A program to build grass-roots support for parks that started in Lee’s Summit is being used by other cities and getting national attention.
The Did You Know/Friends of the Parks campaign was an idea of Tom Lovell, administrator of Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation. Its purpose is to let people know about the programs and services of the department and their value.
Since its beginning three years ago, 3,000 people have joined Friends of the Parks. And the campaign has been launched by dozens of other parks departments.
That resulted in Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation being honored with a Citation for Outstanding Public Agency by the Missouri Park & Recreation Association at its state conference Feb. 28. That association has put a “tool kit” Lee’s Summit parks created for other parks departments to use in starting the program on its website.
The department was nominated for the award by the association past president, Janet Snook.
“This initiative has not only benefitted dozens of Missouri communities, but shows promise nationwide,” she said.
Lee’s Summit parks staff, including Jodi Bell, Steve Casey, Kyle Crews, Shannon Gammon, Tede Price, Robert Sanchez, Pat Shepard and Joe Snook (The Did You Know Team), worked to create the concept of the Friends of the Parks program.
The tool kit enables any parks and recreation department to kick off a campaign. It includes press releases, hundreds of “Did You Know” benefit based facts, promotional materials and tips and tricks for keeping interest. Lee’s Summit parks created a full day workshop that for parks and recreation departments wanting to use the program in their own community.
Kansas and Illinois are other states looking at the program and in October at a national conference of parks professionals the program was noted as an exciting idea from Missouri.
Here’s how the campaign works.
The parks department developed a list of interesting facts about parks and recreation programs such as their economic impacts and fitness and health “to help people understand it’s more than fun and games,” said Joe Snook, assistant parks administrator in Lee’s Summit. To get those facts out, the department created Friends of the Parks. Membership is free, the parks department asks for an email or mailing address.
Then it sends weekly or monthly updates to members, including coupons or notices. Three times a year the department invites members to a special event to highlight a park or a department program to educate them about the services it offers.
“A lot of people have been pleasantly surprised,” Snook said.