Gold Medal Executive Summary

The Frankfort Square Park District’s (FSPD) cornerstone is professional planning, developed by an independent third party, provided to park district residents, and implemented by park district staff, under the oversight of elected Park Commissioners.

During 2013-2014, a study team from the University of Illinois Office of Recreation and Park Resources (ORPR), conducted an evaluation of the parks, programs, facilities, natural areas, and overall operations of FSPD. The purpose of this assessment was to present a Master Plan for the future development of parks, recreational areas, and facilities for the FSPD. The study team worked alongside the Park Board and staff in completing on-site inspections of facilities, parks and operations; conducting interviews with staff; and reviewed written materials, documents, policies, reports, surveys, maps, and plans.

The completed document reflects a two year collaboration between ORPR and FSPD. To provide content and perspective for the ORPR study team, park district staff completed an extensive historical background, department purposes, and complete asset inventory. PRORAGIS data and census information was also provided, and combined with the data, created a complete picture and deeper understanding of the FSPD, not typically available in the master planning process.

ORPR was able to overview pertinent specific data gathered by park staff in finalizing a critical, independent evaluation of all aspects of park district operations, resulting in the 2014 Master Plan. This document was published and presented to the community at a March 14, 2015 Park Board Workshop. The Master Plan, detailing park district direction, is posted on the FSPD website for resident access.

 

FRANKFORT SQUARE PARK DISTRICT MISSION STATEMENT

It is the mission of the Frankfort Square Park District to provide accessible, non-discriminatory recreational services, facilities, and open space in an environmentally conscious, fiscally responsible manner.

 

METHODS

In order to meet the mission, a comprehensive plan for parks and recreation areas and facilities was developed and implemented. This section summarizes the processes used to complete the Master Plan and the findings obtained by the ORPR.

The methods used to conduct the Master Plan included an analysis of the agency and its parks, natural resources areas, facilities, and programs; the participants; and the community. Data were gathered through community-wide household surveys, program appraisals, parks and operations evaluations, visits to recreation sites, a site inventory of all parks and facilities, a review of written material, reports, surveys, maps and plans, and an extensive set of interviews with the Park Board and staff.

A critical component of the analysis was engagement of staff in completing a comprehensive assessment and inventory of the FSPD’s park sites, facilities, equipment, programs, and identification of each department’s purpose. This overall evaluation led to the development of project lists for all areas of park district operation.

The recommendations and conclusions identified in the Master Plan for the FSPD were obtained through a collaborative planning process that included:

  • A review of contemporary literature and background on the value of community parks and recreation services in society, leading to the identification of trends and issues impacting their delivery.
  • An agency-level profile for the FSPD.  A review of its history and scope of services was conducted.
  • A community profile for the area served by the FSPD.  Information gathered under each of the following headings was collected:  1.) geopolitical, 2.) demographic, 3.) social, 4.) economic, 5.) government, and 6.) stakeholders.
  • Analysis of data obtained from the 2012-2013 community-wide needs assessment study.  Results of the study included information pertaining to the FSPD residents’ current participation patterns and interests as well as future needs and interests.
  • An inventory and assessment of existing natural resource areas managed by the FSPD.
  • An inventory and assessment of existing parks and facilities managed by the FSPD.
  • Comparisons of FSPD’s parks and facilities to neighboring park districts and communities.
  • An inventory and assessment of existing recreation programs provided by the FSPD.

 

MASTER PLAN GOALS

Drawn from the review of the data and subsequent analyses, major goals were developed and summarized below:

 

GENERAL ADMINISTRATION & PLANNING GOALS

  • Continue to promote and strengthen intergovernmental collaborations to further improve efficiency and service quality for its residents.
    Update – Worked with local elementary and high school boards and administrations to occupy unused facilities for park district programming, ensuring facilities supported by the taxpayers are available for community use.  Intergovernmental agreements for both districts were redrafted to accommodate the expanded opportunities.
  • Prioritize Department “Project Lists” to establish a formal plan to meet the identified needs.
    Update – Prioritized pending project lists by department, and organizing ongoing projects/tasks into a district-wide comprehensive calendar.
  • Consider the establishment of a Park Foundation to further strengthen the park district’s ability to raise funds through improved advocacy, support, and project-specific fund raising efforts.
    Update – Communicated goal to develop 501(c) (3) foundation, and enlisted assistance of legal counsel.  Met with resident supporters and stakeholders to determine direction.  This resident-driven initiative was determined to lack sufficient volunteer support at this time, and was tabled for future consideration.
  • Maintain pulse on agency financials to ensure its solid financial footing, evidenced by the 2013 Standard & Poor’s “A/Stable” rating.
    Update – Administration, with assistance of its Park Board Treasurer, developed a five year budget plan to better track and forecast all areas of district revenues/expenditures.  Work continues to develop this document into a ten year plan.
  • Maintain a focus on community trends and changing demographics to address the values and lifestyle choices of its growing aging population and increased ethnic diversity.
    Update – The park district conducted an all-day seminar with key staff to evaluate all areas of park district operation and brainstorm ideas to ensure relevancy of facilities and programming.
  • Invest in human resources through sound recruitment, selection, placement, evaluation, compensation functions, and support for continuing educational opportunities.
    Update – The Park Board established the priority of funding ongoing education opportunities for staff that include the NRPA Park Management, Directors, and Green Schools; IPRA Leadership Academy; and Rutgers Professional Golf Course Turf Management School.

