Magazine article Parks & Recreation

PRORAGIS: The Ultimate Management Tool for Good and Bad Times

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

PRORAGIS: The Ultimate Management Tool for Good and Bad Times

Article excerpt

Why PRORAGIS?

"NOTHING destroys an opinion like a number." The words of corporate business guru Richard Sloma get at the heart of what makes PRORAGIS such a powerful tool for park and recreation agencies around the country. Information is key. Information may not be a panacea in this time of slashed budgets and squeezed programs--but without information, the highest-ranking person's opinion becomes by default the final decision for your department.

No matter how your park agency is currently positioned--whether your very survival is at stake or you are one of the fortunate few poised for expansion--your strategy is only as good as the information you have to support it. You cannot enter partnerships or agreements without understanding what is being negotiated. You cannot effectively privatize a function or a park without knowing what it actually costs to operate. You cannot reposition your agency well without having a grasp of the value it already contributes to the community. You cannot generate additional revenue without a thorough understanding of your customer base. And, finally, you cannot confidently build new management structures without a way to measure the performance of the old ones.

PRORAGIS provides information about your department that may be compared to all other departments--or to selected departments. It is information that justifies your budgets and strategies, informs your planning processes, verifies your capital acquisition and development initiatives, and provides you with management benchmarks and best practices for your operation.

What is PRORAGIS?

PRORAGIS (Park and Recreation Operating Rational and Geographic Information System) is a searchable database of park agencies--enhanced with web-based mapping capability. The PRORAGIS profile is a little like Facebook and other Internet profile networks. Each department completes the database questions, and the result is a comprehensive collection of data by which to compare all aspects of all department profiles. And all of that data is integrated with a state of-the-art GIS mapping system.

PRORAGIS is a merger of two previously existing NRPA products. The Operating Ratio Study and the GIS Model. The 2009 Operating Ratio Study was distributed to NRPA member departments in March 2009 and was intended to be the first of a series of annual snapshots of departments' jurisdictions, organizations, finances, resources, staffing, and programs. Out of 3,100 surveys distributed, 679 usable surveys were returned--a return rate that provided statistically accurate data for a national study.

The database that resulted from the 2009 Operating Ratio Study was then combined with a geographic information system (GIS), so as to attach all values to geographic reference points. A GIS is a mapping system that depends on physically located objects. An object might be a park, river, trail, ball field, tennis court, or anything else that can be "geo-referenced." Most of us have now used global positioning systems (GPS) to locate a shop or restaurant according to its geographic coordinates--or to get detailed driving directions to a site. The GIS system uses the same principle as GPS but creates maps showing the variables for your intended use. Mapping applications, such as Google Maps, use satellite photography to create a base map showing topography, streets etc. As valuable as this sort of base map application is, the informational value of a GIS system is supercharged when layers of data are overlaid on top of the base.

There are three basic geometric units involved is GIS: a point, a line, and a polygon (or enclosed space). The point could be a park, ballfield, tree, or any other geo-referenced object, The line can be a road, trail river, or any other linear feature: and a polygon can be a park, ball field, building, or any feature that contains area of value to your use.

Each of these features and others can be placed on a layer and overlaid for spatial analysis. …

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