported.
In a case where either a bank chooses not to participate with electronic check clearing process or where a customer requires their canceled check be returned, the imaged substitute check can be recreated according to very specific standards. The printed substitute check will be the legal equivalent of the original check and will include all the information contained on the original check.
The largest customer impact will likely be faster check clearing times and reduced float. If you normally receive your canceled checks with your account statements, you will begin to see a gradual movement away from returned original checks to the new substitute checks.
The good news is that after the initial bank implementation costs associated with acquiring in-branch scanners and item capture software are completed, the overall check collection costs should be reduced due to bank operational savings from not having to physically transport the paper checks.
The Federal Reserve Board is a great resource for additional Check 21 information at www.federalreserve.gov.
–David J. Kuntz, CPA is Revenue and Internal Audit Administrator for Cleveland Metroparks. David can be reach at email@example.com
Q: We are considering performing a comprehensive parks and recreation master plan. Where do I start?
A: The investment in comprehensive master plans is well worth the investment and time if the following have and/or are occurring:
1. Clearly defined goals and objectives have been agreed upon by all members working on the project. This would more than likely include the administration, a local parks and recreation board/commission, youth sport organizations, city council, schools and a local senior citizens board.
2. The development of a comprehensive needs analysis from a qualified firm.
3. Substantial research on your part as to which firm would perform the master plan. There are several firms across the nation that can perform needs assessment analysis and develop comprehensive master plans based upon the collected data from the needs assessment. The key is to select those firms with which you can work most comfortably with and possess the expertise needed to provide you with a completed project that can be reasonably implemented.
Once clearly defined goals and objectives have been established the next step in performing a master plan is to know and understand the needs of your community. This can be done in several ways…
The City of Green, Ohio, elected to compile data using a four-phased plan. We contracted with the Office of Corporate and Community Services at the Kent State University Stark Campus.
Phase one consisted of an environmental scan, which identified the demographics of the community. The environmental scan should paint a true picture, on paper, as to what your community looks like. Gathering the latest census data will help aid in completing this phase.
Phase two involved four separate focus group sessions. Focus groups were limited to a maximum of 12 per session. This created an environment where open discussion could take place and ideas could be openly exchanged. These focus groups helped frame the questions of phase three, the telephone survey.
The phone survey proved to be our most statistically valid data in that those 400 households who responded were randomly selected. In most cases, the phone survey will prove to be the most valid of studies.
Phase four consisted of a mail-out survey to all 9,000+ households in the community. The mail-out survey may not be feasible for larger communities. The questions developed for the mail survey were developed by data collected through the focus group sessions and the telephone survey. The return rate on the survey was nearly 22 percent.
The four phases may be considered by some as overkill in data collection and analysis. However, the focus group sessions, the phone survey, and the mail-out survey resulted in an understanding of recurring themes within the community. These recurring themes validate the scientific statistical significance of the phone survey.
The collected data from all four phases is compiled and analyzed and put in report form. This data will serve as your foundation for your parks and recreation master plan.
–Michael B. Elkins is Parks and Recreation Superintendent for the City of Green, Ohio
Q: How long is the process in performing a needs analysis and a master plan?
A: The time frame for completing the needs analysis and master plan will vary based upon a number of factors. It will be greatly dependent upon the size of your community, its needs, your financial ability to complete projects, and your resources. But most needs analysis and master plans should be completed within one year.
–Michael B. Elkins
Q: The parks and local facilities seem busier than ever these days. Has there been an increased trend in recent years of people using these facilities more than before?
A: Following the 2001 attack on America, commonly known as 9/11, increased sales of over-stuffed reclining chairs, big screen televisions and gas log fireplaces were reported. It seemed Americans were digging in at home and nesting.
In the comfort of their homes, their safety concerns were much less oppressive and a real appreciation has developed for the value of one’s own back yard.
This has also had a great effect on the leisure industry as it appears more and more people are taking advantage of their local park facilities as opposed to planning those long vacations, miles and miles away from home.
Cleveland Metroparks Manager of Research and Program Evaluation, Brenda Lackey, Ph.D., verifies that indeed that trend can be statistically supported as well.
In developing recent trend data, Lackey demonstrated that comparing the number of visitors through Cleveland Metroparks in the years that surrounded 9/11 (2000 and 2002) an increase in three specific user categories was seen.
