Parks and recreation have never been more relevant, and agencies are rising up to unprecedented challenges to provide innovative essential services. It is a critical time to lock arms and help the industry by sharing lessons learned. The current times are challenging but amidst the whirlwind are profound successes and champions that need to be heard.
The following highlights are excerpted from Season 2 of Good News: In Parks, a bi-monthly, interactive Zoom show where leading park and recreation professionals share best practices across relevant topics that inform their work and the resulting positive impacts on community well-being. Some of their recommended best practices include:
- Provide monthly budget forecast for transparent financial reporting to the public
- Increase participation in community by sharing your master budget and incoming expenses
- Find alternative funding sources. Example would be an increase of E-Sports.
- Provide weekly video communication to share fun recreation ideas with parents and families
- Conduct one-on-one virtual meetings to perform assessments and training before people join in-person activities at park facilities
- Identify and communicate needs so local residents can help with donations, volunteer time, and durable goods
- Use social media platforms to communicate information about parks and services
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
- Departments are creating training series to make sure employees are trained and able to serve people from all background. Example is "Dancing for Diversity".
- Implementing a diverse panel to create better interview questions for incoming candidates.
- Opening up communication channels.
- Creating an environment where all communities feel welcome.
- Recognize and celebrate different cultures in the community.
- Shift towards digital marketing strategies.
- Focus on outdoor health and wellness programs for staff members, as well as community members
- Partner with health departments and healthcare centers to provide flu shots and other medical screenings
- Enhancing virtual programming
- Creating dynamic departments by increasing energy, innovation, and leadership.
- Utilizing strategic initiative: employee excellence, building community relationships, equitable opportunities, and cultivating an innovative culture.
- Measuring department success through performance and program evaluations.
- Create an online activity center with virtual tours, activity sheets, instructional videos and other services
- Work with local gyms and fitness centers to provide outdoor space/instruction for exercise classes
- Provide services to address the social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs of all people to prevent skill regression
- Explore ways to combine positions, increase volunteer opportunities to maintain staffing and provide consistent services
- With the hiring shortage many began partnerships with local colleges and institutions.
- Created more internships with incentives and education for what local government truly does.
- Shift personnel to other city services to avoid furloughs and staff reduction.
- Encourage staff to stay up to date with any relevant credentialing.
- Provide tools to families so children can participate in recreation activities at home
- Keeping culture alive in the community. Knowing we are only as good as the people we hire.
- Creating playgrounds that have natural elements.
- Increasing family gathering spaces outside.
- Capturing storm water.
- Keep parks and trails open (including restrooms for hand washing and personal hygiene)
- Coordinate with public and private organizations to provide space in parks for additional community services
- Set up brush recycling centers to help homeowners remove yard waste, then convert yard waste to mulch for homeowner use
- Work with developments and require adopted connections to trails and other park areas.