FOUNDATION TEMPORARILY SUSPENDS PARK PARTNERS PROGRAM
Due to budget and personnel shortages affecting many of the parks jurisdictions
assisted by the Park Partners Program along with a reduction in its own volunteer base,
Friends of the Parks Foundation has suspended operation of its park adoption program.
Some backyard and schoolyard nurseries continue to operate, and several existing
adoption sites will continue to grow under the direct coordination and management of
the parent parks jurisdiction. Unfortunately it appears the S.T.A.R. (Sheriff's Training
and Respect) Program may be forced to close from lack of funding created by recent
property tax reform measures. However, citizens and civic clubs who still wish to make a
difference, filling a "more than ever" vital need in their parks may contact their local
parks jurisdiction to help with landscaping maintenance. Any group needing FREE plant
material is encouraged to call Marian Ryan, 293-6961 to see what backyard and
schoolyard nurseries might have available for planting. Anyone who would like to
become a backyard nursery is also encouraged to call Marian.
The following background on how the Park Partners Program works is provided in
hopes the Foundation's park adoption projects may be reinstated with the return of
better economic times. Ironically, it is during these times of economic challenge that the
program is most needed.
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Created as a pilot program to enlist neighborhood volunteers, the Park Partners
Program was successfully implemented by the Polk County Leisure Services Division in
the Inwood Community following the grand opening of its Westwood Park in 2003. As a
measure to deter vandalism in the high-crime, low-income community, residents were
asked to assume ownership by signing an adoption pledge to care for and maintain park
facilities. A parks staff volunteer continues to oversee the program and meets monthly
on-site to work with community volunteers to layout and maintain the landscaping.
Documenting a savings of over $9,000.00 in volunteer hours in 2004, the neighborhood
association used its sweat equity to secure a matching grant for trees and park benches
In 2004, the pilot project received an affiliate Keep America Beautiful award and is now
being implemented under the umbrella of the FRIENDS OF THE PARKS FOUNDATION,
a 501(c)(3) representing all parks jurisdictions within Polk County. Since the Foundation’
s unveiling of Park Partners in the fall 2005, four new park adoptions are under
development as a result of just six speaker bureau presentations.
The Need for Park Adoptions
A comprehensive countywide assessment of Polk County’s parks needs was
documented in a 2000 report by Wade Trim, a Tampa consulting firm. It identified a
$179 million countywide deficit in parks and recreation facilities. Funds are insufficient
to provide desired levels of beautification or habitat enhancement – basic mowing is the
norm for most traditional park sites. Trees, shrubs, flowers, non-turf groundcovers and
the labor to install and maintain them are expensive luxuries that the county and many
municipalities cannot afford for their parks given today’s tight budgets. Native plants for
habitat enhancement projects on conservation lands are difficult to obtain from local
retail nurseries and can be challenging to propagate and grow.
Friends of the Parks Countywide Implementation
The Park Partners (Adopt-A-Park) Program was without a name during its first year as a
pilot project as the Friend Foundation evaluated its potential to accomplish two primary
1. Beautification of parks countywide by citizen volunteers and
2. Increase membership base of Friends of the Parks Foundation.
How the Program Works
The introduction and promotion of Park Partners is accomplished through our speaker’s
bureau, appearances on PGTV and the distribution of Foundation membership
The Foundation also sponsors “how-to” gardening and landscaping workshops where
the Park Partners concept is explained and guest speakers and exhibitors offer
information on a variety of topics relevant to park adoption and backyard nurseries.
Our goal is to pair needy parks with local clubs, organizations or individuals interested in
making a commitment toward ensuring the quality of parks and recreation in their
Park adoptions are facilitated by a Park Partners Coordinator and enhanced by the
efforts of our partners, including:
- County and Municipal Parks and Recreation Departments
- Sheriff’s Training and Respect (STAR) Horticulture Program
- Neighborhood Partnerships Office
- Environmental Lands Program
- Polk County Extension Office
- Native Plant Society
- School Board of Polk County
- Florida Yards & Neighborhoods Program
- Our 20 plus Park Partners Backyard Nurseries
- Our 6 Participating Commercial Nurseries
- Lakeland Woodworkers Club
You can select all or portions of a county or municipal park to adopt.
Once a selection has been made, a Park Partners Coordinator will contact the
appropriate parks jurisdiction to develop a customized Adopt-A-Park Pledge for the
adopting club, organization or individual. The coordinator will help define the scope of
adoption and also help outline the envisioned beautification plan and any phasing of the
projects. The coordinator will also help identify sources of plant materials and other
types of donations.
The Park Partners Pledge is then presented to the Friends Board of Directors and the
parks jurisdiction for approval