Park maintenance operations is a wide and multi-discipline function that can mean different things to different people, departments, officials and staff.
The scope is largely dependent on several factors: size, location, budget, staffing and policy. I’m sure you can name several others that are likely a driving force in how you may operate and maintain your parks. But as stewards of parks we are charged with providing a safe and pleasant park experience while practicing good environmental stewardship at a reasonable cost. That is what I would consider a universal policy we all share in Pennsylvania regardless if you serve in a small capacity in a local borough or in a large capacity in a major city or county.
Let’s stop for a minute and think about what that means in a municipal setting. I don’t believe there is anyone dealing with park maintenance that has not found both challenges and conflicts with this statement in their career, regardless if you are new in the position or have spent a long career dealing with these very challenges.
So how do we address the seemingly never-ending challenges and obstacles. A highly respected and successful park professional recently made the analogy to me that he used to be 6’3” when he started his career, but throughout his career has been beat down (he’s semi-retired and 5’7”.) A good chuckle – but it dawned on me that what he was really saying was the success of his parks was not without his own personal struggles and challenges, and that there is a price to pay for that success. That price is for us as park maintenance professionals is to work hard to objectively understand our users needs, identify appropriate resources to meet those needs while moving forward in the direction of the policy makers visions.
If this is beginning to sound like documenting strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and challenges, you are right. If we want our parks to be safe and provide a pleasant experience while being good environmental stewards at a reasonable cost, it is imperative to have a handle on these factors to provide a clear and objective presentation of these elements for our leadership to make good, well informed decisions.
Between the work to get that information and the culmination of decisions is where our friend may have experienced his (metaphoric) beating down. But in that process, he experienced amazing success which is now enjoyed by multitudes of park users for years to come. The better we become at providing clear and objective information and data, the better chances we have for our decision makers to move forward to meet the goals of their respective municipalities.
A recent grant award from the DCED and DCNR with support of PRPS is beginning to research these issues in Pennsylvania to provide park maintenance operations professionals a new tool to help them realize their goals.
If you are contacted or see a request for information, please take a few minutes to respond to this request, it may likely help the success of your parks in the near future.