1. Visitor Occasions, which is the number of people entering the park reservations by vehicle, foot, bicycle for any reason.
2. Recreation Visits, which represents visitors using the park land for recreation, education or conservation.
3. Program/Facility Visits, which involves using staffed facilities and/or attending programs held by the park district.
Indeed, 2003 data also demonstrated a continued increase in these categories. The answer to the question appears to be a solid yes. Parks and recreation facilities are getting more use and more consistent visitation than they had before.
–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: What strategies should the parks and recreation professional use to deal with the increased usage?
A: First and foremost the parks and recreation professional must realize that increased usage translates to increased wear and tear. Increased maintenance is therefore mandated and that should go beyond painting and fresh bark mulch.
Aesthetics are certainly important, but mechanical reliability is critical. That would involve tightening of nuts and bolts on swing sets, permanent seating, picnic tables, and so on, verifying proper running condition of drinking fountains, wading pools, and other such amenities. Perhaps supervisors would design a weekly checklist signed off by one employee and verified by another to insure proper upkeep and maintenance of top condition.
Second, increased visitor-ship translates to increased visibility of staff. Your high-attendance public will be seeing more of you and your staff. Maybe it’s time to issue that dress code. You know that guy who never wears the uniform shirt and always wears the tennis shoes instead of the steel-toed boots? What kind of impression is he leaving? I’ll bet a nice golf shirt with the company logo would leave a better impression than a bright red t-shirt with the sleeves ripped off and the picture of Garfield the Cat dumping a whole lasagna into his mouth on it. Your call.
Third, anticipate the demand. There are little common sense tweaks that should be realized under the awareness that more people are coming through an area that ever before.
Although your rule of thumb may be two garbage cans for every picnic table, maybe now you need four due to increased traffic. Though you never set extra trash bags in the bottom of the barrel, you might want to start. Patrons can be pretty adept at policing themselves and if you make the materials readily available they may surprise you with how helpful they can be. Gain feedback from your staff who perform the daily routines. Their suggestions are usually dead-on.
Finally, more than anything, develop a presence. Let the increased patronage know you are there, that you are looking in and interested in their feedback to provide the best experience for them. Be available and be visible in your company vehicle with the logoed doors and your matching shirt. Remind staff that your customer may be asking of them and that there is no greater measure of your success than continuous feedback from the customer, the general public.
–Ronald D. Ciancutti
Q: Is putting a cell tower in a park a good idea?
A: Yes and No! Or, Yes, if certain conditions are met. The magic ingredients are getting neighborhood/user group consensus approval, locating and designing the tower and associated switchgear to minimize negative visual impact, meeting all of your local planning and zoning requirements, and last but not least, generating revenue from the deal that will benefit the park. If there’s not the revenue ingredient, there’s no incentive for the neighborhood and user group approval.
The big benefit to folks who don’t use the park is increased cell phone service area coverage, with the associated 911 capabilities, which goes beyond just convenience.
People are concerned about the negative health impact of cell towers nearby. Research has shown that simply using a cell phone poses much more hazard than living near a tower. There are FCC tower design guidelines that minimize health risks.
–Bill Carman is Superintendent of Planning and Design, Lexington Parks & Recreation, Lexington, Ky.
Q: How can local recreation departments enhance existing parks and facilities with low or no cost?
A: The Oxford Township Parks and Recreation Department has benefited tremendously by positioning itself with the local Planning Commission and area Chamber of Commerce. The department attends these meetings on a regular basis to gain valuable knowledge of new and re-developed commercial properties within the area.
By attending these meetings the department has received at no cost — including delivery and installation — parking lot light poles, landscaping materials (mature trees, retaining walls, outdoor lighting), commercial grade restroom fixtures, commercial generators and miscellaneous maintenance equipment, commercial grade fencing and flag poles, outdoor commercial basketball and sand volleyball poles, and thousands of yards of top soil. In fact, nearly 30,000 yards of top soil and trucking were donated to create the community’s one and only sled hill.
Other materials donated for the sled hill included outdoor lighting and all underground electrical, benches, fencing, hydro-seeding and all on-site grading. Some developers will make these donations for political reasons, although the vast majority of them do it because they realize that a strong parks and recreation department and its facilities attract new residents and visitors to the community
–Ron Davis is Director of Parks and Recreation for Oxford Township, Mich.
