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Editor's Letter

Plan on It

2012-06-01, Department, by Phil Hayward

Phil Hayward, EditorIt’s a great but rare day when all goes according to plan. Dwight Eisenhower knew this well when he quipped that plans were useless for preparing for battle, while planning was indispensable. Polar explorer Roald Amundsen simplified it even more with his observation that adventure is just bad planning. But for our purposes in the field of parks and recreation, I like the advice tendered by the great civic architect Daniel Burnham: “Make no small plans.”

There is much in this issue of Parks & Recreation to support this thinking. Our cover story this month shows how Miami-Dade County, Florida, parks, recreation, and open space department plans in 50-year increments. Its current master plan treating all public space as parkland is hardly small thinking. That the department is adaptable and willing to be resourceful in its planning was born out this year with its recent announcement of a partnership with the Redfields to Greenfields program of the Speedwell Foundation, the Trust for Public Land, and the Miami-Dade County Park Foundation to convert distressed commercial real estate into sustainable parkland. That meshes well with its 50-year master plan while greatly accelerating the county’s efforts to link its entire public space into a walkable, healthy community.

In her article on the multi-city restoration of the Platte River in Colorado, Managing Editor Beth Beard explores the South Platte Working Group’s creation of guiding principles. Governed by consensus (and not simply board votes), the working group developed a plan that aligns major municipalities into a common mission—no small feat in this highly politicized and partisan era. Achieving a balance between open space and development says much for their plan. Trust for Public Land Project Manager Hillary Merritt told Beth:

“Having that combination of good, thoughtful development and good thoughtful, open space is important in all of these areas. There are definitely areas where development is appropriate and we have to have some development in order to help fund the places that are protected.”

One area of planning that often gets overlooked, obvious as it might seem, is preparing for economic recovery. It’s understandable that people and organizations can get lulled into long-term recessionary thinking. I’ve seen it in plenty of recessions and have been guilty of it myself. The key is to be able to read the economic signs and incorporate increasing revenue into planning for the near and mid-term future. Because no two recessions are completely alike and because organizations frequently emerge from recessions as different beasts, it will pay to approach recovery with a resourceful and flexible outlook. For an early peek at the signs of recovery, I recommend Senior Editor Maureen Hannan’s interview with George Mason University economist Stephen Fuller.

And then make no small plans.



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