Our Parks and Recreation Department
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Our Parks and Recreation Department
My husband and I have frequently walked the parks in Foster City, and we often talk about how nicely the parks are maintained. A lot of work goes into making our parks the best in the area.

Cities' Parks and Recreation Departments are often overlooked as an increasing revenue source. So, I thought it would be interesting to explore the idea of a different model. In discussing this with our City's Parks and Recreation Director, Jennifer Liu, I discovered that she is already looking at the Department in a new way. In her words, "this profession is evolving and the direct service model, though alive and well, is an outdated service model. More increasingly, Parks and Recreation Departments are playing the facilitator and partner in the community." So, let's explore where we are today with our Parks and Recreation Department.

To date, we have saved approximately 100 million gallons of water over the past five years by installing synthetic turf fields in many of our parks and by modifying the medians and cul-de-sacs on several of our streets. Through facility and park rentals and classes, the department generated approximately $1.1M in revenue in FY 14-15.

There is no denying that our summer concerts are a great success. We estimate attendance throughout the summer to be 12,300, of which an estimated 20%, or 2,460, are non-residents. If each non-resident spends $10, a total of $24,600 would be brought into Foster City. The Department also manages several concessions that, in 2015, generated approximately $230,000 in revenue.

The Parks and Recreation Foundation has been a successful tool in offsetting Department costs and has a current balance of $133,000. The attractiveness of the ability to direct the tax-deductible donation by the donors themselves has made this initiative very successful. For the past five years, the summer concerts have been fully funded through the Foundation; and, to date, youth sports groups have donated nearly $1M toward the parks' synthetic turf projects through the Foundation.

These events and sources of revenue are only a few of the many activities offered by our Parks and Recreation Department. So, where do we go from here? Well, for starters, we are in the process of making plans to activate the space near the existing bocce ball courts as a place for residents and non-residents to gather for various activities. By bringing in amenities around the lagoon area, we could draw people into Foster City who would contribute to our economy and generate new interest and vitality in the area.

Our Parks and Recreation Department has been approached by several organizations to act as a sort of clearinghouse for public social services, such as public health. In fact, Director Liu co-founded Active Access collaboratively with San Mateo County in an effort to encourage our residents to increase their physical activity by making it easier and more convenient for them to locate low-cost activities near them. Possible revenue streams through this type of collaboration would include grants, corporate funding, and medical referral programs.

The Parks and Recreation Department hosts many different types of events, such as community cultural opportunities, free community special events, fundraisers, and Inter-Departmental Evaluation Committee (IDEC), Head of the Lagoon events. These events generate interest in Foster City from participants to consider our City for future events, thereby creating economic development. Also, through engagement in these events, City staff develop relationships with a variety of event organizers and participants that may lead to potential collaborative efforts that could bring economic benefits to Foster City. If we approach the broadening of our offerings in a way that will not disturb the nature of our City, but will bring economic diversity and vitality, then we will all benefit.

I sense a new energy in the Parks and Recreation Department that will take us into the next decade. It is an exciting chapter in Foster City's history, and I am grateful for the opportunity to be your voice as we chart our new vision for Foster City. As always, if you have suggestions or comments, you may email me at cmahanpour@fostercity.org.

Council Corner

March 23, 2016
Our Parks and Recreation Department

City Hall - 610 Foster City Blvd.
Foster City, CA 94404
(650) 286-3200