Children and Youth

OPINION: Recreation Master Planning is Overdue for Consolidation

It makes sense to have a consolidated recreational facility master plan that serves all county residents

San Benito County and its cities have been talking about consolidating functions for decades, but it rarely happens; they usually find some reason, mostly political, not to take the step. If we’re serious about eliminating duplication, reducing cost and improving public service, a perfect opportunity exists by consolidating parks and recreational facilities master plans and centralizing the related information management.

The San Benito County and City of Hollister master plans regularly go out of date; neither is designed as the living document they should be and there is no centralized information management on operations.

The plans suffer from “Master Plan Syndrome.” After much work and cost – usually by consultants – they go into a desk drawer for years. They are of little use to the public because they do not have current, easily accessed, information.

I have not reviewed other plans that may exist within county, but the San Benito County and City of Hollister plans overlap significantly; this is necessary as long as separate plans exist because it takes all the facilities to service residents and visitors. The county and city list each other’s assets, but predictably, neither list is complete nor up-to-date as they are managed by different entities, change frequently and independently.

Unlike some facilities, parks and recreational assets are primarily for use by the general public. The public needs an accessible and up-to-date real-time data to identify recreational facility resources throughout the county. Pages of printed matter stuffed into master plans are the last place they are going to look and those documents are especially difficult to update.

A single central electronic database that catalogs all the facility information is easily updated and can be linked by an infinite number of websites to better serve the public. This should not be just another process hung on the plans, it should be the one and only master list. Copies of previous revisions and changes can be stored electronically to provide managers with an essential history for future planning purposes.

To make that leap, this process has to be consolidated under a single entity responsible for keeping the inventory and capabilities current. Public information must be easily accessed to be useful. The new system does not have to start out as perfect, just better, which will be pretty easy.

This decision will require the delegation of authority to a group, committee, or other entity, something we are not good at, but if we ever want to take advantage of consolidation we will have to make it work. We should do that. The current process is not satisfactory and the potential benefits are enormous.

Marty Richman

Born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, Marty (Martin G.) spent his teen years in northern New Jersey. He served more than 22 years on active military duty, mostly in Europe, and is a retired U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 4, Nuclear Weapons Technical Officer. Marty then worked 25 years in various engineering and management positions in the electronics and energetic materials industries supporting the communications, computer, aerospace, defense and automotive sectors. He is a graduate, summa cum laude, from The College of Hard Knocks, among his numerous awards and accomplishments. He was a regular weekly Op/Ed columnist and feature writer for The Hollister Free Lance for seven years and a member of its editorial board for five years. Marty is a frequent commentator and contributor to BenitoLink on a wide variety of local, state, national and international subjects.   Marty was elected to represent the City of Hollister District 4 on the City Council in November, 2018. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.