March 2011 - Parks & Recreation - 8

E D ITO R 'S LETTER

Edifice Complex

I

'VE ALWAYS THOUGHT THE BEST ARCHITECTURE is an expression of pride-pride of

place, accomplishment and, simply, who we are. Good architecture should also be
something we can be proud of, since what we build will be around a very long time.
So, our facilities had better look good and, more importantly, function well. It was with
this in mind that we set out to learn how the best park and recreation facilities come
about. Author Andrea Lynn interviewed key players from multiple disciplines-architects, agency heads, and citizens. Andrea quickly began piecing together a pattern
not prevalent even a generation ago: It's the users who are helping drive the process.
The process may be longer these days but it's less
municipally determined and more participatory. As
budgets have shriveled and friends groups have
blossomed, the public have become active partners
in the process from the beginning. Rather than being
just audiences at public hearings, community members often have a seat at the planning table, suggesting a variety of strategies and features. In the article,
Grand Prairie, Texas, Parks and Recreation Director
Rick Herold explains his satisfaction with how many
" requests " made it into the final plans (27 of 29). " The
Summit wouldn't have been possible without the residents of our city voting in a sales tax to fund the project. So it was important for us to make sure they had
a voice in the design and programming of The Summit, " says Christina Kang, the Grand Prairie park
and recreation board member who served as a liaison for translating the public's requests into reality.
There's another, and perhaps more important
consideration: having a plan that assures a fi nancially sustainable operating program. Once it's built, it
must be maintained, if not improved and upgraded
over the years. That's no small proposition. Federal
and state monies that could once be counted upon to

assist in this effort are no longer a given, if they ever
were. As the NRPA explains in its advocacy section
on www.nrpa.org:
Thousands of parks, playgrounds and community recreational facilities are in disrepair in cities and
communities across America due to budget cutbacks
and the lack of matching federal funding. The National
Park Service estimates that in 2008, the unmet needs
for park and recreation facilities in America's cities,
counties, and states totaled more than $27 billion with
a large portion of these projects representing the rehabilitation, maintenance, and renovation of aging and
deteriorating facilities or playgrounds.
The beauty of a carefully planned project is that it
comes ready-made with user commitment and loyalty that doesn't end with the ribbon cutting. These are
the undertakings most likely to thrive over the years,
because their creators planned for the future. As an
extension of this thinking there also is no better time
for citizens and professionals alike to confront current political ideology that would greatly diminish
public support for all parks. That's the pride in place
and accomplishment that says the most about who
we are.
®

Phil Hayward
editor

6

Parks & Recreation

MARCH 2011

WWW.NRPA .ORG



March 2011 - Parks & Recreation

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