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The Importance of volunteers in parks, continued.

By Charlie McCabe

Last week, as part of our press release for the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, we touted a number of examples covering the growing role and importance of volunteers in parks in the 100 largest US city park systems. Given that we’re nearing the end of National Volunteer Week (Apr 23-29), we wanted to add another post in what will be an ongoing series on volunteers working in parks.

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Volunteers planning bulbs on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, Boston

Today, we’ll take a quick look at how park conservancies are working with volunteers. As part of a master’s thesis in 2016, I looked at what were the best practices of organizing and managing a volunteer program. I studied nine different parks conservancies in Austin, Boston, Brooklyn and Houston. I found a number of common practices and methods used, which we’ll cover in a future set of posts.  But, like our findings on the impact of volunteer in our 100 largest US cities, I found substantial impact for these nine park conservancies.

First, it’s very important to stress that all of these organizations work in partnership with their local park agencies to achieve mutual goals. As Doreen Stoller, Executive Director of the Hermann Park Conservancy noted in our 2015 publication, Public Parks/Private Money: “the City of Houston has allowed Hermann Park Conservancy to perform many duties on its behalf. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that our work is ‘on its behalf.’”

So, what’s the impact?  I looked at five years worth of data from each of the park conservancies.  The results are impressive.

  • In 2012, 12,250 volunteers donated 44,668 hours worth $1.04M or 21.47 FTEs
  • in 2013, 16,836 volunteers donated 49,767 hours worth $1.21M or 23.9 FTEs
  • In 2014, 15,426 volunteers donated 53,688 hours worth $1.34M or 25.81 FTEs
  • In 2015, 16,098 volunteers donated 59,461 hours worth $1.55M or 28.58 FTEs
  • In 2016, 18,727 volunteers donated 67,541 hours worth $1.75M or 32.47 FTEs

Overall, during the five year period, 79,337 volunteers donated 275,125 hours worth $6.9M.

(The value of hours is calculated using data collected by Independent Sector, a non-profit that calculates the annual hourly value of donated labor by state. FTE stands for full-time equivalent or one person working fulltime, calculated as 2,080 hours a year or 40 hours per week times 52 weeks in a year.)

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Tree mulching demonstration at the start of volunteer workday, Pease Park, Austin.

In future posts, we’ll get into the details of what tasks volunteers tackle, how these non-profits organize and manage their volunteer programs, how they work with park agency and park conservancy staff and a host of other topics, including the origin of volunteers in our parks.

Further, one of our efforts in the coming year at the Center for City Park Excellence will be looking at park conservancies and their continued impacts alongside parks agencies in the 100 largest cities, we working to get a more complete picture of what all non-profits working in parks contribute in terms of funds, volunteer hours and “on the ground” work.

Note: The nine park conservancies studied in my thesis were: the Austin Parks Foundation, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, the Fort Greene Park Conservancy, the Hermann Park Conservancy, the Hill Country Conservancy (for the Violet Crown Trail, specifically) the Pease Park Conservancy, the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, and the Trail Foundation.

The Center for City Park Excellence is part of The Trust for Public Land, which creates parks and protects land for people. You can contact us at ccpe@tpl.org.

 

City Park Facts: Volunteering in Parks

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Volunteers on the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Austin, TX 2011

In our press release announcing the 2017 edition of City park facts, we focused on the role and the importance of volunteers working in park systems in our 100 largest US cities. We have not reported this information in prior years, but we’ve included it in the downloadable spreadsheets at www.tpl.org/cityparkfacts/  We also wanted to expand upon the data a bit this blog post.

Volunteers in parks and recreation perform a wide of variety of roles, from coaches, referees and volunteer groundkeepers to helping plant, weed, mulch and water.  Volunteers work alongside park staff as individuals and groups.

So, here are theshighlights of the impact that volunteers make in our park systems by highlighting the results in 2008, 2010, 2013 and 2016:

Volunteer hours have risen from 9.8M in 2008 to 16.4M in 2016.  (It was 11.2M in 2010 and 15.5M in 2013.)

The value of those hours has risen from $206M in 2008 to $411M in 2016.  The value is calculated using data from Independent Sector, which calculuates the value of an hour of volunteer time by state every year.  (It was $250M in 2010 and $282M in 2013.)

Assuming that a full-time parks staffer worked 2,080 hours a year (40 hours times 52 weeks), volunteer hours are equal to an additional 4,733 full-time positions in 2008, growing to 7,895 positions in 2016. (It was 5,391 positions in 2010 and 7,440 positions in 2013.)

