Monday, March 19, 2012

Entrepreneurial Parks & Rec.

In an era of smaller government, the field of parks and recreation has needed to find ways to offer open space and programs to the public to improve quality of life, and do it in a cost effective way. In the field it is often called "cost recovery" but what it really is could be called the "entrepreneurial way." Above is a chart of the percentage of the annual operating budget that different park agencies in Northern Virginia and nationally recover through enterprise (non-tax dollars) operations.

This enterprising approach to parks and recreation is taught at the NRPA Revenue Development & Management School at Oglebay. After 46 years this is the oldest and most prestigious professional development schools in the field. For the last few years I have had the honor of teaching at this school that brings business skills to park and recreation officials.

Today I spoke with Darrell Winslow who was the Executive Director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority for several pivotal decades. He was in the first class of this school in 1966 and served as one of the Regents (teachers) after that. Darrell helped move NVRPA from an agency that was mostly taxpayer supported to one that was mostly enterprise supported. Due to the facilities he built and the enterprising culture that he fostered, NVRPA has continued to be a leader in this area. From fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2013 (budget) we have gone from 80% self sufficient for operations to 83%.

Below is a link to a short video that features some of the year 2 students of the school presenting a business plan for a new facility to a mock City Council.

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