Gainesville Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan 2018-2022

In the Gainesville, Georgia Parks & Recreation Strategic Plan 2018-2022 (the Plan), the Gainseville Parks and Recreation Agency outlines a five-year strategy to develop and improve its parks, recreation programs, and community facilities to better serve the needs of all of its residents. In creating the Plan, Gainesville consulted national and local parks’ strategic plans, completed surveys, and gathered input from community comments. This outreach significantly informed the Plan’s strategic vision for the future of Gainesville. The Plan’s mission is to improve the quality of life of Gainesville residents by equitably providing accessible facilities and a diversity of activities. Gainesville outlines the following as its guiding values: demonstrate fiscal responsibility, develop partnerships, foster diversity, provide quality and value of service, value the workforce, enhance stewardship, and communicate effectively. Part of the plan included expanding the city’s existing greenways. Located south of the Downtown Square, the Midland Greenway in Gainesville, Georgia is a rails-to-trails project that will create biking and pedestrian trails along the route of an abandoned railroad. The trails will also include a State Park and public art. With two miles of tree-canopied trails, Rock Creek Greenway includes four parks– Rock Creek Veterans Park, Ivey Terrace Park, Wilshire Trails Park, and Longwood Park – and connects Gainesville Downtown Square to Lake Lanier. The greenway includes war memorials, lakeside swings, tennis courts, and a popular playground. 

To underscore the necessity of the Plan, Gainesville details the impact that the parks system has on Gainseville’s health, community, youth, economy, and environment. The Plan presents the demographics of Gainesville residents to demonstrate who uses the park's service amenities and where residents would like to see improvement. With an estimated median income of $32,283 in Gainesville and 28 percent of families living below the poverty line, it is important that recreational programs and services are affordable and accessible. 

Some of the projects recommended by the strategic plan include the expansion of the City’s greenways. Located south of the Downtown Square, the Midland Greenway in Gainesville, Georgia is a rails-to-trails project that will create biking and pedestrian trails along the route of an abandoned railroad. The trails will also include a State Park and public art. With two miles of tree-canopied trails, Rock Creek Greenway includes four parks– Rock Creek Veterans Park, Ivey Terrace Park, Wilshire Trails Park, and Longwood Park– and connects Gainesville Downtown Square to Lake Lanier. The greenway includes war memorials, lakeside swings, tennis courts, and a popular playground. 

The strategic plan is divided into four sections that each include an overarching strategy, important outreach findings, objectives, key initiatives to achieve the objective, and challenges to meeting the objective. The rest of this entry describes the components of Parks Strategy, Programs Strategy, Facilities Strategy, and Operational Strategy. 

In the first section, Parks Strategy, Gainesville lists three objectives on how to provide quality, accessible, and diversified park amenities and open spaces to residents. Research findings demonstrate the importance of prioritizing the renovation of existing parks with available funds. The objectives are as follows: 

  • Strengthen the quality of existing parks. Initiatives to do so include the optimization of open spaces, replacement of aging infrastructure, and revitalizing of trails. Another important initiative includes addressing the parking available for use of parks. Gainesville lists potential challenges to this goal as being funding, land space, and competing interests. 
  • Develop specialty parks such as multipurpose fields and greenways to meet the diverse recreational needs of Gainesville’s growing population. Initiatives to achieve this objective include developing skate parks and dog parks, creating community gardens, and implementing the new 10-Year Park Master Plan. Potential challenges to achieving this objective include funding, physical space, competing interests, political will, and the “not in my backyard” mentality. 
  • Improve park maintenance and encourage external stewardship. Initiatives to achieve this objective include optimizing park maintenance schedules, addressing the need for additional restrooms, implementing park safety measures, and establishing the “Citizens Care” Campaign to help maintain parks. Challenges to this objective include technology limits, staffing levels, funding, citizen buy-in, and collaboration.  

