A park can be as simple as a grassy area with a playground or more elaborate to include hiking trails and stables.
How do state and local agencies manage parks and park districts?
State parks are parks within the federal parks system managed by local levels of government and administered by the individual government of a U.S. state.
Even though state parks represent less than 2 percent of the total outdoor recreation areas in the U.S., they manage to attract over 29 percent of all visitors to outdoor recreational areas. There are almost 6,000 state parks that attract almost 800 million visitors annually. U.S. state parks employ over 50,000 full-time and seasonal personnel.
A typical state park can include:
The National Association of State Park Directors (NASPD) helps state park government agencies effectively manage and administer their state park systems.
Because the state of California contains many of the nation's state parks, its state government can serve as a prime example of state park management infrastructure. The California Department of Parks and Recreation is part of the California Natural Resources Agency, a state cabinet-level agency. The Department of Parks and Recreation is led by the Director of State Parks who answers to the California State Park & Recreation Commission -- six appointed private citizens.
The Commissions responsibilities include:
The agencies within California's Department of Parks and Recreation include:
Local Parks and Recreation Departments can be administered by a state agency, or by a municipal, county, or parish authority.
Parks and Recreation Department Advisory Boards oversee most local parks and recreation departments. Board members are usually appointed by an elected body like a city council, or by an individual mayor or even state governor.
Parks and Recreation Department Advisory Boards can work independently or semi-independently from the Parks and Recreation Director. Common duties of a Parks and Recreation Department Advisory Board include:
A Parks and Recreation Department Director is usually an elected or appointed position. Common duties of a Parks and Recreation Department Director or Chief include:
When city budgets are cut, Parks and Recreation Departments are usually the first on the list of spending cuts. Some more progressive Parks and Recreation Departments have actually formed nonprofit organizations through private citizen and corporate funding. The Piedmont Park Conservancy in Atlanta serves as a successful example as does New York's Central Park, which is co-managed by the Central Park Conservancy organization and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.
The National Association of Olmsted Parks is a nonprofit coalition of design and preservation professionals including park managers and city officials. The aim of this organization is to preserve city parks designed by 19th century landscape architecture pioneer Frederick Law Olmsted. These parks include New York's Central Park, Detroit's Belle Isle and Franklin Park in Boston.
Because the Chicago Park District is the largest park district in the U.S., it can serve as a prime example of a large-scale city park management infrastructure.
Chicago's Mayor appoints a seven-member Park District Board of Commissioners. They serve as the governing body of the Chicago Park District. The Board has three standing committees: Administration, Programs & Recreation and Capital Improvements. The Office of the Secretary serves as coordinating staff to the Commissioners.
The Mayor also appoints the General Manager and CEO of the Chicago Park District, who administers the policies established by the Park District Board of Commissioners.
Other Chicago Park District officials include:
Additional officials are the Director of Capital Construction, the Director of the Department of Communications, Comptroller, Director of the Facility Management Department, the Director of Human Resources, the Director of Information Technology, General Counsel and the Director of Natural Resources (The Chicago Park District's green department).
Several colleges and universities offer Parks and Recreation Management programs for aspiring park management professionals. These education programs typically receive accreditation from the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). For certification, aspiring park management professionals should earn a B.A. with a major in recreation, park resources or leisure services from an NRPA-accredited program, or earn any B.A. with at least five years of relevant full-time work experience. Their website provides a list of accredited Parks and Recreation Management programs.
Fields of study in Parks Management education programs can include: