Operating and managing the existing parks and recreation system includes a variety of daily activities, as well as larger tasks that occur on a monthly or annual basis. Issues and opportunities that fall under this focus area may include staffing levels, natural resources management, customer service duties, ensuring infrastructure and facilities are safe and clean, marketing and wayfinding information, and managing programming contracts and partnerships.
In concert with embarking on new investments in the system, it is important to understand the value of existing recreation facilities and programs.
The support, promotion, and reinvestment of these highly valued facilities should be a top priority of County staff and elected officials.
Stearns County residents highly value park and trail facilities in the County, based on input from a public survey completed in the fall of 2017:
The County and private institutions could benefit from developing partnership projects, such as recreation facilities and amenities that may be owned by the County and operated by a private organization. Partnership facilities could include unique recreation opportunities, campgrounds, nature centers, or food services/concessions.
A large part of the County’s identity is tied to agrarian lifestyles and values. This identity stems from generations of family farms and a history of success in dairy production. Strengthening this identity over time may have its challenges as farming operations change throughout the County. Preservation of this identity may be possible through interpretation of cultural resources and parks that celebrate the legacy of agriculture in the County.
In addition to the theme of agriculture, interpretation of pre-settlement history and natural features can be valuable additions to parks and recreation facilities and programs. Nature tourism could be explored through promotion and marketing of parks and trails, which is based on attractions that reconnect people with nature and provide outdoor recreational opportunities.
A park and trail system is useless if people are unaware of it. Stearns County should ensure that it regularly takes a count of how many residents and visitors are using its system of parks, trails, and programs. This information should inform future marketing efforts to promote the existing facilities to those who may be unaware of its existence.
In addition to marketing the system, it is important to provide accurate information for park and trail users on the internet and through print media. Park and trail maps and program information should be regularly updated and provided through various media channels.