Looking at the value of volunteer hours as a percentage of the operational budget for parks in the 100 largest US cities, it was 4.1 percent in 2008, growing to 5.8 percent in 2016.

City Park Facts is a collaboration between the many city, county, state and nonprofit parks agencies and conservancies that work with us to submit their data and we appreciate their continued help and involvement. The staff of the Center for City Park Excellence works to present this information in a thorough yet easy-to-use format, and your feedback is important for future editions. You can contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

City Park Facts: The largest city parks

Many people often think of one of the most famous city parks, Central Park in New York City, as one the biggest. Nope.  Not even in the top 20 largest city parks.

The biggest city park in the 100 largest cities in the US is McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale, Arizona, weighing in at 30,500 acres.

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Photo by the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy

Below is a list of the top 18 city parks, along with links to their websites for additional information. (Note: if a park extends beyond the boundary of the city, only the acreage within the city is noted here.)

  1. McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Scottsdale: 30,500 acres. [friends group: McDowell Sonoran Conservancy]
  2. South Mountain Preserve, Phoenix: 16,306 acres.
  3. Sonoran Preserve, Phoenix: 9,487 acres.
  4. Cullen Park, Houston: 9,270 acres.
  5. Mission Trails Regional Park, San Diego: 6,932 acres.
  6. Jefferson Memorial Forest, Louisville: 6,218 acres.
  7. Lake Stanley Draper, Oklahoma City: 6,190 acres.
  8. Forest Park, Portland, Or: 5,172 acres. [friends group: Forest Park Forever]
  9. Lake Houston Wilderness Park, Houston: 4,787 acres.
  10. Shooting Range Park, Albuquerque: 4,596 acres.
  11. Eagle Creek Park, Indianapolis: 4,284 acres. [friends group: Eagle Creek Park Foundation]
  12. Griffith Park, Los Angeles: 4,282 acres.
  13. Loblolly Mitigation Preserve, Jacksonville: 4,201 acres.
  14. Mission Bay Park, San Diego: 4,108 acres.
  15. Far North Bicentennial Park, Anchorage: 3,924 acres. [friends group: Anchorage Park Foundation]
  16. Piestewa Park, Phoenix: 3,766 acres.
  17. Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge, Fort Worth: 3,630 acres.
  18. Rio Grande Valley State Park, Albuquerque: 3,186 acres.

City Parks Facts 2017 will be released on April 19, 2017 at www.tpl.org.

City Park Facts is a collaboration between the many city, county, state and nonprofit parks agencies and conservancies that work with us to submit their data and we appreciate your continued help and involvment. The staff of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land works to present this information in a thorough yet easy-to-use format, and your feedback is important for future editions. You can contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

Follow our new twitter feed @CityParkFacts

 

The Value of Volunteers in City Parks

Every year, we ask a series of questions in the 100 largest US cities about parks. We ask those questions of city, county, state and federal parks agencies as well as non-profit partners including park foundations, park friends group, park conservancies and business improvement districts (BIDs). Since 2008, we have asked for volunteering numbers. We have not, to date, reported on these numbers in our annual City Park Facts. We wanted to share the latest years results since we think it’s pretty impressive.

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Planting in Republic Square, Austin

Overall, we had 85 out of the 100 largest cities submit volunteer numbers.

All told, over 16.4 million volunteer hours were recorded, up from 15.5 million hours recorded in 2015.

These hours are equal to 7,895 additional full-time staff that would need to be hired by the 100 largest cities. [This was calculated using the following formula: one full-time staff person works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year or 2,080 hours per year. We realize that this is a very conservative calculation.]

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Volunteers, Barton Creek Greenbelt, Austin

Another way to look at the contribution of volunteer hours is to assign a monetary value to them. We did this using numbers from Independent Sector. Independent Sector calculates the value of volunteering by state annually, so the amount varies in many of the 100 largest US cities, with the latest national (overall) value being $23.56 per hour. So, those 16.4 million volunteer hours are worth $411 Million using 2015 amounts.

In the meantime, we’re looking for volunteer reports from the following cities (park agencies, park conservancies, friends groups, BIDs, etc. working with volunteers) – Boise, Buffalo, Chesapeake, Chula Vista, El Paso, Fremont, Garland, Gilbert, Honolulu, Irvine, Irving, Laredo, Lubbock, Reno, and  Richmond.

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming in April to tpl.org (weblink: https://www.tpl.org/keywords/center-city-park-excellence)  If you have questions or comments about this or other city park facts, contact us at ccpe@tpl.org