 

RECREATION PROGRAMMING GOALS

  • Marketing and community awareness of park district programs and services.
    Update – Employed a Social Media Coordinator to provide increased social media presence on Facebook and Instagram, in response to resident input provided during the March 14, 2015 Park Board Workshop.
  • Prepare for growth in senior programming by specifically targeting this growing population.
    Update – Promoted Lincoln-Way North High School and Frankfort Township senior programming in FSPD’s tri-annual brochure as a baseline of communication with its senior population. Daytime programming space was acquired, enabling the expansion of senior programming.  Future planning includes the addition of walking programs, pickle ball courts, and a multi-generational playground.

 

PARK & FACILITY GOALS

  • No new major facilities should be pursued at the present time, as current programming and services are supported by the existing facilities and agreements with the two area school districts.
    Update – Opportunities were presented that expanded use of existing school facilities.  Intergovernmental agreements were redrafted, further strengthening the FSPD’s ability to provide programs and services to its residents by maximizing tax dollars while minimizing duplication of facilities; a proven formula that provides residents with athletic, academic, and fine art facilities that they enjoy at little or no cost.
  • Maintain success with Square Links Golf Course and update the 2007 Comprehensive Plan.
    Update – Staffing changes have brought about a restructuring of responsibilities, highlighted by the education and promotion of its Assistant Superintendent to Superintendent, ensuring the continued success of this popular facility.  The Superintendent will update the Comprehensive Plan in 2016.
  • Maintain ADA compliance by conducting an accessibility assessment of facilities/park sites every 5 years.
    Update – An ADA plan, posted on the park district’s website, was completed by FSPD’s Risk Manager and Superintendent of Parks, working cooperatively with LandTech, a landscape architect firm.  Their 95+ years of combined experience in the field provided the practical knowledge required to complete this comprehensive and necessary plan that will be reviewed and updated every 5 years, as recommended.

 

NATURAL AREA GOALS

  • Consider possible trail expansion to create an interconnected and expanded trail and greenway system.
    Update – Working with ComEd to redraft its existing agreement to expand ROW access that will link planned FSPD path expansion, providing connection to existing Village of Frankfort and Old Plank Road Trail regional path systems.
  • Continue maintenance and assessment of natural areas to identify any issues or needs.
    Update – FSPD works with Cardno-JFNew to annually update the Natural Areas Management Plan.
  • Continue to foster partnerships and collaborations to maintain the park district’s high quality amenities and services that improves the quality of life for its residents.
    Update – FSPD’s Park Naturalist has established a strong network of conservation partners that include, but are not limited to, Master Gardeners and Naturalists-University of Illinois Extension, Bartel Grassland, Midewin, Will-South Cook Soil & Water Conservation District, and citizen volunteers.

 

CONCLUSION

The FSPD’s 2014 Master Plan identifies key areas of strengths and areas where the district can proactively improve its parks, facilities, and programs. To date, 80% of all recommendations have been completed. The remainder will be scheduled in the upcoming construction season, with some delayed until funding can support completion. To accelerate this process, the Park Board approved a $3.5 million dollar “Moving Forward” referendum question on the March 15, 2016 general primary election ballot.

Although the Master Plan is considered a final document, culminating months of information gathering and analyses, it represents a living document that will be continually reviewed and utilized to ensure all goals are met towards improving the quality of life for the residents it serves.

Prepared and reviewed by the staff of the Frankfort Square Park District in cooperation with:

Michael Mulvaney, Ph.D.
Eastern Illinois University
Robin Hall, M.S.
University of Illinois ORPR
Jarrod Scheunemann, M.S.
University of Illinois ORPR