HigH Performance LandscaPe guideLines
gracefully fall short of their intended purposes, no matter how
environmentally sound their original design or construction.30
By integrating maintenance and operations thinking into the
capital improvement design process, we can develop designs
and new maintenance practices that allow parks to maintain
or improve their environmental functioning without signiﬁ-
cantly increasing cost burdens associated with upkeep. At the
same time, high performance maintenance operations present
themselves as a unique opportunity to demonstrate sustainable
practices, educating the public about the importance of changing
the ways we interact with the outdoor world.
INTEGRATE PARK MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS THINK-
ING INTO THE DESIGN PROCESS. Every effort should be made
to view a park design through the lens of the maintenance staff.
It is far simpler and more cost effective to incorporate upkeep
considerations into the design of a project rather than trying
to retroﬁt a built project. This integration will not squelch the
design process, but rather inform it. To ensure the long term suc-
cess of the park system, it is important to design parks that can
be maintained in an efﬁcient, cost effective manner.
DEVELOP COMMON GOALS AND SYSTEMATIC METHODS OF
COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DESIGN AND MAINTENANCE &
OPERATIONS STAFF. There should be scheduled interview and
review sessions with maintenance and operations personnel. It
is important for Design and Maintenance & Operations (M&O) to
work together to develop a set of shared goals and objectives, so
that each group appreciates the other’s concerns and methods
of operation. This will help the M&O staff to contribute to a proj-
ect’s long term success, by sharing the sustainability goals, and
understanding the objectives for managing the critical interrela-
tionships between soil, vegetation, and water systems. Designers
need to understand how park maintenance is rated by park
inspectors, which ultimately drives maintenance priorities. There
also needs to be an agreement on levels of maintenance for each
type of park space, under a variety of levels of use. The design of
the park must acknowledge and work within the limitations of the
maintenance that is available to each park.
ENCOURAGE AND SUPPORT EDUCATION AND TRAINING OF
MAINTENANCE AND OPERATIONS STAFF. Staff will tend to
favor older, less sustainable but known maintenance methods
and materials unless they are given the opportunity to learn new
ways. It is especially important that maintenance and operations
staff understand new planting and maintenance techniques,
since many sustainable park design solutions may introduce new
aesthetics that may at ﬁrst be hard to appreciate.
CELEBRATE MAINTENANCE AND OPERATION SUCCESSES
AND REWARD INNOVATION. It is critical to elevate the impor-
tance of good maintenance practices. Maintenance is not just
about making sure parks look good. Efﬁcient delivery of sea-
sonal and cyclical repairs and keeping a facility operating as
intended contributes to long term economic, environmental, and
social goals within our city. M&O staff have already begun to
incorporate sustainable practices into their work in many ways.
Continuing this important progress will allow the staff members
to develop further skills and techniques that would be of beneﬁt
to future projects. Capturing and sharing this collective wisdom
with the capital design staff on a regular basis will be an impor-
tant way to sustain a culture of continuous improvement.
EVALUATE NEW METHODS AND TRACK PERFORMANCE.
While Parks often does a good job of keeping a record of each
park design contract document set, often what happens after
construction is not so carefully recorded. Documenting the suc-
cesses and failures of speciﬁc design features and the actual
staff time and costs associated with new, sustainable features
in particular, would allow both design and maintenance staff to
make more informed decisions about what works and what does
not. Park by park record keeping would also allow the agency
to better track and document costs on a typology basis, better
informing budget projections for existing and proposed facilities.
It should be expected that some design features or construction
assemblies that are intended to be more cost effective may, in
fact, turn out not to be so. Similarly, there may well be some very
subtle or unintended beneﬁts to more sustainable park design
that turn out to be extremely cost efﬁcient over the long run.
Accurate and site speciﬁc records allow Parks to substantiate the
success of new approaches to park design over the long term.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF M&O VISIBILITY TO EDUCATE AND
ENGAGE THE PUBLIC. Maintenance and operations activities
within parks are highly visible to the public. These activities should
be seen as a unique opportunity to educate the public about the
need to maintain parks and the importance of sustainable systems.
This is important to improve the collective public understanding of
providing consistent funding for annual upkeep. Moreover, greater
visibility of daily and seasonal activities and engagement of the
public in this process in discrete ways encourage the public to
develop a sense of ownership for their neighborhood parks.
