PARKnership: Building Community through Recreation and Parks
Tuesday, January 1, 2019, midnight
Thursday, December 31, 2020, midnight CST
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Alexandrians have a strong sense of civic pride and desire to connect with their neighbors. This is most evident when individuals and groups work together to enhance the facilities and programs they enjoy. Whether it's through the dedication of time or monetary resources, when residents collaborate with the City they ultimately create a higher level of service and strengthen their connection to the community as a whole.
In 2016, the Park Planning division within the Alexandria Department Recreation, Parks and Cultural Activities (RPCA) initiated the PARKnership Program to formally coordinate and cultivate its community partnerships, volunteers and support efforts under one umbrella. In its inaugural year, the PARKnership Program hired a PARKnership Manager, recorded 377 volunteers performing 16,833.30 hours of service, created 28 new partnerships (equaling over $210,000 of non-city funds for park and recreation facility improvements) and initiated an Adopt-a-Bench Ad Campaign in spring 2017 resulting in eight adopted in six months.
The program also initiated and implemented the Community Matching Fund to promote collaborative partnerships among City of Alexandria community organizations by providing matching 1:1 dollars for groups that propose fundraising for park and recreation improvement projects. This matching fund program has proven to be extremely popular and successful. The program distributed City funds for four projects in its first year and five projects in its second year. The projects range from converting a basketball court to a soccer court, installing water bottle filling stations, renovating a teen center, purchasing moveable equipment for pop-up playgrounds to building compost bins. The Fund fosters public/private partnerships and has influenced innovative ways for residents to have a greater stake in improving the park and recreation facilities that they use.
For this session, City staff will be joined by two FY17 matching fund recipients, Braddock Metro Citizens Association and the Four Mile Run Conservatory Foundation, who will discuss their perspective on City/Community partnerships and the impact on public spaces.
Value of the session to practicing planning professionals: Often planners work with the community in a reactionary or defensive mode. The PARKnership program has shown a way to be proactive in building positive relationships with community members. When local government and the community work together they can shape our public spaces to reflect shared interests, uses, and values.
Many aspects of the PARKnership program, particularly the Community Matching Fund, are replicable in other jurisdictions and other planning departments.
Dana Wedeles is a Principal Planner with the City of Alexandria, VA. She received her Bachelor’s degree from New York University and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning from Columbia University. Prior to relocating to her hometown of Alexandria in 2010, she worked in various park operations and development positions within the Central Park Conservancy. In Alexandria, Dana manages community input, design, and implementation on projects related to improvements of existing public spaces and neighborhood parks. She also oversees the newly formed PARKnership Program that manages partnerships, sponsors, volunteers, and donations for the development, design, construction and operation of recreational and park facilities and/or programs in Alexandria.
Abbey L. Oklak, AICP is a certified planner and architectur. She has worked both overseas and in the US on planning and architectural projects, and her expertise includes schematic designs and the entitlement process for large mixed-use developments. Ms. Oklak is also a citizen activist who lobbies for better development in her own community and implements tactical urbanism projects in the Washington, DC metro area. She is a part of the group that created 'Cards Against Urbanity.' Ms. Oklak is currently employed by the architectural and urban design firm Cooper Carry working with the Mixed Use Studio planning residential, commercial and retail buildings. She is also part of the Alexandria Office's Planning Studio which works on urban design, masterplans, and planning initiatives for both the public and private sectors.