Strategic planning in park district future

Seneca County Park Board Wednesday authorized its newest member, Bill McAllister, to lead a task force to develop a strategic plan for the park district.

Board member Jim Nordholt also was appointed to the task force, and the two members plan to recruit a couple people from the Friends of the Seneca County Park District and at least one outside person as members.

McAllister said the task force is to use “real time strategic planning.”

“The world’s changing so fast that we have to be nimble enough to change as the times change,” he said. “We’re going to know ourselves better. We’re going to know our strengths and weaknesses as an organization. We’re going to have an identity statement, and that’s going to allow us to react to opportunities and threats as they come up.”

McAllister, who recently retired from a regional job with the YMCA where part of his work was facilitating strategic plans, provided board members with an overview of the process before they decided to proceed.

“That small task force would be the ones who would drive the whole process,” he said during the explanation. “That means that we as the (park) commissioners would be the ones who follow through and get regular updates on progress.

“We’re going to ask for a lot of input from a lot of folks,” he said. “We want to get input and build a consensus.”

Input will include strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, he said. Ideas and information will be sought from people involved in the park system, people who use the parks and people who do not use the parks. Leaders to be consulted will be from the fields of education, nonprofit organizations, religious groups, businesses and other government officials.

“We would come up with what we feel are the top one to three big challenges or opportunities to identify,” he said. “The beauty of this process is we build a consensus.”

Previously, board members had discussed the need for a five-year strategic plan to show potential donors or other people outside the park district in what direction the district is moving.

At the request of Out & About Preschool Administrator Linda Rose, the board approved a preschool rate increase of $10 per month starting September 2013. The increase is the first since the program’s inception six years ago.

“That still puts us the lowest in the county for the amount of hours the kids spend there,” Rose said.

She said the 12 spots in the program are full for next year, and there are children on a waiting list to start in two years.

Rose said she and the children have recently found salamanders, salamander eggs and other forms of wildlife, as well as heard many birds and four species of frogs calling at Garlo preserve.

During his report, Director Pat Obringer said the north dike at Garlo preserve is awaiting repairs and a memorial bench for Michael Wheatley is ready to be placed in park.

At Steyer Nature Preserve, he said a sign has been completed for the hunter parking lot and a map has been completed by Archie Clark and other volunteers updating the hiking trails.

Obringer said West Lodi Church is ready for paint. Siding has been replaced and other renovations made.

At Clinton Nature Preserve, he said signs are ready for placement along the Sandusky River at Miller Fishing Hole and at the former location of Hossler Mill.

Board President Roland Zimmerman said three board members from Huron County parks recently visited Seneca County Parks because they heard about the district’s accomplishments with limited funds. He said the Huron County board was interested in how the district acquired park land and how it is maintained using volunteer labor.

Nordholt explained to McAllister the relationship between the board and the Friends organization. He said the Friends’ purpose is to raise funds for the park district, which is convenient for entities who want to donate to a nonprofit organization, but donations also may be made directly to the park district because it is a government entity.

Instead of a March meeting, the board and Friends hosted their annual volunteer recognition dinner. Three awards were presented. The Friends awarded Roy Zinn as Volunteer of the Year. Charles Gaitros received the Commissioners’ Service Award, and Joe Vera was presented with a Lifetime Service Award.

In other business, the board:

Passed a resolution agreeing to participate in the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Roadwork Fund during fiscal year 2014-15 through the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association.

Learned the park district has $28,822 available for the rest of the year, of which $10,000-$12,000 is unencumbered.

Heard an update from chairwoman Catherine Gase regarding preparations for the Mercy Community Nature Preserve dedication set for April 22.

Suggested to the Friends organization that a dump truck and a pickup truck be added to the “wish list.”

The board’s next meeting is 7 p.m. May 8, preceded by a Friends meeting at 6 p.m.