DEVELOP A MAINTENANCE PLAN FOR EVERY PARK AS AN
INTEGRAL PART OF THE PARK DESIGN PROCESS. Sometimes,
parks are built that cannot be properly maintained with existing
resources and budgets. The best way to protect the design intent
of a park is to design a park that can be maintained within the
allocated budget. New parks must have a maintenance plan and
budget. Maintenance plans can be used to substantiate the need
for speciﬁc maintenance activities and their associated costs.
By using a maintenance plan as a performance benchmark,
the M&O staff can track maintenance efforts and costs. Carefully
recording maintenance costs on a park by park basis can provide
valuable insights on an agency-wide basis when data from multiple
parks are reviewed. Planning on a park by park basis can create
and ﬁne tune performance benchmarks allowing the agency to
track and document the effects of budget cuts, or the beneﬁts of
30 Calkin, p. 285.
As the park system expands to serve growing neighborhoods,
and as new landscape elements are introduced to improve
environmental quality, it is important to develop sources of
funding to maintain the parks in accordance with maintenance
plans. At the same time it is important to develop funding to
care for sustainable features and other needed maintenance
throughout the system.
J Parks that are well maintained serve the community
better and inspire neighborhood investment.
J Well maintained natural infrastructure has greater
J Well maintained parks last longer without additional capital
J Skilled zone gardeners and staff can ﬁne tune a landscape
and equipment operation protecting the capital investment.
J Park maintenance is an opportunity for entry level people to
gain job skills and obtain training in green careers.
J Appropriate concessions can supplement park funding by
providing amenities park visitors desire.
J Municipal funding of parks operation has to compete with
countless other equally pressing budgetary pressures, and will
ﬂuctuate with the economy.
J Alternative funding mechanisms such as business improve-
ment districts (BIDs), local development corporations,
adjacent land owner payments in lieu of taxes, and land lease
payments require a high level of coordination and negotiation
with private and nongovernmental entities.
J Private funding is suitable more as a catalyst than as a long
term solution for most parks.
New parks, facilities, and landscapes, especially green roofs
and stormwater management areas, require funding in addition
to the Parks Departments existing budget. New parks require
maintenance funding immediately in order to care for plants
during the establishment period and obtain needed mainte-
nance equipment for startup.
It is important to identify sources of funding in addition to
the municipal budget. Maintenance dollars are subject to the
city’s annual budgetary process and periodic privation due to
economic downturns, leaving parks with a backlog of main-
tenance needs. Moreover, since capital dollars are restricted,
it is difﬁcult to plan for and expand maintenance services for
new park facilities within the existing budget.
Central Park, Battery Park City, and Bryant Park have raised
public expectations and set high standards for the Parks
Department to meet. In recent years park operations budgets
have been supplemented by alternative funding mechanisms
such as business improvement districts, local development
corporations, adjacent land owner payments in lieu of taxes,
and land lease payments. New waterfront parks cost upwards
of $100,000 per acre / per year to maintain. Brooklyn Bridge
Park will be funded through payments in lieu of taxes from
adjacent properties controlled by a local development corpora-
tion. Bryant Park is supported by a business improvement
district; Battery Park City is supported from income from
Parks Department funds are supplemented for many of the
more successful parks such as Central Park, Prospect Park,
Riverside Park, and Randall’s Island through strong nonproﬁt
All parks beneﬁt from the revenue generated by conces-
sions. Concessions in parks include a variety of types such as
hot dog vendors, cafes, tennis bubbles, ice rinks, stables, and
marinas. In a report entitled “Making the Most of Our Parks,”
the Citizens Budget Commission has noted that the Parks
Department generated $48 million through the operations of
concessions in FY 2006. This amount of money was roughly
equal to 20% of the agency’s operating budget for that same
period. These are crucial dollars for Parks maintenance and
help leaven periodic economic downturns.
The surest, most direct way toward improving park mainte-
nance is to increase the Parks & Recreation general operating
seek To increase currenT leVels of Park mainTenance
funDing, esPeciallY funDs earmarkeD for mainTenance
of new Parks
J Adequate investment in the maintenance of parks ensures
that fewer capital dollars will need to be spent on costly
replacements in the future.
J Seek city funding for all new park facilities, and for the
maintenance of stormwater management systems in parks.