Q: How do you develop and maintain a positive and learning relationship with our largest group of employees, the 14-18 year olds?
A: Of our over 400 part-time and temporary employees, the vast majority of our part time and temporary employees fall in the 14–18 year old range. For many of this group, it will be their first experience as a member of your community’s and department’s work force. This means that they may have no idea of what to expect when they report for their first day of work.
The environment that is created by your Department, starting with the hiring process, is key to the young future employee’s understanding of the expectations of your department.
We start off our hiring process with a job fair each year, which enables our department the opportunity to tell our prospective staff members who we are, what we are about, and what some of their responsibilities will be on the job (for example, being on time, calling supervisor when unable to work their shift, wearing uniforms, work performance, etc.)
After they are hired and report to work, it then becomes the process of training, mentoring, staff meetings, communication and evaluations.
Our full-time staff understands that it is our job to make each one of these 14-18 year olds the best employee that they can be and this takes a continual effort on the part of our staff.
Not always will everyone in this age group become a valuable part of your staff, but we are fortunate that the vast majority of our young staff members make a valuable contribution to our Department and to our community.
–Bob Prince is the Director of Recreation Services for the City and County of Broomfield, Colorado. Bob can be reached at email@example.com.
Q: I heard waivers that parents are asked to sign to “hold the owners harmless” in the case of injuries at the program aren’t worth the paper that are printed on. Is this true?
A: If an injury occurs because of negligence (an action or inaction that would not be made by a trained staff member) the waiver does not prevent the guardian from suing.
For example, let’s say that a lifeguard leaves the aquatics area to answer a phone call. While the lifeguard was not monitoring the aquatics area, someone drowned. The lifeguard has been negligent by leaving a high-risk activity unsupervised. No waiver could provide a defense in this situation.
However, if the waiver provides the guardian enough information about the potential risks of participating in activities by describing the inherent nature of the activity in language that helps all involved know, understand and appreciate the potential risks of the activities, the waiver can provide protection from lawsuits when injuries do occur that don’t involve negligence, like a sprained ankle from jumping to spike a volleyball when the surface and instruction were all properly administered.
Example of Informed Consent:
I hereby confirm that I understand that there are inherent risks of injury while participating in the sport of racquetball. Even though racquetball is a reasonably safe activity that can help to improve a person’s physical fitness, serious injuries can occur and these injuries can range from bruises, sprains, cuts, broken bones, and concussions.
I realize that wearing appropriate clothing, footwear, and eyewear is essential to my safety and that I must follow all of the instructions given to me about the game of racquetball to minimize my risk of injury.
I know, understand, and appreciate the risks involved in playing racquetball and I accept those risks as I voluntarily participate in racquetball classes.
Signature of Participant Date
Signature of Witness Date
–Dr. Susan Langlois has more than 25 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: Why is bicycle helmet usage so important?
A: Each year, bicycle-related deaths average 900, and United States hospital emergency rooms treat more than 500,000 people for bicycle-related injuries.
More children, ages 5 to 14, go to hospital emergency rooms for injuries associated with bicycles than with any other sport. Many of these injuries involve the head. If you do not wear a bicycle helmet, you are risking your life.
For cyclists, bicycle helmets are the single most important piece of safety equipment. Bicycle helmets can reduce the risk of injury by up to 85 percent. Most deaths related to bicycle falls and collisions involve head injuries. This means wearing a helmet can save your life.
Bicycle helmets made in or imported to the United States must meet a uniform safety standard issued by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Among other things, this means that bike helmets for children ages 1 to 5 will cover more of their heads, giving them more protection. Bicycle helmets should have a label or sticker that says the helmet meets the new CPSC standard.
Helmets should fit comfortably and securely. It should be worn so that it is level on the head (not tilted back on the crown or pulled low over the forehead). You should not be able to move the helmet in any direction. The chin strap should be securely fastened.
The proper size is important. Use the sizing pads sold with the helmets to help with a secure fit. If you still have trouble, ask a knowledgeable salesperson to help you.
–Kim Dulic is a spokesperson for the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), www.cpsc.gov
Q: What about wearing a helmet when playing other sports?
A: The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that consumers wear a helmet when in-line skating and roller skating. In addition, wrist guards, knee pads and elbow pads are recommended for these sports.
