Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Art of Juggling: Project Management in Parks and Recreation

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

The Art of Juggling: Project Management in Parks and Recreation

Article excerpt

Project management is like juggling three halls--time, cost and quality. Program management is like a troupe of circus performers standing in a circle, each juggling-three halls and swapping halls from time to time.--G. Reiss

Creating a project or program from initial idea to completion is a challenging endeavor that takes a host of people, planning, time and money to be successful. Projects from across the country are different and challenging in their own way, but the goal in each is the same--a rich, engaging resource and experience for our visitors to enjoy for years to come.

Moving Forward Post-Recession

Park and recreation projects become investments in the future for our visitors and help to create and maintain a sense of community and identity. A 2014 report, titled A Survey of Capital Projects Management Among New York City Government Agencies and prepared for New Yorkers for Parks by Public Works Partners, states that New York City Council members "see their funding of parks capital projects as critical investments in their constituents' neighborhoods, and they are particularly concerned when these projects run behind schedule or over budget."

For many municipalities and departments, the 2007-2009 recession significantly impacted their departments and projects. For some, the impacts were fiscal; for others, it resulted in personnel reductions and sometimes a combination of both. Yet, during this time, the financially strapped public was flocking to these resources.

The Miami-Dade Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces Department (PROS) saw its "department's general fund support decreased by 30 percent. Coincidentally with that decrease, the department's permanent workforce was decreased by almost 30 percent. These cuts were...at a time when the public became more dependent on low-cost entertainment such as that offered by the public park system."

In the greater St. Louis area, the Great Rivers Greenway District has been working for 15 years to connect parks with greenways. "Our primary source of funding is two special sales taxes. We also use federal, state and local grants to leverage the taxpayer's investment in our projects. As people spent less money during the recession, our income decreased. We had to operate with a smaller capital budget and adjusted accordingly," says Megan Riechmann, AICP project manager.

"Our main priority is ensuring we are moving our master plan forward --working toward the goal of a 600 mile network of greenways," says Riechmann. "It is very easy to be distracted by a wide variety of recreation and alternative transportation needs throughout our region, but we strive to stay focused on our core greenway routes--keeping the overall connectivity of the system in mind."

For the city of Henderson, Nevada, the recession made the municipality look at funding sources a bit differently. "We realized that we cannot rely solely on one funding source for our projects," says Amie Wojtech, park project manager for the city of Henderson. "Many of the projects that we were/are directly involved with are funded through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act (SNPLMA). With the recession, public land was not being purchased and therefore minimal funds were available for our projects. As a result, it decreased the number projects we were working on. [Now] we actively search for grants because we still are in the recovery process for capital improvement projects."

Full funding for a project is required "prior to any surveys, schematics, designs, construction or acquisition of equipment" in the city of Memphis Division of Parks and Neighborhoods. Yet, even with this tight mandate, it has been able to create parks within 1 mile of almost every neighborhood in its district--a notable accomplishment.

Upcoming Issues

For most areas of the country, municipalities are revving up again with new projects and getting back on track to meet their goals. …

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