J All new development projects that include parks should
have a mechanism for adjacent properties to support the
operation of the park.
j Business Improvement Districts
new Parks and
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j Local Development Corporations
j Property owner payments in lieu of taxes
j Land lease payments
j Obligations for park maintenance support included
in zoning changes
incorPoraTe reVenue generaTing faciliTies in new Parks
when designing new parks and facilities, include park amenities for
users that generate revenue to supplement park operations costs.
J It is important not to commercialize the park system,
but at the same time providing food and drink or the
opportunity for private parties in a park setting is generally
appreciated by the public.
J Amenities such as boat and bike rentals make it
possible for a wide variety of visitors to enjoy a park.
J Accommodate the needs for event tents in proximity
to food concessions to allow catered events that
PrePare a DaTabase of THe DeParTmenT’s caPiTal anD
mainTenance exPenDiTures anD neeDs bY Park
Develop a database of the outstanding capital and maintenance
needs by park. use this to support requests for capital and
J Update the database annually.
J Use critical backlog items to assist in the planning
of future park capital improvements and annual
J Use the database to determine costs speciﬁc to park
types or individual features so as to better target design
and operational improvements.
There are numerous examples of both governmental and
nonproﬁt groups across the country that advocate for greater
ﬁscal support for parks.
Parks and Trails New York (PTNY) is a nonproﬁt organization
based in Albany whose mission is to lobby for the improvement
of New York State parks. In November 2006, PTNY prepared a
comprehensive plan for improving the maintenance, funding,
and public outreach associated with the State’s parks. Many of
the ideas contained in the action plan are directly applicable
to New York City’s Parks & Recreation Department.
for furTHer informaTion
f Parks and Trails New York. “Parks at a Turning Point: Restoring and
Enhancing New York’s State Park System.” November 2006. http://www.ptny.
f The National Parks Service (NPS) has long struggled with estimating
and tracking its facility maintenance backlog. In 1984, NPS implemented a
maintenance management system design to track the deferred maintenance
workload. After sending some $11 million, the effort was abandoned since
park managers found that it did not provide them with the information
needed to manage their deferred maintenance work load. In 1998, at the
urging of Congress, the NPS undertook a new asset management process
that, after three years in development, began to be used within the agency
as part of a new pilot program. As part of the development process, the
NPS implemented the use of MAXIMOTM tracking software. Standards for
tracking the condition of the department’s facility assets were implemented
and NPS began formal cost estimating of their actual backlog. Many of the
lessons learned by the NPS and the methods developed to evaluate the state
of repair of facilities and estimation of costs to maintain and restore the
facilities to functional use can be of great value to Parks in developing a
more systemized approach to the documentation of the department’s press-
ing annual maintenance needs.
f United States General Accountability Ofﬁce. “Efforts Underway to Address
Its Maintenance Backlog.”Highlights of GAO-03-1177T, a testimony to the
Subcommittee on National Parks, Recreation and Public Lands, Committee
on Resources, House of Representatives September 2003.GAO-03-1177T.
f Citizens Budget Commission. Making the Most of Our Parks, June 2007.
f Regional Plan Association. On the Verge: Caring for New York City’s
Emerging Waterfront Parks & Public Spaces. Spring 2007.http://www.rpa.
31 Regional Plan Association, On the Verge: Caring for New York City’s Emerging Waterfront
Parks & Public Space, Spring 2007.
This park maintenance worker is removing grafﬁti from a wooden bench.
Sanding rather than painting the bench helps preserve its character and extends
the longevity of the wood.
As an integrated part of the design of new parks, prepare a
written and illustrated park maintenance plan for use by the
future maintenance and operations staff, emphasizing focus
areas and areas that require new or unconventional methods.
J Collaboration with M&O staff during the design phase
encourages learning from past difﬁculties and allows for
realistic input on maintenance plans.
J Identiﬁes the future stafﬁng needs along with costs and
equipment associated with the proposed design, allowing for
more accurate staff and budget planning.
J Provides a detailed schedule of operations over time,
serving as a stafﬁng work plan.
J Can be used to identify the budgets required for
equipment and materials.
J Provides a basis for budgeting specialty maintenance
and capital replacement.
J Provides a baseline against which to judge the
management and performance of the operation.
J Management plans must include assumptions about
maintenance staff levels and future costs; if stafﬁng availabil-
ity or costs change, maintenance plans will not be accurate
and will require adjustment.
J Conﬂicts between design intent and maintenance capabili-
ties may occur, however these should be worked out during
design as the management plan is being created.