Helmets are also recommended for skateboarding. However, for the more aggressive (trick or freestyle) skating, helmets specifically designed for skateboarders are best. These helmets cover more of the head, especially in the back.
Q: How can I best protect my staff from sun damage and especially skin cancer?
A: All pool staff must wear long sleeved shirts between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. These shirts are supplied free of charge by the aquatics office.
Every pool manager and lifeguard is given sunscreen that should last long enough until they receive their first paycheck. The Pool Cool Project has supplied free sunscreen for the past two seasons to all 15 Denver outdoor pools.
• Hats, sunglasses are a must.
• Use of umbrellas and shade structures.
• Drinking plenty of water.
• Acting responsibility.
–Lee Ragon is the Aquatics Recreation Instructor for Denver (Colo.) Aquatics
Q: What if a patron does not want to be referred to a Special Recreation location but would rather participate in one of the programs at my park?
A: Inclusion is an important goal for park district programs. This means that we strive to give children with special needs the opportunity to participate in and enjoy all programs, rather than automatically referring them to Special Recreation programs.
If a child with special needs is capable of participating in regular park district programs, he or she should be permitted to do so. If park district staff believe that a child’s behavioral issues or physical needs are such that the child cannot participate in a program without addition assistance the staff may suggest that an assessment be performed to determine how to best meet the child’s needs.
Parents may request to apply for a one-on-one aide to accompany the child and assist with his or her participation in the program.
Q: What if someone who is hearing impaired comes to my park requesting an interpreter?
A: Title III of the ADA explains in detail the requirements of a Public Accommodation as it relates to the hearing impaired. Public accommodations are required to provide auxiliary aids to enable a person with a disability to communicate effectively. If a person who is hearing impaired requests an interpreter we are required to provide one.
Q: What is a service animal, and what if someone brings one into my park?
A: The ADA defines a service animal as any guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability.
Service animals perform some of the functions and tasks that the individual with a disability cannot perform for him or her. Seeing eye dogs are one type of service animal, used by those who are blind. This is the type of service animal with which most people are familiar. But there are service animals that assist persons with other kinds of disabilities in their day-to-day activities. Some examples include:
-Alerting persons with hearing impairments to sounds.
-Pulling wheelchairs or carrying and picking up things for persons with mobility impairments.
-Assisting persons with mobility impairments with balance.
The service animal must be permitted to accompany the individual with a disability to all areas of the park where customers are normally allowed to go.
Q: What’s the deal with these dog parks? Why should taxpayers foot the bill for dogs?
A: Dog parks are not for dogs. They are for people who own dogs… They provide a place for pet owners to allow their dogs to play off-leash, while the owners socialize, throw their dogs tennis balls, walk the perimeter, and have a good time. This previously disenfranchised group is gaining clout nationwide, as people live on smaller lots, in townhouses, and apartments where private off-leash areas do not exist.
Most dog parks use little or no public money, as the dog owners form foundations for fund raising purposes. The best parks, however, are on public land, allowing funding to provide attractive amenities such as handsome fencing, shade, benches, and signage.
Q: What’s all the hype about having an Audit Committee?
A: Audit Committees are an uncompensated independent committee that ensures public confidence and integrity in the financial management of the organization’s financials. They are typically comprised of a group of three qualified professionals, normally Certified Public Accountants, which represent the stakeholders and are committed to protecting the public interest.
The committees usually meet two to four times a year and are responsible for:
• Reviewing the annual unaudited financial statements including the process to prepare.
• Review annual independent audit results.
• Assure that audit recommendations are appropriately addressed
• Serve as a liaison between the organization’s management, independent auditors and the regulating board.
• Provide an independent reporting mechanism in which employees and/or citizens can report management concerns, accounting irregularities, or fraudulent activity.
The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) recently introduced a terrific resource in assisting organizations in forming an audit committee.
The AICPA Audit Committee Toolkit and the Audit Committee Matching Systems are both available under the AICPAs Audit Committee Effectiveness Center located on their website at www.aicpa.org.
The AICPA Audit Committee Toolkit brings you checklists, matrices, questionnaires, and other materials that are designed to help form a successful audit committee. The Audit Committee Matching System is a means to link CPAs who are willing to be on corporate boards and audit committees with the organizations that need the skill-set in those roles.
–David J. Kuntz
Q: How do you measure customer satisfaction?
