Open Space plan suggests using more social media

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By Sandy Barnes

Expanding the use of social media is a key strategy of the communications and community plan for Jeffco Open Space, which Thea Rock presented to the Open Space Advisory Committee on Aug. 7.

“We have 3,000 people who follow us on Facebook. We would like to increase that to 7,000,” Rock said.
Expanding Twitter followers from 1,300 to 5,000 also is in the plan, she said.

“They reach a different demographic,” Rock remarked.

A recent study showed that 26 percent of the community would like to receive information about parks through e-mail, and 23 percent use the Internet, said Rock.

In addition to attracting more Facebook and Twitter followers, the plan also calls for increasing subscriptions of Panorama, the Jeffco Open Space monthly newsletter, from 5,000 to 20,000.

Rock also suggested that specific e-mail lists could be developed for a particular park or region, which could be used to give residents updates. Open houses and telephone town halls also are possibilities for connecting with the community.

“We need to increase awareness, to connect outdoor recreation with health,” said Rock.

Improvements also are being made to the Jeffco Parks and Open Space website to make it more user-friendly.

The communications plan was developed to implement a goal of the recently updated master plan for Jeffco Open Space.

“Community involvement is a big part of this plan,” said Rock.

A 2011 citizen survey, which was done before the master plan update, showed that the second most common reason residents don’t use parks and facilities is a lack of awareness of them.

The advisory committee unanimously voted to endorse the communications and community involvement plan.

2015 budget reviewed

After reviewing the proposed 2015 budget for Jeffco Open Space for a second time, advisory committee members supported it with a resolution.

The proposed $31 million budget for Open Space includes staff additions, which will be funded through a projected 3 percent increase in sales-tax revenue.

To hire an additional park ranger, $101,464 is in the budget proposal — an amount that includes $32,000 for the purchase of a new vehicle and equipment. The budget proposal also includes $77,216 to hire another real estate specialist. The total amount of $178, 216 includes employee benefits for the new staff members who would work to boost numbers of park visitors and land acquisition efforts.

The largest capital expense in the 2015 budget proposal is $4.2 million for the Jeffco portion of the Peaks to Plains Trail construction in Clear Creek Canyon. The extensive project is creating a 6-mile recreational corridor along Clear Creek for bicyclists and hikers.

The next step in the process is meeting with the Jeffco commissioners, who will review and eventually adopt the 2015 budget, said Tom Hoby, Jeffco Parks and Open Space director.

While addressing a concern of committee members about possible changes to the proposed budget, Hoby said that any substantial change would come back to the committee for consideration.

“This is your recommendation at this point in time,” Hoby said. “We’re not passing a budget tonight.”

Media relations efforts

During her remarks to the advisory committee, Rock commended Mary Ann Bonnell, visitor services supervisor for Jeffco Open Space, for getting information to the public about heat-related risks to dogs in parks.

Two dogs have died and six more suffered from heat exhaustion while walking with their owners in Jeffco parks recently, Rock said. In response, Bonnell has appeared on three local television stations to give park visitors information about how to protect their pets from the heat, she noted.

“Mary Ann has created a relationship with some of the reporters. I can see this as going somewhere,” said Hoby.

Contact Sandy Barnes at sandy@evergreenco.com.