The second section Programs Strategy seeks to provide inclusive and customer-driven programs to Gainesville residents. Key outreach findings identify serving Gainesville youth as the second service priority and health and wellness programs as the third service priority. The findings also note the high demand for outdoor festivals and concerts in parks. The objectives listed in this section include: 

  • Strengthen the quality of existing programs. Initiatives to do so include expanding days and times for youth activities to accommodate working parents, expanding athletic tournament play, and analyzing current partnerships for improvement. Challenges to achieving this goal include public versus private sector services, competition, staffing levels, amenity limitations, collaboration, and fairness among partners. 
  • Expand recreational programming. Initiatives to advance this goal include providing year-round camp and program opportunities, encouraging community non-profit organizations to deliver new services, and expanding health and wellness offerings. Gainesville will face the same challenges posed to the first objective when trying to achieve initiatives from this objective, namely, public vs. private sector services, staffing capacity, and fairness among partners. 
  • Build upon community events by expanding the number of accessible and quality community holiday events. Examples include offering music festivals and developing regional sporting events. Challenges to achieving these goals include public versus private sector services, collaboration, staffing levels, funding, and safety. 

The third section Facilities Strategy aims to provide superior community facilities tailored to the needs of residents. In its key outreach findings, Gainesville identifies Frances Meadows Aquatic and Community Center as the most visited facility and determines that adding an outdoor pool to this facility is its second priority. Objectives within this section include: 

  • Strengthen service enhancements at two facilities: Civic Center Martha Hope Cabin and Fair Street Neighborhood Center. To enhance these facilities, Gainesville would improve or add Wi-Fi capabilities, leverage visitation numbers to form financial partnerships, and implement new Wayfinding Signage. Challenges to enacting these initiatives include funding, planning, technology, and collaboration. 
  • Enhance community utilization of Frances Meadows Aquatic Center by expanding services, amenities, and facility improvements. Initiatives to improve this facility include adding an outdoor pool, building a community fitness trail, and updating splash zone features. Challenges to this objective include funding, planning, political will, land, competing interests, timing, and collaboration. 
  • Improve existing athletic facilities and provide additional recreation facilities. Making progress on this objective will include actions to develop a City Park renovation plan, replace concession and restroom facilities, gather community feedback, and determine the viability of the development of a new recreation center in the 10-year Master Plan Process. Challenges to achieving this objective include funding, planning, land, and competing interests. 
  • Focus on the completion of Phase I and Phase II of the approved Youth Athletic Complex. To do so, Gainesville proposes to maximize support for funding through community engagement, assess opportunities for naming rights, and formulate recreational programming in the facility. Challenges to achieving this objective include funding, collaboration, competing interests, and political will. 

The fourth section Operational Strategy seeks to provide excellent organizational management, financial stewardship, and customer service. Best methods of support for park renovations and new development include fundraising, public-private collaboration, and SPLOST. Outreach findings also found that 57 percent of survey respondents would be willing to pay more in fees and charges to support park maintenance and recreation services. Objectives to advance this strategy include:

  • Strengthen its organizational structure by revising operational manuals, evaluating organizational structure based on industry benchmark standards, and updating the Agency Ascension Plan. Challenges to achieving more efficient and effective operations include funding, employee certifications, collaboration, and employee buy-in. 
  • Improve financial planning through diversified funding and responsible spending. To do this, Gainesville would review Revenue Policy and Chart of Fees and Charges, increase cost recovery to 50 percent for Agency operations, offset operational costs with sponsorships, and review contracted landscape maintenance programs. Challenges to improving financial planning include revenue generation versus accessibility, competing interests, and collaboration. 
  • Leverage community partnerships to support service delivery by evaluating and expanding existing partnerships, developing new partnerships, and implementing a partnership policy that can guide the agency’s collaborations. Challenges to achieving this objective include collaboration, fairness among partners, policies, and citizen buy-in. 
  • Maintain customer service excellence. To improve customer service, Gainesville plans to create a new Systemic Evaluation Process, expand its Customer Service Campaign with more program surveys and citizen questionnaires, and expand its social media presence. Challenges to improving customer service include organizational structure, training time, employee buy-in, and effective communication. 

Related Organizations:

  • Gainesville City Council
  • Gainesville Park and Recreation Board of Directors
  • Gainesville Parks and Recreation

Related Toolkits:

Sectors:

Resource Category:

States Affected:

Go To Resource