Surveying The Land

Maintenance standards play an important role in keeping parks safe, functional, and attractive.

They extend the life of park facilities and structures, increase the safety of the public, and reduce the potential for lawsuits.

In 2000, the College Station City Council in Texas directed the parks and recreation department to develop park-maintenance standards in response to the council’s vision statements and strategic issues for fiscal year 2001.

It was assumed the department was already using maintenance standards until the Internet revealed what the term actually represented.

The Real Definition

Maintenance standards identify what facilities and structures should look like with proper maintenance. The Internet had little information on “park-maintenance standards,” but there was a great deal related to industry maintenance standards. So, we began the long process of developing our own “park-maintenance standards.”

Those involved in the process were the parks-operations supervisors and superintendent, as well as the forestry supervisors and superintendent, plus guidance from the parks and recreation director and input from the advisory board.

The final product had to be approved by the advisory board before being presented to council for final approval.

Drafting The Plan

The first plan of action was to determine which facilities and structures needed maintenance standards. High-priority items included those that were either costly to replace, highly visible, or highly used, or required routine maintenance to maintain safety.

The facilities and structures were divided into eight categories, plus all the features associated with each category. For each feature, the standards needed to maintain that item were listed.

The categories, features, and standards were numbered in order to distinguish them. The categories consisted of:

1. Athletic fields

2. Pavilions and shelter facilities

3. Tennis courts

4. Basketball courts

5. Volleyball courts

6. Ponds

7. Parks general

The “parks general” category included features such as area lights, walkways, park signs, bridges, ornamental plant beds, picnic units, random trash receptacles, and athletic practice areas that were not directly associated with the other seven categories.

In order to gauge how well standards were being met, we developed the “maintenance-standards survey.” Quite simply, the survey has a “check off” line next to each standard.

For example:

Basketball Court

A. Surfacing

___1. Surface is smooth, level, and well-drained.

___2. Surface is free of large cracks, holes, and trip hazards.

___3. Surface is painted and striped as per court specifications.

___4. Worn, painted surfaces do not exceed 20 percent of total court surface.

___5. Surface is free of litter, debris, gravel, and graffiti.

B. Goals and Backboards

___1. Goals and backboards are level with hardware intact.

___2. Goals and backboards are painted.

___3. Nylon nets are properly hung and are not torn or tattered.

___4. Support poles are secure in the ground and straight.

C. Drinking Fountains

___1. Fountains are operational.

___2. Fountains are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

___3. Fountains are installed on solid surfaces and free of standing water and debris.

D. Court Covers

___1. Roofing is intact with no loose panels.

___2. Cover supports are well-painted with no major rust.

___3. All anchor nuts and bolts are present and tight.

E. Lights

___1. 90 percent of lamps for each court are operational.

___2. Timers are properly set for specific hours of operation.

___3. No electrical-conducting wires are exposed.

___4. Ballast boxes are secured (where applicable).

___5. Lighting controls are operational with operation instructions.

___6. Lights provide uniform coverage on facilities, and fixtures are adjusted to eliminate dark areas.

___7. All light fixtures are intact.

F. Signage

___1. Park identification signs are secure and in good condition.

___2. Handicap parking signs are secure and visible.

___3. Park rules signs are secure and visible.

___4. Restroom signs are secure and visible (where applicable).

___5. Signs are relatively clean, painted, and free of protrusions.

Since amenities vary from park to park, the categories, features, and standards that did not apply to a particular park were removed from the survey. However, their matching letters and numbers remained the same to correspond to those on the maintenance standards.

Knowing the number of standards for each category and the number of standards that didn’t pass allows for calculating the percentage of standards met for that category. Whenever amenities are added to a park or structures eliminated, the survey for that particular park is updated.

Conducting the surveys is time-consuming, but should be done on a routine basis. In College Station, the surveys are conducted every three months with survey summaries developed and presented to the advisory board to keep it notified of the improvements in the various parks.

This year marks the tenth anniversary in using the maintenance standards, and we just finished revising them.

Although a park will never remain as pristine as it was when it was built, maintenance standards can assist in putting its best appearance forward.

Curtis Bingham, CPSI, is the Parks Operations Superintendent for the College Station Parks and Recreation Department in Texas. He can be reached via email at

Bryan BuchkoComment