Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Integrating Innovation

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Integrating Innovation

Article excerpt

CMMS and GIS are taking park maintenance to the next level

When North Myrtle Beach Parks and Recreation Department staff set out to create a 160-acre sports complex several years ago, they began the development of what Public Grounds Superintendent Jim Grainger calls the "mother of all parks" in their South Carolina community In addition to serving as a major revenue generator, with 14 sports fields, a veterans' plaza, an amphitheater and a zip line, the complex, when complete, will more than double the city's parkland.

Daunting? Maybe. But Grainger had an advantage that would prove critical to front-end planning: information. For years, North Myrtle Beach had been using a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) called MainTrac to record and monitor work orders, equipment use, spending and man hours in the city's nine parks and facilities.

"You're taking a piece of raw material and asking, 'What are the maintenance expectations?"' he says, speaking of the planning for the complex. "We could go back to our historical data and say, 'In order to achieve those expectations, we know we'll need this many resources, whether they be human, equipment or material. Are we willing to commit that dollar amount to get that level of maintenance, or do we have to limit our expectations because of the resources we have?"' Park and recreation agencies that integrated technology advances into their operations before or during the American economic recession - when maintenance was hard-hit in the U.S. - affirm the powerful role they've played in resource management and development. Now, as America moves toward recovery, and with the increased availability of online computerized maintenance tracking systems, GIS tools and smart devices, agencies are exploring new and cutting-edge ways to streamline their services and replicate the knowledge and efficiency gains like those experienced in North Myrtle Beach.

Tracking in the New Digital Age

(Good) Data is Power

Grainger, a regent for the NRPA Park and Recreation Maintenance Management School, believes it's the ability to justify - with credibility - and efficiently manage scarce resources that make a CMMS a powerful tool. But he cautions that to be effective, staff must be familiar with the tool and understand the what, and why, for each piece of data.

"I tell my staff, 'Here's the type of information I'm pulling, and here's how specific you need to be,"' he states. "When you are doing a routine thing, there can be a tendency to punch in the same thing you did last time. But nuances are important."

In Florida, Martin County Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Randy Phillips and Parks Superintendent Mark Lynch, vice chair and chair of the NRPA Maintenance Management School, affirm data integrity, and therefore the training of front-line workers, as a priority when integrating technology.

"You have to create buy-in from your line staff and demonstrate what's in it for them, whether it's the ability to purchase more equipment, hire more people or do more tasks," affirms Phillips. "If your data doesn't have integrity, you're making decisions on erroneous information. Garbage in, garbage out."

Lynch credits Martin County's Hansen CMMS with helping his de- partment navigate through the U.S. recession, cope with Florida proper- ty tax legislation that limited coun- ty funding for parks and navigate the road to recovery. He lists recent gains, such as freed staff hours, the reacquisition of staff and the cre- ation of new maintenance crews.

He compares the process to cleaning the garage. "You realize you haven't used some things in a long time, so you do away with them. Now we can use that additional staff time and money to do things we weren't doing before."

Streamlining

For the past two years, Roswell, Geor- gia's Recreation, Parks, Historic and Cultural Affairs Department has been using an online version of MainTrac to help maintain its 32 parks and relat- ed facilities. …

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