Strategic Asset Management Planning: why parks need a plan, too
Much of the global population is acutely aware of climate change, and corporations have initiated efforts to reach NetZero emissions. It may come as no surprise that one of the most passionate groups in the asset management community are those in the Parks and Recreation sector. From converting large-area mowers from gas to propane to installing computerized irrigation systems for water conservation, the goal is to provide clean, safe and green spaces for communities. Accompanying this goal is a unique set of assets: playgrounds and swimming pools, boat docks and botanical gardens, pavilions, sports courts and zoos. These assets don’t maintain themselves; they require careful assessment and planning.
A strategic asset management plan (SAMP) combines asset management objectives with initiatives that provide the direction required for lower-level planning. This approach is gaining traction in the parks sector, and there may be more similarities than differences when compared with other asset management groups.
Signs are a good place to start. Most departments have some signage responsibilities—stop signs, speed limit signs, mile markers and caution warnings—that require maintenance and are often subject to normal wear and tear. Exposure to the elements can impact reflectivity, visibility and structural stability. While the signs may have different messaging, the general condition assessments and upkeep of these assets are effectively the same.
Safety requirements are common among multiple asset groups. Hiking trails and playground equipment, much like sidewalks and crosswalks, must be accessible and usually ADA compliant. This can present its own set of challenges, also not exclusive to the asset type. Regular inspections and preventative maintenance are standard approaches to meeting and maintaining these requirements, regardless of the department or group to which they apply.
Some park assets vary greatly from other assets: aquatic centers, sports fields and cemeteries often fall under park jurisdiction. In addition to following state reporting requirements for herbicides and pesticides, departments take special care to track pool chemicals and fertilizers, as well as maintain natural and synthetic turfs. Landscaping, mowing and irrigation all must be scheduled and completed to keep green areas well-maintained and inviting for residents.
One of the most unique parks assets is trees. Unlike other standard assets that depreciate over time, trees increase in value with age. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and Boise, Idaho, are two cities whose parks departments truly value their trees. By reversing the deterioration curve within VUEWorks®, the appreciating value of these assets can be tracked through the health, species/genus and diameter at breast height (DBH)measurements. While this model doesn’t apply to all assets, it can be applied to antiques, art and historic sites.
Ultimately, the overall goal in asset management is to enable data-driven decisions. Budget planning is an important piece of every successful parks group. Unlike toll roads and utilities that receive fee-based funding, many parks departments receive very limited funding from seasonal programs. Therefore, additional considerations must be taken when planning for annual spending:
- Size (sq ft) of the facility, field or amenity
- Safety compliance requirements
- Use frequency level
- Maintenance needs and costs
- Environmental impacts/water conservation
- Impacts on local wildlife
Many of these considerations are applicable to other asset types as well. While not all assets are equal, all are important to how efficiently and effectively a department can manage and maintain them. Allocating adequate funding to these maintenance efforts is a critical part of a SAMP. This may require unique configuration of the digital asset management solution to account for appreciating assets and a granular level of tracking for chemical components. Having an application like VUEWorks® that can be configured for unique requirements may be the first step toward success.