Parks’ New Business Plan Pays Off

December 5, 2012 | 5:05pm

Keep advanced computer classes or bring in pickleball?

Just one example of the many, many decisions made by County Parks and Recreation as it implemented a new way of doing business over the last year. The results? Added services, higher customer satisfaction and more revenue.

County Parks saw an extra $334,295 in its budget due to cost savings, revenue increases, sponsorships and donations.

“In a time when traditional funding sources are shrinking and public demand for our services is increasing, we need to be both innovative and efficient in how we provide those services,” said County Parks Director Brian Albright. “The long-term business plan is our road map.” 

Albright and his team reported on the accomplishments achieved in the last year during the County Board of Supervisors meeting Wednesday. While the parks and recreation industry is trying to approach operations like a private sector business versus a public agency, County Parks is at the forefront in trying to implement the idea with their one-year-old business plan. 

First, Parks took a day to day, top to bottom look at how it conducts business. Staff used a cost-recovery pyramid to see which resources benefited the most in the community. An analysis tool reviewed every program, checked what else was offered in the market place and what was in demand.  

Those advanced computer classes? Attendance was low. Turns out the new County library in Fallbrook was meeting that demand. At Parks, more people were willing to pay for pickleball. The change was made. (For the uninitiated, pickleball has been described as a combination of ping-pong, tennis and badminton. The game is played on badminton or basketball courts with a low net, a baseball-sized whiffle ball and paddles.)  

Other programs didn’t meet community needs or were no longer financially viable. Altogether, Parks saw more than $10,000 in revenue with the adjustments made to the recreational programs.

Here are other highlights:

  • Looked at alternate grant sources and was awarded more than $1.7 million in grant funds
  • Parks received $57,000 in donations including more than $50,000 from the San Diego Foundation for a new trail in the Otay Valley Regional Park.
  • Two new leases and renewals led to $47,000 in additional revenue. 
  • After research, increased fees for camping, cabins, group picnic areas, fishing and boating to match current market rates.
  • An additional nine existing pavilions can now be reserved.   

Add enhanced marketing, partnerships and energy efficiency measures to the mix and Parks is making progress in its goal to become more self-reliant.    

What’s next? A new strategic marketing plan will come into play next year. Parks may offer more venues for weddings and special events, implement historical behind-the-scenes tours, add new features such as mini-golfing or zip lines, offer concerts in the park and consider offering a naming rights program.  

In short, Parks is using the new long-term business plan to continue providing high-quality services in the most efficient way possible. Pickleball, anyone?