A: Increasing competition is forcing cities and parks and recreation department to pay much more attention to satisfying customers. Measuring and analyzing customer satisfaction has become an essential component in providing excellent customer service. Understandably customer satisfaction and loyalty are intrinsically coupled to the well-being and long term growth of our services and customer retention.
Our success depends on how satisfied and loyal our customers are. Inevitability, the question is how to effectively measure customer satisfaction. In The Woodlands, we have several instruments of measurement in our toolbox:
• Customer Service Representative (CSR): From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, our parks and recreation department’s CRS provides a variety of services to our customers. For example, complaints, repair requests, facility reservations, streetlight outages, etc. The CSR is the voice behind parks and recreation, providing one number and a familiar voice to speak to. The Department rule is the answer the call within three rings.
• Customer Service Survey: How did we do today? Typically residents call or e-mail their service requests to our CRS. The responding division is required to return the resident/customers call within 48 hours and completed the work within 14 days. To understand how customers perceive our organization and whether our performances met their requirements, a survey card is mailed to resident upon completion of work. Our performance is rated on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being Awful and 5, Wow. When the rating substandard, staff contact the resident to understand how they can better serve their needs.
• Mailed project surveys: We mail surveys to every household in the service radius requesting residents’ needs, desires and expectations on park improvements. Each survey is designed separately to ensure it meets ours and residents’ objectives and can provide beneficial information. The input is analyzed creating priorities for improvement. We communicate those results at a meeting in the park or on a signs. The preferred improvements are posted on a sign in the park requesting feedback with contact information.
• Program satisfaction survey: At the end of a program, participants are asked to fill out a survey to provide feedback on the program and comments are incorporated into subsequent programs.
• Point-of-service surveys: Customer Service Surveys are available at our three reception areas within the community and monthly in the Community Magazine which is mailed to every household.
• Telephone survey: Every 18 months a statistically valid sample of the community is surveyed. The main objective of the telephone survey is to learn how residents feel about the services.
• Interviews: Park Rangers are our physical face-to-face contact to the community and as such personally interview residents/customers in the community and share that information through a reporting system to staff.
• Use Numbers: Analyze numerical data of participation in programs, pool attendance, reservations etc.
–John Powers, Mike Riggens, Kelly Dietrich
Q: How can we get the most out of our department’s Web site now that it is up and running?
A: Many parks and recreation departments have made the mistake of creating a Web site that is just an electronic edition of their seasonal brochure. Sure, residents will turn to your site to look for driving directions or to search for a class schedule, mailing address or phone number.
But, even under the tightest of budget restraints, your Web site can become the true marketing tool that you have always hoped it will be. Purely duplicating the seasonal brochure is a service, but in no way engages new residents, draws in new users, attracts the teen and tween markets or captures the families who haven’t yet used your services.
So, how do you make this happen? Think about what brings you to a Web site. Do you offer special on-line promotions, coupons or premiums? This is not only a value to your users but is also a way for your department to gauge your Web site’s reach and effectiveness.
Do you offer a service on-line which isn’t offered over the counter? Whether it is an on-line early bird price or a special two-for-one Internet benefit, you will get results. Provide information on everything from choosing quality athletic equipment to health and safety tips. Become the center of information for your community’s recreation needs.
Chat rooms linked to your Web site not only offer an additional service to various target markets within your community, but can also be a useful customer service tool for your department. Planning a new facility? Why not post the conceptual plans, appoint Chat Room leaders to supervise the rooms and let the end users discuss the design, suggest changes, recommend programs and critique your work? These Chat Rooms would be very attractive to both the teen and mommy markets. Want to know the real deal on your special events programs? Throw that question into a Chat Room and see what happens. You may be pleasantly surprised.
The teen and tween market like to be challenged and have a sense of mastery. Why not have on-line contests and challenges? Provide puzzle pieces, community scavenger hunt clues that need ultimate redemption of prizes or credits towards programs. Think interactive. Think Web on a budget.
Q: What’s an effective way to manage language barriers?
A: Due to our geographic location we hire a lot of Spanish speaking laborers, many of whom don’t speak English. As you can imagine, this is a real challenge not only for staff, but also for our customers.
To help with the language barrier our company has put together a group of staff called Dos Puntos (Two Points). The committee discusses language issues and comes up with viable solutions.
The committee is made up of a representative from Human Resources, bi-lingual laborers, an Administrative Assistant and a manager.