J Management plans should be adaptive to respond to chang-
ing conditions at the park. The designer should be contacted
when any notable changes occur.
Park management plans serve as detailed work plans for future
use by park administration and staff. Plans should include
clear how-to methods and resource needs, including antici-
pated maintenance activities identiﬁed in the ﬁnal mainte-
nance budget impact statement projected over the assumed
lifecycle for the project.
DeVeloP a mainTenance Plan TemPlaTe THaT can be
cusTomiZeD for eacH Park TYPe
J This will aid in the development of consistent maintenance
plans by in-house design staff and outside consultants.
J The template should require that the design and
construction teams provide:
j The park’s design intent
j Scaled plan diagrams with area sizes
j Photos of the park upon completion of the design
for comparison purposes for park inspectors; note that
parks that use new materials, design approaches or
nonstandard approaches require greater documentation
so that inspectors and staff understand how the park
is supposed to look and function.
J Guidelines that include levels of service descriptions,
task descriptions, hourly and cost rates (both in-house and
outsourced) that can be regularly reviewed and updated
based on citywide trends
J Work sheets for use in the development of hourly and
ProViDe clear DocumenTaTion of THe Park Design
for fuTure Planning anD eValuaTion
J Documentation should include not just original
design documents, but also critical construction
j Construction drawings and speciﬁcations
j Copies of submittals for materials and systems used as
part of the installation
j As-built drawings including original plan and details with
noted modiﬁcation as well as contractor-prepared shop
drawings used in the fabrication or further detailing of items
j Directory of the names, addresses, phone numbers of
design team members, construction supervisors, resident
engineers, and contractors
j Copies of operating manuals
J Provide scalable and editable electronic ﬁles of the park
plan that can be used for future maintenance planning.
j Scalable plans serve as critical tools in the delineation
and estimating of work activities.
j Include as-built utilities.
for new Parks DeVeloP a Park mainTenance Plan
in collaboraTion wiTH m&o suPerVisors anD
The development of a comprehensive park maintenance plan
is a multistep, iterative process that must include all relevant
participants to be realistic and effective.
J Meet with future maintenance staff during the
development of the park plan.
j Develop common goals and objectives for park
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Part iii: Best Practices in site Process
maintenance & oPerations
sustainability and maintenance to be incorporated
into the design.
j Discuss anticipated levels of service for different
areas based on anticipated usage and visibility.
j Discuss design ideas and types of maintenance
j Identify standard, nonstandard, and specialized
h Make sure that M&O staff are able to repair items
that are susceptible to damage.
j Discuss anticipated stafﬁng and equipment needs.
j Discuss the need for onsite maintenance facilities,
staging, and storage areas.
j Identify other agency properties in the immediate area
that may have maintenance and operations overlaps that
could enable some stafﬁng or resource efﬁciencies.
J Divide the park into maintenance zones.
j Use two key criteria for establishing maintenance
zones: visibility and levels of use.
j Determine levels of service for maintenance within
these zones based on NRPA guidelines.32
j Develop an accurate, scalable zone diagram on a park
plan for use in communicating zone locations and further
estimating work and cost requirements.
J Quantify and document the tasks necessary to maintain
j Specify work required based on the intended levels of
service for a landscape zone.
j Develop an itemized list of tasks for each zone.
j For each task within a zone, complete area estimates
on an acre, square foot, or per item basis to quantify
j Identify and provide staff training for new procedures.
If necessary, train special crews for the maintenance
of newer, nonstandard facilities.
J Develop and document standards and speciﬁcations
for each of the quantiﬁed tasks.
j Use design documents and industry standards to
develop standards for work requirements.
DeVeloP esTimaTeD Time anD cosT scHeDules baseD
on THe amounT of work requireD for THe Park on a
Zone bY Zone basis
J Type of maintenance
j Regular maintenance
j Horticultural care
j Capital replacement
J Frequency of service
j Daily or more frequently
j Long term
J Size, type, and skills of crews required to
perform the work by categories
j Skilled volunteer
j Seasonal staff
j Permanent staff
j Other city agency
J Equipment required to perform the tasks
j Garbage truck
J Estimate the hours required for each task.
J Estimate staff or contractor costs to complete each task.
j Some tasks are more cost effective to outsource due to
specialized skills or equipment that contractors possess.
moniTor anD aDjusT Performance of mainTenance
Plan oVer Time
J Track progress by zone, task, and cost.
