Photos Courtesy of PARD Planning & Development
First impressions are lasting impressions in Grand Prairie, Texas, a growing city located between Ft.Worth and Dallas. Many visitors come to the city to experience venues such as the Parks, Arts, and Recreation Department’s Farmers Market Pavilion, Tangle Ridge Golf Course, the SummitActiveAdultCenter, the historic and remodeled Uptown Theatre, RutheJacksonConferenceCenter, JoePoolLakePark, and LakePark pavilions. However, parks staff, including those who maintain park land and facilities, agreed that more could be done to make the gateways (entry areas) more visually attractive to visitors. The addition and implementation of the First Impressions Crew has helped create grand mental images of the city.
Implementing A First Impressions Crew
The crew was put together in five stages:
Evaluation of staff members, sites, and budget sources. The staff members selected for the First Impressions Crew have worked in multiple areas such as athletics, parks, medians, right-of-ways, and municipal grounds. In evaluating site locations, nine were identified as major gateways to the city. Budget sources to cover the costs of the new crew and implement their ideas included capital-improvement projects, reoccurring fees, grants, one-time costs, and third-party sources.
Expectations. Providing staff members with the proper resources allowed the Manager of Lakes and Parks and the Parks Superintendent to work with the crew to set achievable and clear expectations.
Education. Educating staff on the “why” and the “how” was crucial for the crew’s success. The “why” created buy-in from staff members and introduced new work areas and assignments. The “how” included professional training from the department’s horticulturist, arborist, and landscape architects.
Excitement. Branding the crew’s identity created excitement within the department as well as in the parks crew. First Impressions Crew caps and T-shirts were distributed. The crew also earned an Excellence in Maintenance Award from the Texas Recreation and Park Society and received recognition from the park board and the city council.
Execution. While evaluating sites, it was agreed that the downtown area would be the first location to receive a “landscape makeover.” The project was completed by choosing the right product and materials for each season. Daily maintenance and observation by the crew were also completed.
Making first impressions—lasting impressions—requires staff from both parks maintenance and the recreation divisions to work together to create special memories for guests. From the recreation-center staff that answers pavilion rental phone calls and questions, to those members that complete facility bookings, and those that prepare the parks and maintain them after events, it takes a whole team to leave lasting impressions.
Mariana Espinoza is the Sr. Recreation Supervisor for the City of Grand Prairie, Texas Parks, Arts, and Recreation Department. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .