Best Practices from Award Winning Parks & Open Spaces

Posted on March 27, 2019

best practices

Today’s Morning Buzz is by Kirsten Wyatt:

This year’s #ELGLKnope competition to find the best park or open space in America is heating up. We’re down to the final four, but along the way I’ve observed some best practices that local government can mimic all year ’round to promote their parks and open spaces (or really, any major facility or program), and not just during the heated bracket competition:

Buy the Domain

Local government parks and open spaces website addresses are lengthy and often include a dizzying number of /, -, numbers, and none of it is logical or intuitive.

When you’re branding your local government’s most special places, it’s worth the extra $12 to purchase a unique domain to brand the place on your materials, outreach, and communications. Consider this domain for a gorgeous park in Indiana:

That’s a mouthful and tough to easily share unless you’re only digitally linking to the park web page. It’s really simple to purchase a domain – perhaps in this instance, – and then redirect it back to the webpage your CMS has created and maintains as part of your larger city site.

Pages like and are using unique domains to market parks in Oak Park, IL and Scottsdale, AZ.

Should you buy and redirect a domain for every tot lot and playground in your community? No. Should you buy and redirect a domain for your major facilities that are getting a lot of use and you’re regularly renting out for sports tournaments, festivals, and other special events? Most definitely.

I recently bought the domain and redirected it because it’s shorter and faster to type than (our main conference page) or even worse, our registration page with a web address that is as bad as any local government’s:

Yelp It

I’m on a Spring Break road trip with my kids and we had an instance where we arrived to Bellingham early, and had about an hour to kill before meeting up with our friends. So I went online and looked for a park that would have the combo of a playground and hiking trails to keep my kids busy. Wading through a local government website to find this information is difficult because we’re not (usually) in the business of comparing our facilities against one another.

But Yelp is, and it’s a great place to add your local government facilities so it’s easy for people to consider visiting them when they’re planning a trip, an outing, a special event, etc. Check out the City of Garner, NC’s great use of Yelp to market their Elite Eight-advancing White Deer Park.

To add your facilities on Yelp, you can open an account and then use the category “Public Services & Government.” Don’t get scared off by their exclusive use of the term “business” – it’s okay to list your public facilities on the site. Especially if you’re regularly marketing your facilities for things like weddings, parties, tournaments, conferences, etc.

(Yelp is also a different way to get feedback about your facilities – so be prepared to maintain and check your listings once you’ve added them so you don’t unknowingly have a horrible review or unanswered questions or service requests on the page.)

Earned Media

Macon-Bibb County, GA stepped up its #ELGLKnope game by a steady stream of information to the local news about Amerson River Park’s inclusion in the #ELGLKnope competition. It shouldn’t come as a surprise if you listened to Macon-Bibb County’s Communications Director Chris Floore on GovLove that he relies on a strong line of communications with the local newspaper and TV station.

Sharing information about the #ELGLKnope program is a perfect example of reaching out and working with your local reporters in good times, and not just reacting to media inquiries during more difficult times. Reporters want to know what your local government organization is working on or excited about. They might not chose to cover your story idea, but that’s their call – don’t preemptively assume what they will or won’t cover.

Here’s a press release from the City of Scottsdale, AZ about their park’s entry in #ELGLKnope. It’s well written and includes pictures of the park for any reporter to easily access and include in the story, thus widening the pool of people who know they can vote for the McCormick Stillman Railroad Park in this round..

Run Your Own Bracket

ELGL’s bracket competition is a tremendous boon to our overall web statistics and email list building. We add hundreds of new members each year because #ELGLKnope raises awareness of what ELGL is and how we engage the brightest minds in local government.

During #ELGLKnope, our daily web traffic almost quadruples as more people visit our site, vote for their favorite local government place, and then stick around to check out the other content on the site.

Your local government can get in on this action to similarly build a stronger network of community members who are interested in your parks and open spaces, or your local government operations overall. Here’s an example from my hometown of the “Parks Madness” bracket. Kudos to ELGL member Ken Warner for running this fun program.

Collecting email addresses and an opt-in checkbox can also build your mailing list for future parks and open spaces conversations, including long range planning, planned capital projects, programming, and more. And, it’s another example of meaningful outreach to your community about the fun stuff, and not just doing outreach when you have a trickier problem you’re trying to solve.

You can also use the data from your own competition to inform your own engagement and outreach efforts. ELGL member Matt Roylance contacted me this week for the voting data in the White Deer Park – Amerson River Park matchup. He wanted to see when the majority of their votes were cast, and then tie that back to the targeted outreach they had done last week to see what made the biggest difference. He’s able to look at their biggest vote date and see what community engagement outreach they did to get the biggest impact.

What best practices have you observed during this #ELGLKnope season? Share your ideas below or tweet them using the #ELGLKnope hashtag!

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