Parks promotion campaigns encourage discovery and use of local parks, bringing residents together at special events, promoting stewardship of parks and open spaces, and helping to assess the community’s current and future needs for parks and recreation facilities and programs. In addition to using traditional media (newspapers, posters, flyers, etc.), today’s promotion campaigns heavily rely on dedicated social media and website pages, email contact lists, and catchy hashtags designed to excite the community to come together around events and special programs that celebrate parks.
Why is this important to your community?
An inventory of parks and recreation facilities in the CONNECT region noted that sixty-two local governments in the region maintain parks and/or administer recreation programs for youth and adult participants. These resources are vital to encouraging physical activity, mental health and wellness, promoting an appreciation for the outdoors and learning about natural resources, and creating meaningful connections within the community. Parks can provide a mechanism to bring the region’s residents together, providing a common ground for both passive interaction and celebratory events.
Local park campaigns raise awareness among a community about existing park resources, thereby promoting increased utilization of those resources. Such campaigns can also be leveraged to promote partnerships, resident volunteerism and fundraising. Parks promotion campaigns are a particularly effective tool to create a sense of ownership of and raise money for existing parks, whose ongoing operations or maintenance may be challenged by tight municipal budgets. Because demand for new parks and recreation facilities will rise dramatically as the population nearly doubles in the region by 2050, the role of partners and volunteers will become increasingly important, helping communities ensure that parks remain attractive, well-maintained, and that new parks are built to accommodate the growing population.
Where is it appropriate to use?
What other tools are related?
- Preserving and Building Parks
- Green Infrastructure
How does it work?
Parks promotion campaigns may begin with the parks administrators or overseer of parks in the community. In these case, the responsibility for creating a promotion campaign is typically assigned to a marketing and communications specialist; otherwise, it is shared among staff members. Parks promotion campaigns may also be supported by nonprofits, such as “friends” groups that work with parks and recreation departments to develop and sponsor events. As the campaign is launched, goals and objectives are established, and types of events and programming are determined. Ideally this is informed by input from the community, which may be collected in the form of a park user survey. A calendar of events is established based on these goals, oftentimes associated with seasons and holidays like Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Christmas. Campaigns include a dedicated web page, branding strategy, and social media pages and tags. Often special events have their own pages and tags. Individual events are promoted using social media, which must be constantly updated with info about events and everyday happenings to keep people up to date. Community members are also encouraged to post to pages, share photos, and even use social media to report feedback about park experiences. The goal of the campaigns is to keep people engaged and excited about their parks, and witness that great things are happening there. In addition to supporting events in parks, nonprofits are also able to support campaigns for bonds for property acquisitions and parks construction—something local governments are unable to do.
- South Carolina State Parks Park User Survey
- California Park & Recreation Society Parks Make Life Better® Campaign
- National Recreation and Park Association. “Using Social Media Marketing to Promote Physical Activity and Health and Wellness in Parks."
- Philadelphia Love Your Park Campaign
- Kings County “Pianos in the Park” Community Campaign
Ready to get started?
Using the Tool
- Establish an advisory group consisting of community leaders, elected officials, residents, and staff persons to discuss goals and vision for parks promotion and events. Discuss what types of events would be successful and are reflective of community character and need, and determine the roles staff and “friends” groups or other community organizations can play.
- Create a park user survey to distribute to community members to gauge use of parks and to assist in programming, events, and improving park use.Establish a staff person(s) to oversee promotion of and social media for special parks events and activities. Depending on the size of the community, this could be a full or part-time position. Assess resources to determine how much operating budget can be channeled for parks promotion and the organizing of events and celebrations. If operating funds are slim, consider partnership with or development of non-profits to sponsor events in parks. Often festivals can raise money for both parks and participating artists or vendors, and while drawing the community to area parks.
- Resources permitting, attempt to have at least one event per quarter. Use social media, email blasts, print media (i.e. flyers and post-cards), banners, and advertising in local newspapers to yield best readership and attendance.
- At events, ensure adequate staff is dedicated to overseeing event and has the capacity to aid in clean-up afterwards. Collect contact information of attendees to stay engaged in park activities and encourage attendees to follow the parks on social media.
- Distribute park user survey after events to determine if events met community needs and help program future events.