One idea that came from the committee was ESL (English as a Second Language) and SSL (Spanish as a Second Language) classes. Those interested in taking the classes pay an up-front fee and upon successful completion of the course a portion of the fee is returned. Classes are held during the workday two days a week for an hour and a half. Students are evaluated at the end of each session of classes verbally and in writing.
A lab/reference room was also set up. A variety of ESL and SSL material are available. Examples include computer access with instructional software and reference books.
Plans are currently underway for the development of a Dos Puntos Club for outside of working hours. This would include cultural education, food, music, games, etc. This is basically a chance for staff to get together and use their newly acquired language skills.
–John Powers, Mike Riggens, Kelly Dietrich
Q: What do you think of “movement” coming back into various playground apparatus?
A: Just in the last three or four years, several pieces of equipment have been introduced into the play environment, both on and off the play structures. I have been pleased with this development, since I thought that the playground industry had their hands tied for several years with the CPSC and ASTM revisions that virtually removed any movement other than spring riders, see-saws and swings from the market.
However, in the last few years, our department has had great success with the purchase of spring-mounted see saws and double-seated spring riders such as Freddy Firetruck from Playworld Systems, Barney from GameTime, Flippo the Frog from Miracle, the Multi-Pondo from Miracle, spinners from BCI Burke, and of course the tire swings that are available from all the vendors.
I would strongly encourage the inclusion of these types of equipment in your playground environment. Users of our playgrounds are glad we include them in ours.
Q: How do I start a walking program in a park?
A: First of all, offer the following basic information to all interested. Once you have a minimum of two people, start offering some scheduled times to encourage others to join in on a commitment. Have a group leader to help organize walking times. Hang up signs, or even better, produce a Walking Bulletin Board in the park field house. Produce a map of the site that shows the walking path and post the distance so patrons can register their distance.
Here are some tips to encourage walking… For most people this means head out the door, walk for 10 minutes, and walk back. That’s it? Yes, that’s it. Do this every day for a week. If this was easy for you, add five minutes to your walks next week (total walking time 25 minutes). Keep adding five minutes until you are walking as long as desired.
Be sure to encourage participants to drink plenty of water before, during, and after walking. Incorporate a warm up, cool down and stretches in their routine.
Start your walk at a slow warm up pace then stop and do a few warm up stretches. Walk for your desired length of time. End your walk with the slower cool down pace and stretch well. Stretching will make you feel great and assist in injury prevention.
The toughest thing about starting a fitness program is developing a habit. Walking daily will help (a minimum of five days a week is a good goal). Participants should try to walk fast enough to reach their target heart rate, which should be provided by park employees, if applicable.
If possible, offer pedometers and journals to track steps. You can also try to partner with local community groups to offer seminars on nutrition, fitness, walking shoes, etc.
Embracing the much-acclaimed Chicago WorksOut Campaign, the Chicago Park District offers many annual runs and walks throughout the year. Offering many different types of runs and walks, the Park District can make sure that anyone who wants to participate in physical fitness will be able to do so at their own pace.
Did you know that people who are usually inactive could greatly improve their health and well being by becoming even moderately active on a regular basis? Get the word out, providing the appropriate information and guidelines as touched on here, and sign up as many people from your community as you can for a run or walk today!
Q: What can I do to incorporate fitness programs to capture the whole family?
A: Offering fitness programs for children, as well as parents, at similar times offers a convenient option for parents who would otherwise need babysitters while they try to fit their fitness into their schedule.
Whether it is a combined mom-and-tot class, dad-and-daughter basketball league, or a separate kids’ fitness and adult aerobics class, fitting in 30-60 minutes a day becomes not only a healthy way of life, but also a fun family time!
Q: How can you develop a “fitness center” in a park and keep costs affordable to the community?
A: Apply for grants that involve fitness-based exercise to combat obesity. This would justify the purchase of fitness equipment to be added to your grant budget.
Many fitness vendors offer the same equipment with different optional looks, kind of like choosing car options like sunroofs and electric windows. Choose less flashy equipment that functions properly without the “nice to have, but not needed” features, like built in TVs, heart rate monitors, etc.
Look into leased equipment (commercial grade is recommended).
Investigate assistance from community groups that are for profit that may greatly benefit from a fitness center. You may offer some private time to utilize the fitness center in off peak hours, such as a senior rehab group, etc.
