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Community-Informed Strategic Plan Doubles Parks & Recreation Budget

Parks and Recreation Department

Mendota Heights, MN

To reach consensus for the future of Parks and Recreation, Mendota Heights conducted surveys and listening sessions to best understand community needs. As a result, they solidified plans and guiding principles for the upcoming year which influenced the city council to increase the City Council’s budget.

Topics Covered

Process Improvement

Cost

Initial: Zero Upfront Cost

Funding

General Fund/Existing Public Funds

Project Status

Operational since 2021

Gov Champion

Parks and Recreation Director

Problem Addressed

The department wanted to expand its events, programming, and amenities but lacked the structure or community feedback to do so.

The Mendota Heights Park and Recreation Department works with the city council and an appointed community commission to ensure that community feedback is taken into consideration when fulfilling their mission.

The council meets twice a month, and the commission meets once a month, which limits the amount of time the groups have to discuss their vision for the department. The limited meeting times hindered their ability to come to a consensus on key initiatives. As a result, the Parks and Recreation Department lacked guiding principles, leaving them with little direction on how to best prioritize projects, initiatives and programming.

While the community knew what they wanted- more events, programming, and improved parks and recreation amenities for residents - a lack of a formalized plan left the department without direction.

With budget deadlines approaching, the department was running out of time to reach a consensus and start moving on key initiatives.

Solutions Used

To conduct a productive conversation between key stakeholders and community members, Mendota Heights' Parks and Recreation Department worked with HueLife.

Upon consultation, the department outlined their goals to set their baseline expectations. From here, HueLife helped the city create an online survey that was sent out to community members. To fill in survey gaps, the department conducted a listening session with a diverse array of parks and recreation facility users. Using this feedback as a guide, the department conducted two six hour sessions - one to decide on the most important goals, and another to create actionable steps towards goal completion.

Having an external party ask difficult questions allowed the department to elicit honest, complete feedback from their community partners. Guided by feedback from the community, department, and council members the department left the second session with a parks planning calendar that included all goals, assignees, and realistic timelines.

Armed with guiding principles, the department was able to draft up capital improvement and asset management plans, which are regularly reviewed in addition to the department’s SWOT analysis, mission/vision statement, and community data at key meetings. Using these plans, the department was able to secure additional funding and staff to further their initiatives.

In a continuing partnership, HueLife and the City’s Recreation Program Coordinator, Meredith Lawrence, meet to discuss evolving goals and priorities to keep the team on track.

Outcomes

1

The council nearly doubled the department's budget - allowing them to add essential staff to complete key projects outlined in their strategic plan

2

Complete capital improvement and asset management plans that are actively used to keep the department on track to achieve their 2022 goals

3

A color-coded calendar outlining department goals with clear steps, assigned staff, and deadlines used to guide monthly meetings and staff efforts

Lessons Learned

1

Keeping conversation around parks and recreation exciting for a cumulative 12 hours was key to productive stakeholder engagement.

2

Bringing everyone to the table - even in the presence of hard conversations - was crucial to creating an informed, inclusive plan.

3

Having an external party conduct conversations and ask hard questions was critical for establishing rapport during the sessions.

Who Should Consider

Departments looking to facilitate difficult conversations between stakeholders to create detailed, community-guided plans.

Last Updated

Mar 21st, 2022
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