Planning is an important part of the process in meeting the park, recreation and leisure service needs of a community. RRS staff members are available to discuss specific planning needs and guide you in this process. Use the information on the pages linked below to facilitate your search for resources to properly and adequately plan for recreation in your community.

Planning Basics

  • What is planning?
  • Why we plan?
  • What happens when we don’t?

Public Input Process

  • Keys to Planning Success
  • Citizen Participation Techniques

Evaluation: Tool for Planning

  • Evaluating Programs and/or Facilities

Visit the Example Documents page for a list of types of planning documents for parks and recreation as well as several example planning documents, public surveys and RFPs shared by other agencies

Visit our Planning Resources page for links to additional open space, design and planning information.

Planning Basics: what & why?

Why Plan?

Why do we need to plan for parks and recreation programs and facilities in our communities? Because the only thing constant is change, and the best method to be prepared for and address change is through the planning process.

What is Planning?

It’s an activity, a process, and a solution. It’s an activity that park and recreation professionals need to participate in to assure departmental goals are being met and customer needs are satisfied. It is a process that involves two-way communications between the department and customers. Finally it is a solution to answer questions about our services; what we provide and how well we provide it.

Why evaluate and plan?

The simple lack of a facility or specific type of program does not imply a need. Planning for and evaluation of both programs and facilities is a means for accountability. It establishes a baseline for future evaluations and assesses departmental goals. Through evaluation a department may better ascertain impacts to programs and/or facilities and address changing needs of the population you are to serve. It also provides a base to justify actions, both present and future.

What happens when we don’t plan?

The lack of planning is usually obvious in the way our parks are used, or worse, not used. When we don’t plan we have over or under utilized facilities, facilities and programs are inaccessible, user conflict becomes a problem, our customers are dissatisfied, vandalism may become a problem and these problems may actually cause our liability to increase. Problems resulting from lack of planning often require unnecessary modifications, high maintenance and high construction costs. Lack of Planning = Fiscal Problems

Download a System-wide planning checklist and information sheet for your advisory or governing board

Public Input Process

Key to planning success – Involve the Public!

Do any of these phrases sound familiar? They could be famous last words.

  • “I don’t have time”
  • “I am a park and recreation professional, I know what the public needs”
  • “The neighboring county had the same facility and it was a success / failure”
  • “Everyone else has a skate park.”

While sometimes true, the reasons above do not make a substitute for public input. You are spending public money to build a public facility or offer a public program. Just as private industry keeps in contact with what their customers want or need, public agencies need to make time for public involvement. Public input combined with professional knowledge and expertise in guiding that input, will provide results to meet expressed needs.

What is public involvement?

  • Two-way communication process between you and the people you serve.
  • Method to end speculation about needs and determine what is wanted.

Why should the public participate in the planning process?

  • To give citizens a voice in our democracy and in spending their money.
  • To assure all citizens are represented (if done properly).
  • With a voice in the process citizens may become active supporters of your project, helping you meet your goals.

Evaluation of Public Input Process

  • Make sure your input is useful!
  • Are your spokespersons and respondents representative of the community you serve?
  • Did everyone in your community have equal opportunity for selection (survey) and/or participation (community meetings)?

If you don’t have input from a representative sample of community residents, then you may need to conduct additional surveys or meetings.

Techniques for Involvement

Various techniques for involvement are available to use in the process; each having pros and cons. Some techniques are used on a limited basis due to population size of a particular community or due to the cost to implement the technique. Techniques to get the community involved include:

  • Advisory Boards
  • Charette
  • Focus Groups
  • Interviews
  • Survey
  • Hearing
  • Bond Referendum

The Citizen Participation Matrix shows the function that each type of technique is better in performing. You can see that use of multiple techniques for public input allows for better representation of community needs and offers more opportunities to provide public input during the process.

Tips for making public involvement effective

A lot of time, money and effort go into the public input process. It is imperative that you use public input sessions as an effective tool to collect information and use the results gained.

  • Have a plan to plan, follow the plan, evaluate the process and modify as needed.
  • Plan early – Don’t ask for citizen input after you have your building or park design ready to construct.
  • Know and include stakeholders – who in my community and department need to be part of this process?
  • Inform public of the process – let public know your plan and goals, they will be more likely to participate
  • Use multiple input techniques – Assures representation in process and well rounded results.
  • Evaluate participation – Did you provide opportunity for everyone to participate? Do my results include input from a sample of residents’ representative of the population? If no, what good are my results?

Evaluation of Programs and Facilities

Facility and/or program evaluations should be used as part of the planning process. As you conduct programs you should routinely evaluate the success of the program and review user satisfaction. Yes, high numbers of participation do imply that a program is successful, but are you taking time to determine how you can improve on the services you offer?

Evaluation can help you:

  • Better justify the benefits of your program
  • Defend budget line items
  • Request grant funding.
  • You need more than just registration numbers to fully describe the quality of a program you offer. Similarly, park facilities should be part of the routine evaluation process.

As you evaluate your facilities and programs make sure that you include

  • Users: people that use your facility or participate in programs,
  • Non-Users: people that don’t use your facility or participate in programs
  • Staff members from all levels (management, front desk, instructors, maintenance and operations, part time).

Combining input from each of these facility users or program participants will help you:

  • Better plan facility needs: expansion, renovation or new construction.
  • Marketing decisions and efforts
  • Discover new opportunities, potential partnerships
  • Learn about needs not addressed