Parks and the peopleParks and Recreation Advisory Board Chairwoman Susan Reese said about the city’s potential Adopt-A-Park program, “This just gives us a way to stay on top of what’s going on, and gives it a process.”
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
Parks and Recreation Advisory Board Chairwoman Susan Reese said about the city’s potential Adopt-A-Park program, “This just gives us a way to stay on top of what’s going on, and gives it a process.”
The simple definition of Adopt-A-Park: It gives residents an opportunity to pitch in with local park improvements.
Reese said often people want improvements or to do a one-time cleanup project, but may not have time to attend board meetings or coordinate with City Hall.
Park Board member Matt Fitzgerald said the board asked for volunteers to explore the potential program, so he and City Council member Bob Ebert agreed to examine some different models.
They also looked at River Falls’ Adopt-A-Pond program, started in summer 2006.
Fitzgerald says the most important reason for having the program is to create a mechanism the park-going public can use to have a voice in the parks improvement process.
“It will also provide an easy way for residents, if they are so inclined, to donate park improvements, volunteer time, submit funding and organize efforts to improve parks,” he said.
As an example, Fitzgerald talked about a local resident who wanted to erect a memorial bench along the White Kinnic Pathway to honor his late wife. Though mutually beneficial, the project took much time to OK.
With Adopt-A-Park, such a project would be streamlined.
Reese said residents will have a choice of two forms: One for one-time activities, such as planting a memorial tree or Scouts picking up trash, and another for ongoing stewardship.
She explained that it isn’t unusual for a resident to plant something that encroaches on public property only to have it mowed down by public works people doing their jobs.
With Adopt-A-Park, such residents could coordinate their plan with the city and, in many cases, save the plants.
“With coordination, those improvements could stay there,” she said.
In another example, residents didn’t want a half-court basketball surface so near their property, so they worked with the city and got it moved. Established procedures would have helped.
Reese said the Park Board asked those people what they thought about Adopt-A-Park.
“They thought that was a good idea. They were all for it,” she said.
As it is, any park requests people have come through one of several avenues: Public Works, Parks and Recreation Coordinator Cindi Danke, the city, council members and others.
Reese said now the forms will go directly to Danke, who can then involve only the departments that need to be involved. Everyone agrees that such streamlining will save taxpayers money.
Adopt-A-Park will apply to everything from groups’ annual cleanup days to the River Falls Garden Club’s commitment to maintaining gardens around town and the White Kinnic Pathway.
She said more examples are neighbors who’d like to pool funds and add a piece of play equipment or the enthusiasts who’ve worked to restore natural prairie at the old Foster Cemetery.
It would also provide a mechanism for people to make their wishes for improvements known.
If a resident wants the city to get something in the next year’s budget, he can use the forms to ask for it or in some cases, start fundraising efforts for his desired enhancement or amenity.
Reese said she expects the item to come up for discussion at a City Council meeting soon.
Though it doesn’t require any official action by the members, the Park Board would like them to approve of the program and have a chance to ask questions about it. Then it will get rolling.
Reese said, “The forms will be available online, at City Hall and at the Park and Rec office.”
She emphasized that the program and its activities, will all be on a trial basis from year-to-year. Reese doesn’t think residents will have to re-apply every year, but they will need to communicate that they intend to continue what they’ve been doing. That won’t be assumed.
“The program itself will be reviewed every January by the board,” she said.