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Making the Most of Your Resources!

by Patrick J. Ryan

The Parks and Recreation Department of the Village of Richton Park performs several aspects of community cooperation which increases the quality and quantity of leisure service delivery to the community.

The Department operates two separate parks on utility easements. Tower Park houses one of the Village's three water towers and pump stations and is equipped with swingsets, slides, climbing apparatus, merry-go- rounds, benches, mini-shelters and an open play area. Honeysuckle bushes have been installed around the perimeter of the pump station fencing in addition to a variety of shade and ornamental trees. Security lighting that is adjacent to the water facilities provides security lighting for the park area as well.

Commonwealth Edison Park is located on the easement of Commonwealth Edison's high tension wires. The area houses several resistors in addition to the overhead lines which provide no danger to the public. Recreation equipment at the park includes swingsets, slides, climbing apparatus, benches, mini-shelters, basketball courts, an ice rink and an open play area. Several varieties of shade and ornamental trees are planted throughout the area.

The cooperative agreements that have been established at these facilities allow the department to provide recreational opportunities in areas that would be otherwise prohibitive. At the same time, busy workers are afforded the opportunity to take a break in the shade on a hot summer day!

A common practice by leisure service agencies is to enter into joint usage agreements with the school districts that service the community. The Richton Park Parks & Recreation Department takes full advantage of this form of agreement.

Three separate school districts currently participate in joint usage agreements with the Department. Among these are Elementary School Districts 159 and 162, and Rich Township High School District 227. These agreements allow the Department to conduct activities at each site during the evening hours throughout the week and occasionally on weekends.

In return for the use of the indoor facilities, the Department maintains the outdoor open space of each site which is designated as park land. Each site is adjacent to Village-owned park space which maximizes the area to be utilized for outdoor recreation. The excessive revenue received from user fees of indoor activities help offset the costs associated with park maintenance.

Other forms of cooperative agreements with the schools include equipment exchanges in which machinery and recreation equipment are shared by each organization. This exchange maximizes use of equipment with large capital costs that are not used on a day-to-day basis (boom trucks, slit seeders, aerators, portable goals, bleachers, picnic tables, etc.).

In today's economy, families are finding it increasingly difficult to finance expenses above and beyond their

8 Illinois Parks & Recreation/February 1995


fixed costs of living. Leisure service agencies are also forced to recoup their program operating costs through increased user fees.

In order to maintain participation levels while not placing a burden on families' incomes, the Richton Park Parks & Recreation Department has developed a payment plan system which alleviates upfront participation costs. This service allows participants to pay installments on any activity that is in excess of a $25 fee. Persons interested in the plan must complete a payment plan form which holds them liable to full payment for the activity. Once the paperwork has been completed, participants submit an initial payment and are given a schedule which indicates the installments which are due throughout the course of the activity.

This procedure does require an additional amount of paperwork for the Department; however, registration levels are maintained and a vital service is made available to the customer.

The payment plan has been readily accepted by the public and is especially advantageous to lower income families or those with multiple family members participating in programs. Participation that would be prohibitive for some has been made possible through this program.

The Richton Park Parks & Recreation Department has entered into cooperative participation agreements with various leisure service agencies from throughout the area. These reciprocal agreements allow residents of each community to participate in programs offered by each agency without having to pay a non-resident fee. Hundreds of activities are made available to residents without the burden of paying an additional fee for participation.

Another form of cooperative participation experienced by the Department is multi-community programming. Several activities are shared by a pool of communities with one agency serving as the sponsor of each activity. Enrollment levels are divided among the participating agencies and offered to their residents. This method of cooperation allows agencies to offer programs and trips that their agency alone could not sponsor.

These cooperative agreements maximize the leisure services offered by the Richton Park Parks & Recreation Department and in turn maximize use of available tax dollars. In this day and age of tax caps and limited funding, it has become imperative that agencies find creative methods to maintain services. In this case, COOPERATION is the key!

Patrick J. Ryan is the Director of Parks & Recreation for the Village of Richton Park. Information pertaining to this article may be obtained by calling the Richton Park Parks & Recreation Department at (708) 481-8950.

Illinois Parks & Recreation January/February 1995 9

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