By Rodney J. Auth
In the pre-dawn darkness, my wife and I quietly herded our kids to the bathroom and then to their spots in the minivan for an early start to the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. We were headed to Novi, Michigan—host site for my oldest daughter’s soccer tournament.
The plan was to watch her Saturday games (and find some local activity to keep the rest of the family happy), hit the hotel pool as a family (and enjoy some great pizza), then do it all over the next day.
We’ve attempted this “turn a soccer tournament into a mini family vacation” before with mixed results. We’ve learned the concept only works when the soccer games aren’t held in soccer-specific locations—like high school soccer stadiums or indoor soccer facilities.
This weekend, we looked to be in luck, as several of the games were held at a park operated by Oakland County Parks & Recreation. What we didn’t know, and were surprised to find out, was just how nice the park was.
While my daughter warmed up (and even while she was playing), the younger kids took a hike along one of the many trails available, colored in the shade of a well-placed pavilion and played tag under the impressive canopy of several large trees. But, looking back on it, the thing I remember most is how fascinated they were to walk into the adjacent dog park and simply sit on the picnic table and watch the dogs run around.
I’m not sure I would even remember this if it weren’t for “Lapping Up The Experience,” a wonderful article by Desiree Stanfield talking about Oakland County’s Orion Oaks Dog Park which includes a dog-only swim beach and quarter-mile long dog run.
As soon as I saw the name Oakland County and its location (just north of Detroit), a little bell went off in my head. When I read a comment by Mike Boyd, Park Superviser that said, “We have some repeat visitors who don’t even have a dog, who visit to socialize and watch the dogs play,” I immediately remembered my kids and their friends doing the same thing.
Looking back on it and hearing Boyd echo the experience, I can’t help but wonder if this happens at dog parks all over the country? And if so, how many of your other facilities are being enjoyed just as much by a demographic different than the one you designed them for? And, if this is happening regularly, do you have a way of measuring who uses your facilities and how and why?
Lots of questions, but I do have an answer for you.
Not so surprisingly, it’s housed in our new ParksNReviews mobile app. When you load your parks to the app (this is FREE, really, truly FREE) one of the benefits you receive—in addition to having an amazingly powerful marketing opportunity—is access to lots and lots of data about how your park patrons are using your parks and your amenities. Use this data to make decisions on how you market your parks, what programs you offer and how/when you maintain them.
If you haven’t already done so, I highly encourage you to log in to your Insider account and enter your park data. It doesn’t take long and the benefits are truly endless.
If you want to take the app for a test drive, it’s FREE; simply scan the QR Code below with your mobile device and enjoy. It’s easy and it works.
Till next month…
Rodney J. Auth