Monday, September 20, 2010

Good Economic News - Parks

Because the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority self funds over 80% of our operating expense (a remarkable deal for the tax payers) we are very focused on making our parks and programs appealing to the public.

Every four months we do some detailed analysis of exactly how we are doing compared with similar periods in previous years and compared with our current budget, a higher level of analysis than our monthly financials. Since our park offering change by the season, this methods works well for us.

We just finished this process for our key summer season May -August. And the bottom line was that we were up in our Enterprise Fund by 4% compared with the same time last year. Some of the notable differences between the summer of 2009 include:
  • Pools/Waterparks were up by 13.5%
  • Golf was down by 7%
  • Cabin rentals in our campgrounds were up by 10%
  • Overall campgrounds were down by 2% (but historically near the high water mark)
  • And most other areas up slightly including:
    • boat rentals
    • picnic pavilions
    • Event venues for weddings and receptions
    • Large outdoor festivals and concerts
    • And overall attendance at all of our parks from gardens to museums, nature centers, and natural areas.
Part of this success story has been our business like management of parks. We do not just assume the public will find our facilities and use them. Over the last few years we have put a concerted effort into upgrading and improving our facilities, and we have then worked to market what we have to offer. We are competing for peoples leisure time.

With much bad economic news on the headlines it is nice that people are still getting out and having fun in  parks, engaging with nature, getting exercise, and enjoying themselves. Good stuff!!

The other seasons:
Not too many years ago, most of the parks would be quite during the non-peak season, but now we are busy all year. Now that the pools have closed we put a lot of our attention to the fall activities at the Temple Hall Regional Farm Park near Leesburg. We host the annual Corn MAiZE, a 23 acre maze that features the theme of 100 years of Boy Scouts this year. In addition to the maze you can bounce on giant bouncing pillows (like a trampoline) shoot pumpkins from two pumpkin cannons, go for a hay ride, see farm animals, and have a great time with family and friends.

After the fall season our attention again shifts to the Bull Run Holiday Light Show (the largest all LED light show in the universe - as far as we know). With each of these different seasonal events we are able to efficiently pull in staff from other part of the park system to help make each of these a great experience for the public.

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