Q: How do you leverage city resources to increase or enhance youth programs?
A: 1. Bring sister agencies together such as, parks, schools, libraries and community based organizations to identify their current programs (to avoid duplication) and resources.
2. Identify areas of greatest need such as geographic, sports, culture, etc.
3. Choose partners that already reach large numbers of participants.
4. Align & maximize neighborhood physical and programmatic resources. Do strength assessments rather than needs assessments.
5. Create a network of opportunity that prepares youth for the future.
6. Create opportunities for youth to apply their skills in ways that contribute to their communities.
7. Be intentional, work toward a shared vision, build relationships, and motivate people to do what they think they can’t. Relationships are everything; the power is your ability to deliver.
Q: Do you encourage citizen input in the process for planning the future development of your parks?
A: Yes I do! We currently have 36 parks, with two currently in the development phase and four more scheduled for development during the next five years.
Citizen input must be sought out to build a successful park system. In order to get our citizens involved, I make this a normal part of the process of planning for the development of a park, particularly if the park is in their neighborhood.
The method is simple. Citizens of a particular area where a park is to be developed are contacted by mail with a meeting notice that informs them that we are seeking their input into various park amenities they would like to see in the park to be developed.
At the meeting, both verbal and written comments are asked for and recorded. Our staff explains the process for development and tells the citizens attending that a follow up meeting will be held once proposals are taken for equipment.
Citizens do not pick out the equipment but we allow them input into color schemes and amenities that they would like to have and not to have.
In some cases as the park is being developed I have another meeting with the homeowners that may border two or maybe three sides of a park to ask their opinions on the placement of trees. I ask for comments on spacing, shade vs. evergreen trees and location, with respect to vision angles within the park.
In almost every park that has been developed, I have established great relations with homeowners who border a park property while developing a solid base of satisfied backers of our department who have helped us tremendously over the years.
Q: How do you get your “Boss” to provide you or others meaningful recognition when he/she doesn’t or won’t?
A: Everyone knows the value of recognizing performance, saying “Thank You” and giving praise, but some people have a harder time expressing this than others. It can really be de-motivating when a boss or supervisor is such a person.
Recognition should start and come from the top, but there are bosses that just don’t seem to have it in them to say “Thanks”, give praise, compliments or meaningful recognition. There may be many reasons for such a seemingly lack of caring. But one never knows what has created or is impacting another person’s personality or behavior.
So what can one do? We know we really can’t change people, but we can influence their behavior. Here are two suggestions:
1. Turn the tables and give your boss the treatment you are desiring.
Start with the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” In other words, if you want recognition for a job well done or compliments for performance and you are not receiving it try giving your boss some recognition, show them some appreciation, so that the boss can experience the feelings first hand. When they understand the value of the treatment, they are likely to reciprocate.
Have you ever taken the boss to lunch? Ever told your boss “nice job,” or thanked them for what they’ve done for you. Recognition and appreciation should be a two-way street and your side should always be flowing with appreciation traffic.
It may be difficult to find things your boss has done to recognize them for, or you may be resentful in the thought of “thanking” the old codger. But it can be as simple as a honest statement, “I know you must work really hard at your job and I appreciate your dedication to our department,” or “Thanks for giving me the flexibility to do my job on my own.”
When one seeks to find the good in a person, you usually can find something. Possibly present your boss with a small, simple award and always try to compliment your boss in front of their boss.
The key is to be sincere and honest, and not to really expect anything in exchange. One does not want to be labeled a ‘suck up” or be perceived as brown nosing the boss. And even if it doesn’t work on the boss and bring them around, you’ll at least feel better about yourself for doing the right thing.
2. Ask for it.
Tell your boss how you feel. Tell them what you need to continue or improve your performance. A perfect format to communicate your feelings is during an evaluation period. Evaluations should be a two way dialogue and you should use the opportunity to convey your feelings about recognition or signs of appreciation. You should use the time to tell your boss how you think he/she are doing for.
–John Powers, Mike Riggens, Kelly Dietrich
Q: How can you determine what programs kids would like, and how would you go about setting up those programs?
A: The best way to determine what programs kids would like is by simply observing them. What are they doing on their own time that makes them happy?
