by Phil Ginsburg, General Manager, SF Recreation and Park Department
What would happen to our quality of life if San Francisco’s 225 neighborhood parks suddenly closed? Where would we play without our 179 playgrounds, 82 recreation centers and clubhouses, 72 basketball courts, 60 soccer and baseball fields or 9 swimming pools?
Public parks and recreation facilities play an essential role in our lives, whether we’re children, teens, adults or seniors. They offer a welcome respite from the rigors of our daily schedules, providing us with the opportunity to relax, exercise, explore and rejuvenate our spirits in ways that are personal and meaningful to us.
But our parks are in trouble. Here in San Francisco, years of budget cuts, including a whopping $12.4 million deficit for this fiscal year alone, have left the Recreation and Park Department at a critical juncture. Despite being 200 gardeners and 60 custodians short, our park maintenance scores have never been higher. We survived our most recent budget challenges by implementing creative revenue generating initiatives and scouring our operation for staff efficiencies, including a new gardener apprentice program.
We’ve also implemented a complete reorganization of our recreation model that’s more efficient, saves money and improves the quantity and quality of programming at our recreation facilities by asking the public to play an active role in deciding what types of programs are needed at each individual site.
We can no longer adequately staff our smaller clubhouses or operate our recreation centers and pools seven days a week. Recognizing that further reductions to our budget would have drastic impacts we’re pursuing grants and philanthropic support to help keep the doors open. We’re looking for community partners to provide relevant programming at these sites to keep them active, safe and fun.
We need your help. Visit our website – www.sfrecpark.org – and join our email list. Ask your elected leaders to support a more financially sustainable urban parks system.