Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Crisis of Knowledge: Until We Educate Our Communities on the Essential Nature of Parks and Recreation, We Will Be Sentenced to a Downward Spiral of Declining Resources and Support

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

A Crisis of Knowledge: Until We Educate Our Communities on the Essential Nature of Parks and Recreation, We Will Be Sentenced to a Downward Spiral of Declining Resources and Support

Article excerpt

As I read the articles by Paul Gilbert and Mike McCarty in the September and October issues of Parks & Recreation, it was refreshing to see more practitioner dialogue in our publication. It is crucial that our practitioners engage in the discussions that will shape our future.

To the point of the two articles, we are a profession under a silent siege as the economy forces our elected officials to make decisions that are rarely based on the long- or short-term cost-benefit analysis of competing interests. This is, however, through no fault of the elected officials. The magnitude of their ignorance is only rivaled by our own. My good friend and comrade in arms on this subject, Barry Weiss, characterizes it best with his quote of Albert Einstein: "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result." I mean no disrespect, but until we fundamentally change our model of "doing business" to garner resources at all levels of government to serve all people--we will always be at the end of the line, or maybe not in line at all.

My read of the two articles was enjoyable, though it seemed like "back to the future." Those of us who experienced the last few economic downturns felt the same pressures as today. Our response, as suggested by the authors, is the same: do more with less and be more aggressive and entrepreneurial in our approach to service delivery. And we are.

A strong current runs through our profession now that is representative of a business approach to our development and management of facilities and services. This is a critical aspect of our operations today and in the competitive marketplace of parks and recreation it is essential to maintaining our market share.

But there is another critical aspect of our services that entails access. All of our citizens, regardless of economic status or physical/mental ability, deserve access to these services and facilities. It becomes even more important that resources can be obtained that ensure this access by all. The argument/data for this must be strong enough that it, too, becomes a part of the business model that we use to obtain our resources.

But it is not working for the long term. Some of us are not being asked to do more with less but to do less with less. An article in the September 2010 issue of Governing magazine, "Doing Less with Less," chronicles a troubling situation in Colorado Springs where an excellent parks and recreation system operated as a best practice system is being decimated. This is not a situation of staff working harder or being more entrepreneurial--it is ignorance on the part of the citizens and elected officials in their decision making. To counter such situations, we must immediately begin repositioning our field in terms of the tangible values and benefits of a strong parks and recreation system. …

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