- Advocacy Groups
- Colleges and Universities
- Community Development Organizations
- Community Service Providers
- Departments of Education / School Districts
- Health and Wellness Programs
- Health Care Providers
- Land Trust
- Municipal Departments
- Nonprofit Organizations
- Public Facilities Managers
Where has it worked?Image Source: Garner Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources.
Kendrick Mayes, Marketing and Special Events Coordinator
About the Program
The Town of Garner, a town of population just over 26,000 outside of Raleigh, has a robust promotion program for its parks, recreation, and cultural resources. Aided by the social media tools of Facebook and Twitter and a dedicated staff person and website, the city department is able to host several events throughout the year such as Trick or Treat the Trails in October, a Fourth of July celebration, Christmas tree lighting, July appreciation month, and a Faces and Places photo contest. Events are posted regularly on the various websites and also linked to the Town of Garner’s website, print media, and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram pages. Through staying up to date with the websites, the Town keeps the community updated, engaged, and appreciative of its parks and recreation resources.
Why it works
As a small town, Garner has an exemplary amount of programming and promotional events for its parks and recreation system. The program is successful because the town foresaw the importance of promotion in keeping its resources well-maintained and activated and hired a full-time staff member to oversee Marking and Special Events within the Parks and Recreation department. This individual is able to oversee the planning and promotion of events, and coordinate with other departments. Previous to this, the department had a Facebook page and website, but neither were updated with sufficient regularity. In recent years, the community has come together more frequently and is sharing with one another through social media. This enhances understanding and appreciation of the value of its park system, as well as contributing to its stewardship and maintenance. This overwhelming community pride is demonstrated through the success of the Town’s Parks Appreciation month “Out is In,” held in July.Image Source: Charleston County Park & Recreation Commission, South Carolina.
Tom O’Rourke, Executive Director
About the Program
The Charleston County Park, Recreation and Tourist Commission was created in1968 as a county special purpose district charged with the responsibility to provide park and recreation services in the County. As a special purpose district, CCPRC is a separate governmental entity and is not a department or division of Charleston County Government, nor the State of South Carolina, but works with Charleston County, the State, and the City to provide recreational services. The park system provided by CCPRC emphasizes passive activities, outdoor recreation, environmental education, and public beach access, with each park providing a variety of programming to celebrate the park’s natural features. CCPRC has a full-time staff and a commission which is committed to maintaining the highest of standards and encouraging visitorship to the parks. To achieve this aim, CCPRC maintains a sophisticated website with an interactive map of park facilities, publishes a quarterly newsletter, has a membership program, and promotes events and updates on its Facebook page.
Why it works
CCPRC is a model for parks facilities planning, programming, and promotion through its well-organized management and proactive planning. The CCPRC maintains a full calendar of events, including both special events for holidays and seasonal runs and fundraisers, and daily or weekly events such as therapeutic yoga and climbing days for college students. Due to the variety of resources under the CCPRC’s leadership, a wide range of activities are promoted, including fishing and maritime events, as well as camping and equestrian events. The full staff ensures that resources are dedicated to keep events ongoing, the website and social media are maintained, and events are proactively shared through the communities included in the CCPRC’s reach. The Commissioners enable decision-making, working with the full-time executive director. Additionally, the CCPRC encourages membership and charitable donations, which assists in funding for the organization. The Commission completed a Parks, Recreation, Open Space and Trails Master Plan in 2012, which helped set a framework to guide future management and development and direct resources.Image Source: Andy Ciordia. Source License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
Festival in the Park
1409 East Boulevard
Charlotte, NC 28203
About the Program
Festival in the Park is a 3-day annual arts and crafts festival that attracts around 100,000 visitors to Charlotte’s Freedom Park. The Festival’s mission is to “bring the community together through the arts.” Over 180 artists and nearly 1000 entertainers provide an opportunity to see, hear, learn about, and participate in the visual and performing arts. The relaxed atmosphere and expansive range of food, performances, and activities attract families and visitors across ages and backgrounds.
Why it works
The Festival is a nonprofit organization with one paid staff member, seasonal employees, and many volunteers, including a Festival Board of Directors and organizational committees. It works with Mecklenburg County Parks and Recreation Department, local city and private schools, the local electrician’s union, several key sponsors, the local media and hundreds of local volunteers to operate the annual event. With the variety of offerings and growing attendance rates, the Festival has been successful in getting residents and visitors to experience Freedom Park.
- Colleges and Universities