J Adjust schedules to the park as facilities and landscaping
mature and age or use patterns change.
J If the park is maintained by nonagency staff or organization
and there is a maintenance bond in place, require an annual
review of the maintenance program to ensure the budget and
covering bond grow according to escalating costs. Consider
tying bond coverage to the Consumer Price Index.
PublisH Park mainTenance Plans anD annual eValuaTions
To enHance Public awareness of mainTenance acTiViTies,
cosTs, anD Performance
J Make park maintenance plans available on the Parks website.
J Publicize annual park inspections and success ratings
against the published plans.
J Provide user feedback forms to enhance maintenance
The Seattle Parks and Recreation department requires a
Vegetation Maintenance Plan (VMP). A VMP is written to guide
the growth, development, and maintenance of parks and open
spaces. Each VMP is designed to bring together the diverse
interests at work in a park or open space and inform on direct
actions of the organizations that manage it. See further:
In 2003 San Francisco passed a law that requires the city
to provide detailed park maintenance standards, park mainte-
nance plans and schedules and to track performance on a park
by park basis. The city has established standards for street,
sidewalk, and park maintenance. City agencies engaged in
street, park, and sidewalk maintenance are required to publish
their schedules on the web. The Controller’s Ofﬁce then
conducts annual performance audits of the street, sidewalk,
and park maintenance and cleaning operations. By 2008, San
Francisco had developed draft Park Management Plans for
most of San Francisco’s neighborhood parks.
For further information see:
J San Francisco Park Management Plans Overview: http://
J Typical Park Management Plan for John McLaren
J San Francisco Park Maintenance Standards: http://
J San Francisco Park Maintenance Scores: http://www.ci.sf.
for furTHer informaTion
f City of Oakland, CA, Lake Merritt Boating Center Maintenance Plan http://
f Earth Plan Associates, Inc. “Chapter 4 Park Maintenance” in 2006-
2010 Parks and Recreation Master Plan, Auburn Indiana Parks and
Recreation Department, 2005.http://www.ci.auburn.in.us/departments/
f Fickes, Michael. “Six Steps to Grounds Maintenance Master Planning.”
College Planning & Management, v3 n4 p47-50 Apr 2000. http://www2.
f Professional Grounds Management Society, Grounds Maintenance
Estimating Guidelines, 7th Edition, Hunt Valley, MD: Professional Grounds
Management Society, 1995.
32 More than thirty years ago, the National Recreation and Park Association developed formal-
ized levels of service categories to assist park administrators in the development of groundskeep-
ing protocols based on a park facility’s visibility, usage, and intended upkeep. This approach
to planning anticipated levels of maintenance has been proven to simplify the cost estimating
maintenance efforts. It is also an easy way for both designers and staff to understand how various
spaces within parks can be aggregated to similar levels of design and care. See further: Feliciani,
Simpson, Gratto, Getz, DeStefano, Morrow, O’Donnell, Spengler, Payne, Fournier, Swartzell.
Operational Guidelines for Grounds Management. Ashburn, VA: Published jointly by APPA,
National Recreation and Park Association, and Professional Grounds Management Society, 2001.
Work with community groups, nonproﬁt groups, business
improvement districts (BIDs), private investors, and key stake-
holders to enhance and maintain parks.
J Partnerships leverage the assets of both the public
and the private sector while increasing the quality or level
J Partnerships foster support from the local community.
J Procurement is simpler and faster if there are in-place
agreements with a private sector or local community group.
J A project can be expedited by grouping multiple
responsibilities in a single agreement (such as combined
design and construction for smaller repair or replacement of
J Partnerships can bring the agency specialized expertise
not otherwise available.
J Partnerships can take advantage of new and emerging
trends in the parks and recreation ﬁeld, providing an
opportunity for innovation.
J Partnership agreements provide the ability to incentivize
improved performance and upkeep.
J A service or project, if spearheaded by a partnership
agreement, can often accelerate implementation and improve-
ments sooner than the agency’s resources alone would allow.
J Disagreement among various stakeholders may prolong the
maintenance planning and implementation process.
J It is difﬁcult to maintain equality of access and services if
some city residents and neighborhoods are more able to raise
J Partnership activities must avoid the perception of
privatizing public facilities.
J Partnerships must be within the legal authority of the
Documents you may be interested
Documents you may be interested