Friday, October 27, 2006

History comes alive... Or is it dead?

One of our most creative efforts to engage the public in history is our October exhibit on death and mourning practices of the 18th Century held at the Carlyle House in Alexandria. This exhibit focuses on the death of John Carlyle, one of the early civic and business leaders in colonial Alexandria. This seasonal program concludes with a reenactment of John Carlyle's funeral. This year this event takes place on Saturday October 28th from 6:00 - 9:00 P.M.

Innovation in Government

Recently, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA) applied for the Harvard School of Government's Innovation in Government Award. It will take some time to find out how we did against the considerable national competition. Whether we win this award or not, clearly we have many innovative initiatives taking place at the Regional Park Authority.

NVRPA operations are roughly 80% self funded. Because so little of our operating revenues come from tax dollars, we have become very entrepreneurial. Close to 30% of our operating revenues come from our two campgrounds and three golf courses.

To improve our services we identified new value added features/services appreciated by our customers. As a consequence, park usage and revenue improved significantly. We created a golf membership program encouraging frequent players to purchase season passes for unlimited play (priced to promote play during non-peak demand times) at NVRPA courses. Augmented by an aggressive marketing program, including ads in golfing publications and local newspapers, wide distribution of a new brochure and use of Virginia Tourism assets, play at all NVRPA golf courses dramatically improved. A 12.78 % increase in golf rounds over the previous year resulted.

Camping is another core service that experienced dramatic usage and financial improvement as a result of enhanced features. At our two campgrounds, we added rustic cabins, expanded hook-ups for recreational vehicles and wireless internet access. These new features allow the public to select from a wider range of camping experiences and comfort levels. The new amenities were marketed through print ads, the internet and camping directories. NVRPA developed and widely distributed captivating literature promoting family camping near the nation’s capital. An increase of 8,997 campers over the previous year and an income increase of $134,975 (18.46% annual increase) were realized. These are examples where innovation is transforming NVRPA, allowing us to respond to the public need for more recreational opportunities at an affordable price. NVRPA is pursuing many other managerial, partnership and technology initiatives, permitting the agency to live into its mission and affect a futuristic plan for obtaining more parkland in Northern Virginia.