The Growing Importance of Capital Planning for Parks and Recreation

Sep 05, 2018

Written by Regina S. Leonard, PLA, Senior Landscape Architect

A recent Pennsylvania State University study commissioned by the National Parks and Recreation Association (NPRA) shows the profound and lingering impacts the Great Recession has had on Parks and Recreation Departments throughout the country. According to the study, while the recession “weighed heavily on funding for all local government services, no service bore the brunt of budget cuts more than park and recreation agencies.” Nationwide, investment in parks and recreation continues to be much lower than pre-recession levels, and compared to other public services, only libraries and correctional facilities receive a smaller percentage of local government expenditures. Lack of investment combined with the labor shift from full-time to part-time staffing has strained parks and recreation resources and hampered meaningful capital improvements.

With increased competition for limited resources, Parks and Recreation Departments nationwide have recognized the need for proactive planning that reinforces the value of parks and recreation to the community and outlines a long-term strategy for addressing needs. To this end, Milone & MacBroom has developed a unique approach to Parks and Recreation Master Planning that identifies potential funding sources and culminates in an implementation strategy based on fiscal year budgeting cycles. This integrated approach is intended to empower agencies by leveraging data and providing the necessary rationale to support funding requests.

Over the past few years, Milone & MacBroom has assisted numerous communities with these types of planning efforts, from comprehensive parks and recreation master plans, to those focused on athletic facilities and sports fields. Our role has been to establish a clear understanding of needs and priorities and to outline a clear strategy for future investment.

The Parks and Recreation Master Plan we developed for the City of Sanford, ME, for example, served as “a true road map to move forward,” and helped guide the hiring of a new Parks and Recreation Director. According to Steven R. Buck, the City Manager, “we used it extensively in the second round of interviews for our New Parks and Recreation Director . . . it provided a great insight into our Applicant’s ability to draw upon the Plan, [and] demonstrate their requisite capacities to implement [it].” Hearing positive feedback like this is not only rewarding, but it also reinforces the value of our unique and practical approach to parks and recreation master planning.

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