Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Just Because You Build It Doesn't Mean They'll Come

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Just Because You Build It Doesn't Mean They'll Come

Article excerpt

I recently had the opportunity to spend time with two park and recreation departments in Texas. My visits with San Antonio and Austin were interesting and revitalizing, but they also led me to a few realizations about how successful park systems that think innovatively are able to connect to their constituents. Although their programs were very different, they shared a philosophy that I believe is most essential to their success. They are proactive--meeting their customer, their community member, their resident where they are in terms of location, skill and interest. Waiting for someone to walk into their center or park just isn't an option.

In Austin, I visited the Camacho Activity Center of the Austin Department of Parks and Recreation, a community recreation center with a unique focus on high adventure programming. Their program is very much about connecting kids to nature and the outdoors, and in recent years they have developed a model that essentially takes the park experience to the community. Center staff conduct kayaking, climbing, mountain biking, photography and nature-based programming, and takes it around to the city's 20 other community centers, sharing their expertise and innovative programming that the other centers don't provide. Every kid gets a nature experience no matter where they live.

Ryan Eaker, center director, said they depend largely on highly qualified part-time staff, which works great for their programming, but it leads to high turnover because the staff is so highly sought after. Search "Camacho Activity Center" on YouTube and watch "We Are Not Your Normal Rec Center. " This just may be the "new" normal for both staff and visitors.

In San Antonio, I learned about their Fit Pass 2.0 program, a program that takes a community-wide approach to health. The slogan of this passport program is, "Live Healthier. …

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