A startling article in the New York Times this week reports that the economic crisis is taking a major toll on some of the nation's most high profile and popular urban spaces -- New York's parks, zoos and gardens. The article reports that "In New York State’s next fiscal year, which starts in April, state financing for all 76 zoos, botanical gardens and aquariums would be eliminated under Gov. David A. Paterson’s proposed budget. This after a 55 percent reduction this fiscal year — a move that was made only last month, surprising many organizations so late in the fiscal year."
As someone who's worked for more than 15 years developing marketing strategies for park and recreation agencies, I've never seen a time when this part of the public sector wasn't fighting for funding.
No doubt times are tough for everyone and many are being devastated by the economy. Those offering "non-essential" public services will be scrutinized and evaluated based on public opinion and outcry over proposed closures and reductions. In San Diego recently, the public came out in droves and successfully saved many recreation centers, pools and libraries from doom -- as least for a while. Read more about this story here.
In tough economic times, park and recreation professionals MUST promote their value as an affordable or free solution to curb stress, get active, stay connected and promote health and wellness. There's nothing wrong with capitalizing on the economic crisis in order to rally support and advocacy. The Wildlife Conservation Society is taking an active role in the New York crisis as evident by their online video poking fun at the New York Governor's proposal. Click here to watch the video -- it'll be the first time you've ever seen a porcupine get down-sized.
How is the economy impacting your agency? Share your stories at my blog. Collectively we can work together to educate each other and our nework of advocates.