Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Financial Transparency & Enterprise Operations

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority generates 83% of its operating revenues through enterprise operations. This puts NVRPA in the top 1% of park agencies in the nation when it comes to offering the citizens a very high value for that amount of tax funds that support the agency.

Because we are so dependant on generating our own operating funds, we spend a lot of time focusing on how best to serve our customers and improve our offerings.

We also put a high value on financial transparency. We want the public to be able to understand our budget and finances because it is good government to do so. We post our annual audit (CAFR) and our annual budget on our web site. We are also always working on improving those documents so they are more useful and easier to read. Below is a new chart that we created today that shows the net financial performance of each park, and compares it to the next performance last year.

Our focus on transparency has resulted in winning the Government Financial Officers Association's top rankings for both our audit and budget for the last four years in a row.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bold New Strategic Plan

The Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority has released it's Draft Strategic Plan for 2012 - 2017.


2012 – 2017 Vision and Plan:

The draft Strategic Plan has a number of bold initiatives that will enhance NVRPA and the entire region.

Over 50% of households participate annually in: walking for pleasure, visiting historic sites, visiting local parks and visiting natural areas, according to the 2011 Virginia Outdoor Survey. To respond to this desire for trails, natural areas and historic sites, NVRPA will build on its success at acquiring new parkland in the coming years.

Addressing the issue of children spending less time outdoors in nature, there is an initiative called ‘Nature Nuts’ that will enhance programs and facilities that serve children. The goal of this program is, that in five years half a million area children will have a meaningful outdoor experience through the regional parks. This program will have the effect of improving the physical and mental health of our youth.

NVRPA will be a pioneer in using evolving information and mobile technology to help provide interpretation and educational opportunities in the parks in a creative and cost effective way.

The Regional Park Authority is unique in generating over 83% of its operating revenues from enterprise operations, offering the taxpayers a remarkable value. The Strategic Plan builds on this strength with a combination of new or renovated facilities and a focus on customer service that will allow the Authority to continue to be a model of efficiency.

With over 100 miles of trails, including some of the longest in the region (W&OD at 45 miles, and Bull Run/Occoquan at 18 miles) NVRPA will expand its role as a leader in developing and promoting major trail systems in Northern Virginia.

With a focus on regional destination sites, NVRPA will continue its role as an economic engine of the region’s tourism economy by opening new sites and expanded offerings that attract visitors to Northern Virginia.

About NVRPA:

Founded over fifty years ago with a focus on regional land conservation, NVRPA today has over 11,000 acres and 25 parks and operates in six jurisdictions: Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties as well as Alexandria, Falls Church and Fairfax Cities.

NVRPA is governed by a 12 person Board that is appointed by the six member jurisdictions. NVRPA parks include the following:

Aldie Mill Historic Park

Algonkian Regional Park

Ball's Bluff Battlefield

Blue Ridge Regional Park

Brambleton Regional Park

Bull Run Regional Park

Bull Run Marina

Bull Run Public Shooting Center

Cameron Run Regional Park

Carlyle House Historic Park

Fountainhead Regional Park

Gateway Regional Park

Gilbert’s Corner Regional Park

Meadowlark Botanical Gardens

Mt. Defiance Historic Park (soon to be an NVRPA property)

Mt. Zion Historic Park

Occoquan Regional Park

Pohick Bay Regional Park

Potomac Overlook

Red Rock Wilderness Overlook Regional Park

Rust Sanctuary (soon to be leased by NVRPA)

Sandy Run Regional Park

Temple Hall Farm Regional Park

Upton Hill Regional Park

W&OD Trail

White’s Ford Regional Park

Waterpark Innovation

Both July and August issues of Park and Recreation Magazine have had articles that highlighted some of the innovative work the Northern Virgina Regional Park Authority has done with their five waterparks. Innovation is a big part of most successful organizations and it certainly is a part of the NVRPA success story.

August 2012 issue features innovation in aquatics:

The Experience Economy

Gilbert credits this strategic mindset with the recent success of three of Northern Virginia’s aquatic facilities, which, since renovations in the late 2000s, have recovered costs and generated revenues on an increasing basis. By taking advantage of the Blue Ocean Strategy (developed by Chan Kim and RenĂ©e Mauborgne), his agency created new market space targeting a specific set of decision makers—children ages 4 to 10.

For example, at Pirates Cove Waterpark in Lorton, Virginia, features such as water cannons and dumping buckets are presented with a thoroughly integrated pirates theme. Children can enjoy murals, play on a ship, and dig for “treasure”—medallions they can trade for trinkets at a treasure chest. Gilbert says the iconic images and fixtures, some visible from the road, create a sense of adventure that can’t be replicated. “The experience starts long before you get inside,” he states.

July 2012 issue featured general innovation within the field of Parks & Rec. and highlighted some of NVRPA's waterparks.

Nurturing Innovation

Innovative initiatives like Schwerner’s require an organizational culture that values and nurtures new ideas.

Paul Gilbert, executive director of the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NVRPA), says this precept is more than just common sense—it is backed by libraries of leadership research. Gilbert, who teaches a course on organizational innovation within George Mason University’s Parks, Recreation, and Leisure Studies department, offers his students digests of research findings on leadership and innovation.

“In study after study,” he says, “when leadership shows that they are not interested in new ideas, innovation shuts down. Why should you? It’s not going to be rewarded….I think organizations can get stuck in the status quo without even knowing it.”

Conversely, when an organization actively encourages and rewards groundbreaking ideas, innovation tends to thrive and become the norm. Gilbert takes lessons from all this research: Under his leadership, NVRPA has formally identified innovation as one of the organization’s core values. And tangible incentives, such as annual employee recognition awards, are based upon demonstrations of innovative thinking. Gilbert says that when core values lead to new ways of thinking, fresh ways of doing business become more and more apparent. He offers NVRPA’s approach to revenue as an example:

“For quite awhile, we thought that to generate any new revenue we had to build a new facility. That was the only choice. What we realized is that that’s just one out of a number of avenues. You can actually do a whole lot in thinking about the customer and their experience and adding more onto it.”