Monday, September 22, 2014

Great Park Performance in 2014

Fiscal Year 2014 (July 1 2013 - June 30 2014) was the best year in NOVA Parks 55 year history! Park usage was up about 9% overall topping last year's great numbers.

In 1959 the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority (NOVA Parks) was founded to conserve major areas along the region's rivers. Eventually the regional agency grew to 3 counties, and 3 cities, with each jurisdiction contributing a small per capita fee to support both capital and operating expenses. While this contribution of tax dollars funded 100% of the operations in the early years, it never kept pace with inflation.

Starting in the mid-1960s the agency became an innovator in enterprise operations, and that innovation has continued. Today 85% of the operations of NOVA Parks is funded with enterprise operations, not tax dollars. The growth of this entrepreneurial model has allowed NOVA Parks to continue to grow and develop, conserving more natural areas and historic sites in the process.

Many people have the wrong idea about how park revenue (fees) work. They think this means raising rates and charging people to enter public parks. In reality that is not how it work at NOVA Parks. We look at our fees and prices every year and make small adjustments up and down depending on the market. But in general our rates do not change much over time.We make more money, and serve more of the public, by being attuned to our customers. We must compete for the time and money of our customers. To be successful our facilities, and programs must be attractive. This is a very different model than being largely tax funded. The largely tax supported agencies can do great good, but are at risk of being less responsive to the desires of their customers. I think the enterprise approach has a lot of advantages. One of the great advantages is that when we make money, it is reinvested in improving our facilities and programs. This creates a positive cycle of improvements and performance reinforcing each other.

While we measure many of our performance data in dollars, since the rate are not changing much, a spike up really means we were successful in attracting and serving more of the public.

Here is a snap shot of fiscal year 2014:

  • Total users up 9% over last year
  • Rental of meeting & event facilities up 23%
  • Cultural, Natural and Historic sites up 19%
  • Waterparks up 11.6%
  • Recreational resources parks up 3%
  • Golf - about the same
  • Camping - about the same
All of this resulted in a new high water mark for the organization. Part of this success may be due to a new comprehensive customer service program? Or, perhaps the excellent condition of our facilities? Or, perhaps innovative new programs and offerings? Or, most likely a little bit of all those efforts. An exceptional staff, and a smart and focused Board, all contribute to this great performance!

Friday, September 19, 2014

New Mission, New Look, New Brand

"NOVA Parks - the best of Northern Virginia through nature, history, and great family experiences"

This is the new Mission Statement for NOVA Parks (Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority). Many Mission Statement try to say too much. They try to explain the "hows" and "whats" of everything the organization does. What a Mission Statement is really supposed to do is just address the all important "why" questions. What is at the core of why this organization is? What purpose this group serves in the world?

With NOVA Parks we have for 55 years conserved some of the best nature in the region. Over 11,000 acres, most of it in a natural state, and much of it along the major rivers of the area, providing the most important wildlife habitat.

With history NOVA Parks is one of the top preservation organizations in the area. The list of historic assets is long, and growing but a few notable sites include:

  • Carlyle Historic Mansion in Old Town Alexandria c1752
  • Ball's Buff Battlefield in Leesburg c1861
  • Aldie Mill c1810
  • Mt. Zion Historic Church c1852
  • Mt. Defiance (Battle of Middleburg) c1863
  • Tinner Hill (civil rights parks) c1915
  • And many other sites...
Great family experience can be found throughout the park system. In my opinion few can beat family camping at Pohick Bay or Bull Run. Attending our award winning five water parks can create lasting memories of great times. And our numerous seasonal events including:

  • Temple Hall fall corn MAiZE and festival (fall)
  • Bull Run Festival of Lights (winter)
  • Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights (winter)
  • Many unique events at the Bull Run Special Events Center
  • And much more...
NOVA Parks represents the best of what the Northern Virginia Region has to offer!