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Role of Web 2.0 in Parks and Recreation.

OK, admit it. When you think of Parks and Recreation you don’t necessarily associate that with web 2.0 or Social media. Think though, for a minute, and you will see that there is a tremendous opportunity here for these tools to permeate through.

For instance, if you have an online calendar of events, what if you added the ability for someone to receive a reminder email 1 day prior to that event happening at a park or a recreation center, say a blood drive? Wouldn’t that be a good thing for someone who’s day is already pulled in 15 different directions? You essentially become a calendar organizer to that busy Mom who would like to remember to come to that recreation center for a blood drive, but isn’t really going to remember to come to your website each and every day. This helps her and helps your parks and recreation department get more people into the centers.

Take it a step further and say you add a component to allow that event to be added to their desktop calendar application by simply clicking a link. It’s now added to, say, their Microsoft Outlook Calendar immediately and they can organize around that.

We have become even more creative than that in Prince William County, VA. We have RSS enabled our calendar of events. Now, whenever a citizen in Prince William County wants, they can have a feed delivered to them whenever we add a new event or change an event.

We have not just served up pages online, we are now interacting with our public. Our public’s time is limited. With the volumes of information out there and everyone vying for eyeballs on the internet, by going this route you are telling them “Relax, we’ll send you this information or you can download it right now into your favorite app and there’s no need to worry about missing out on that new Pilates class.” Indeed, very valuable.

We are also experimenting with Twitter and Blogs. We have setup a Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/PWCParks). This will enable the super-online warrior the info they want in the compressed format they want. Why is this format valuable for so many? Precisely the same reason as given above. Volumes of data. You need to be able to encapsulate what you are trying to say into bite-sized pieces for your public. If done right, your stickiness in their lives goes up.

Another idea we are thinking about for using Twitter is as a tool for our seasonal staff that we hire for our waterparks. Most of the staff are teenagers, with cell phones and data plans. What we plan on doing is having an employee blog that will automatically feed to Twitter any postings. That way our constantly connected seasonal staff will receive instant notices, and those who are not constantly connected can sign into the online portal and be able to see what’s been going on,for example, that maybe there is a staff meeting for all lifeguards after the pool closes.

Use these tools to better your reach to not only your staff but to the Public you serve. Get creative. Web 2.0 and Social Media, it’s not just for breakfast anymore.

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Dennis McDonald

Mark, I totally agree with you in the value of web 2.0 tools in the area of parks and recreation, especially at the grassroots level.

Here in Alexandria Virgina we have a lot of smaller neighborhood parks. Neighborhood groups frequently become active in helping to maintain them (e.g., through organization of Spring and Fall cleanups). The use of social media tools is a natural way for citizens to interact — and for government officials to interact with them, if they are willing to use them.

I’ve taken a few steps on my own, e.g., a Google Map about our local park:


or http://tinyurl.com/cju9h5

I’ve also developed a simple way to post and share nature observations on my own blog:


I would think that local government could, as you suggest, make very good use of social media tools to support the development and maintenance of community groups who are interested in local activities, but I also realize the issues of time and cost that are involved. Employee collaboration seems an excellent area, as you suggest.

I’d be very interested in discussing this as it directly parallels my own interest in applying social media tools at the national level.


Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D.
Alexandria VA
Web: http://www.ddmcd.com
Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ddmcd