Kids are happiest when doing an activity that they enjoy. For example, a group of kids was observed singing along and dancing to a radio. They were asked if they enjoyed that type of activity, and they responded that they sure enough did.
Using this information, a “Karaoke for Kids” program was introduced, and the kids indirectly created their own program.
–Richard Scott, Recreation Leader, Palm Bay Parks & Recreation, Fla.
Q: What is an effective way to expand gymnastics programming to reach more patrons and to service a broader age and ability range?
A: The Chicago Park District follows all guidelines and programs recognized by USA Gymnastics. In doing so, the park district offers the following programs under the direction of the Gymnastics Unit and utilizes Gymnastics Instructors for instruction of these programs: Gymnastics, Tumbling, Dance, Cheerleading and General Gymnastics (Team Gymnastics).
Gymnastics classes are offered in three categories,
1. Early Childhood Classes (18 months to 5 years of age) where children are given the opportunity to succeed, use their imaginative skills, enhance listening capabilities, develop self-esteem and confidence through tumbling, balancing, and development of gross motor skills through a movement education program. Classes meet for one hour once a week.
2. Recreational Classes (6 years to 17 years of age): The goal of this program is to challenge gymnasts and allow them to achieve maximum success while developing skills, building strength and increasing flexibility. The program is divided into levels established by USA Gymnastics. Programming covers all Olympic events and classes meet one hour once a week.
3. Competitive Team Classes (4 years to 17 years of age): This program is designed to prepare the gymnast for participation in USA Gymnastics competitive compulsory and optional programs. These classes are invitational classes that train from 4 hours a week to 22 hours a week dependent of ability level of the competitor.
Dance classes are offered in three categories,
1. Pre Ballet & Creative Movement (3 to 5 years of age): Children learn dance fundamentals, such as locomotor patterns, and basic positions of the arms and feet. Use of imagery, children’s games, and improvisation in this class creates awareness of movement in young children.
2. Recreational Classes (5 years to 17 years of age): The goal of this program is to challenge dancers and allow them to explore various dance forms such as Ballet, Modern Dance and Jazz. Dancers build strength, flexibility, solid body awareness, timing, rhythm, fluid motion, good lines, musicality and a sense of showmanship.
3. Performance Dance Team (8 years to 17 years of age): This dance team is composed of young diverse dancers who are selected because of their ability to dance and perform. Children in this program perform for various festivals, events and compete in dance competition.
Tumbling classes are offered in two categories,
1. Recreational (4-17 years of age): Children are challenged to achieve maximum success while developing tumbling skills that demonstrate speed, strength and a series of acrobatic maneuvers that include somersaults, flips and twists. This program is divided into levels, which follow the guidelines of USA Gymnastics. This program is recommended for children who do not wish to work on gymnastics apparatus as well as for accomplished cheerleaders.
2. Competitive (4-17 years of age): This program is designed to prepare the tumbler for participation in USA Gymnastics competitive tumbling programs. These classes are invitational classes.
Cheerleading Classes are offered in two categories,
1. Recreational (7 – 17 years of age): The goal of this program is to challenge children while preparing them to be cheerleaders. The program trains tumbling skills, builds strength, flexibility, solid body awareness, timing, rhythm, fluid motion, good lines, musicality and a sense of showmanship.
2. Competitive (7 -17 years of age): This program is designed to prepare the cheerleaders for participation in competitive cheerleading programs. These classes are invitational classes and train four hours a week.
General Gymnastics (Team Gymnastics),
1. Recreational (all ages): This is a sport activity in which everyone can participate, regardless of skill and age. In General Gymnastics, both parents and their children can work out, perform and have fun together. This is a great activity for recreational class students. Girls and boys can be combined into one class. There is a limited use of apparatus and class groups can compete in after one semester of training one day a week. Students are able to see immediate results and develop a great sense of accomplishment while having fun.
2. Competitive (all ages): Gymnasts compete together as a squad. Each squad competes in two events — Group Jump and Group Floor Exercise. During Group Jump, each squad does two tumbling passes, two vaults, and two mini-tramp or board jumps. During Group Floor Exercise, all the gymnasts in the squad perform a group floor routine to music. This routine is a combination of dance and tumbling skills. Team
Gymnastics events are held at amusement parks, and at local and national Gym Festivals. Gymnasts can participate in national and international events with one to two years of preparation. This is great way to keep older artistic gymnasts involved in your program.