Each town brings to their patrons a different Parks and Recreation experience, but is one better than another? Having spent many years in the Parks and Recreation field, I have seen many different styles of Parks and Recreation Departments. There are some that are a force to be reckoned with in their town. They offer large facilities that include pools, tennis courts, racquetball courts, basketball courts, workout gyms, movie facilities, and much more. They also offer beaches, outdoor pools, golf courses, restaurants, boating facilities, multiple parks, ice rinks, skateboarding parks, dog parks, buildings for functions, and the list goes on. Many people argue that these Parks and Recreation Departments can afford this type of operation which allows for many more amenities. Yes, they are correct in thinking that the more money a community has the better their Parks and Recreation programs should be.
That leads me to this question; what about the communities that are well off monetarily and have lousy Parks and Recreation programs? This question I can speak to from close experience. I live in a large, well off town that has high taxes and a high income level, but our Parks and Recreation programs and facilities are lacking. In our town we have 5 parks, 5 ball fields, 2 beaches, 4 basketball courts, 4 tennis courts, a bike path, 2 natural areas and 1 snack bar that is ran during baseball and soccer season by private organizations. I understand that to some that is a lot, but we are a town that is the third largest in our state with 17,000 residents. The town has a total of 58.6 square miles, of which 36.9 square miles is land and 21.8 square miles is water. The median age is 33 with a median household income of $70,000. Our Parks and Recreation department’s Mission Statement is “to enhance the quality of life of all residents by providing a variety of leisure time activities through exceptional programs, facilities, customer service, and leadership that exceeds community expectations”.
I find their mission statement a bold and ambitious one. I respect the fact that they want to provide “exceptional programs” for all. The only problem I see with this mission statement is that they have not communicated with the community to learn what their expectations are. If they want to “exceed expectations”, they have to first learn what the expectations are. They are in the “business” of serving their community, so they need to spend more time listening to the community. A simple survey once a year would be a start. There also needs to be more open forums for community members to attend to speak their opinions on the Parks and Recreation program. The future of our “leisure time” needs to be reviewed as well. Times are changing and Parks and Recreation needs to change with it. There needs to be a continuation of family and community programs that brings us into the future.
Now, I’m sure my thoughts and opinions are echoed among many other cities and towns. Nothing is more powerful than the written word, so take the time to write down your thoughts and present them to your Town Parks and Recreation Board, and ask for a response. I am going to do the same today and I will write a follow up on this post, sharing what I received for a response.