Feature Article - August 2015
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Joining Forces

Partnerships Help Parks, Recreation Facilities Improve Effectiveness

By Deborah L. Vence

Joining Forces

In San Francisco, "With respect to facilities, our parks include a lot of concessions and a few restaurants. There are places, particular locations, where we've had quite a few different partnerships," noted Philip A. Ginsburg, general manager, San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, City & County of San Francisco.

"In the clubhouses we partnered with mostly nonprofit and a couple of for-profit service providers," he said, adding that the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department runs 27 recreation centers and 48 clubhouses. "We staff our rec centers and have a mix of for-profit and nonprofit partners in clubhouses, mostly nonprofit."

When it comes to a partnership agreement, Ginsburg said it really is a foundation for a successful ongoing relationship, and is really important at the outset that the best of intentions are discussed and even the resources and the roles and responsibilities be spelled out.

"It's certainly important for the partner that often might be a nonprofit," he said.

"With us, I do think we certainly recognize that our park system is better when we work with partners and leverage their resources, expertise and passion," Ginsburg said. "But, I do think partnerships require ongoing trust and communication, and it's important to have ground rules on how partnerships should operate just like any legal partnership in the private sector. But from there it takes care and feeding. And, ongoing communications work, and it's not necessarily always easy. Both partners coming to the relationship have different needs and perspectives and values [that] take work."

For the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, The Trust for Public Land is a key partner as well as the City Fields Foundation.

For example, in San Francisco, a 2004 study had found that San Francisco would need to add 35 soccer fields and 30 baseball/softball fields just to meet demand. For many years, local school teams, youth leagues and after-school programs have accepted as many kids as they can place on fields. Once a league's allotment of fields is full, registration is closed and kids are turned away, according to information from the City Fields Foundation website.

"We were short 36 soccer fields to meet the demands," he said, adding that the interest in the sport, in particular among girls, has grown.

"Since 2006, Recreation and Parks and the City Fields Foundation have worked to address this challenge by renovating select city athletic fields with synthetic turf and field lights. The goal is to increase playable hours on existing sports fields so every San Francisco child has a place to enjoy sports after school. To date, the partnership has renovated 12 multi-use sports fields in six different parks, including Garfield Square, Silver Terrace Playground, Franklin Square, Crocker Amazon Playground, South Sunset Playground, Kimbell Playground and Mission Playground," according to information from the foundation's website.