After twenty years working in public parks, from Civil War battlefields in Virginia to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, I’ve learned one big lesson about this work. The quality of the park is directly correlated to the quality of the people that operate it. There are no short-cuts to this. A world-class park can devolve into mediocrity if operated by a sub-par staff just as a bland park can be elevated to the sublime if managed by a team of caring, committed professionals.
While this may come across a bit self-promoting, I feel that the team operating your Parklands is setting the bar today for excellence in park stewardship and care. We try this through an ever-evolving and improving management model that assigns clear responsibilities and authority to team members to help them care for the phenomenal investment in public park infrastructure that is The Parklands. Here’s a quick look “behind the curtain” on how we organize some of our folks to deliver the best park possible to you, our guests.
Vehicles, Uniforms, and Equipment
If you haven’t noticed, we take pride in our uniforms. The bright blue shirts of the summer and khaki jackets of the winter are a quick way for you to identify the professionals in the field at work. Additionally, the bright white vehicles with the brilliant green accents are intentionally vibrant so that you can clearly identify them in the park.
The hallmark of a great park is a clean park. These team members are in the park before the sun rises and late into the evenings. Their responsibilities include maintaining clean picnic areas and bathrooms, empty trash cans, and clear trails. We believe in clean parks, and these team members are the ones that make that possible 365 days a year. When you see a team member in a pick-up at a playground or shelter, 90% of the time that is an attendant making sure that facility is up to our guest experience standard.
A big lesson in urban park care comes to us from the rebirth of Central Park in NYC. When that park was reborn, they reinvented the concept of zone gardeners. Simply described, it means that particular parts of a park are assigned to one person that is responsible for its care. We do the same thing here with zone gardeners managing the beds, plantings, and park amenities in clearly designated areas, or zones. When you see an employee working on a flower bed or in a utility vehicle working on a trail or planting, these are our zone gardeners, and that person is assigned to that specific area.
Think about your park memories, particularly in our national parks, and I bet a park ranger was part of it. Our five-ranger team patrol the park seven days a week in clearly marked “ranger” trucks, UTV’s, and bicycles. They are also in easily recognized khaki and blue uniforms. If you need help, they are there for you. They are also a great resource for info on park details and directions. And if you come to an event at the park, they will likely be on hand managing crowds and moving parking and vehicles around. Our rangers are supporting the work of Louisville Metro Police Officers who have full legal authority throughout The Parklands. While exploring the park, you might run into an LMPD officer or a Kentucky Fish & Wildlife Warden (Conservation Officer) who enforce state fish and game laws in the park.
If you’re hosting an event, meeting, wedding, or special event at the Gheens Foundation Lodge or Hockensmith Barn, your experience will be guided by one of our professional event team concierges. Their job is to focus on the little things so you can focus on your event and your guests. From coordinating your caterers and music, to helping keep the facilities cleaned up and spotless through the event, concierges are a way we go beyond the normal rental agreements to make sure you have a memorable experience.
Walk into the PNC Achievement Center, Ben Stout House, take one of our hikes, or attend a Wednesday Wonders or Science Camp program, and you’ll get the good fortune of spending time with one of our interpretive rangers. These professionals are our park resource experts. Their job is to help you experience the park in new and richly rewarding ways by bringing to light some of the history, cultural, and natural resources we manage. If you’re looking for the “best” hike of the week, or wondering if the creek is a good level for floating, or “what exactly is this bug?” – ask an interpretive ranger. They will make the park come alive in ways you probably didn’t think possible.
This was just a short primer on some of the folks you’ll see around the park making your experience as a guest as great as it can be. There are even more folks supporting these professionals in their work and we’ll talk about them later. We’re so proud to have these folks on our team, and we know you’ll enjoy your experience in the park because of the hard work these professionals do all year long in all kinds of weather and conditions.