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The San Benito County and City of Hollister master plans regularly go out of date; neither is designed as the living document they should be and there is no centralized information management on operations.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

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Marty Richman (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. You can follow Marty Richman on twitter @Marty_Richman. Marty and his wife, Joyce, have been residents of Hollister since 1996.


San Benito County has zero budget and staff support for its Parks and Recreation program which is a relatively new addition to county government. In truth, the county owns and operates only one asset; the San Benito County Historical Park about 7 miles south of Hollister.

I volunteered to serve on the county parks and recreation commission, but it became immediately obvious that there was no administrative resources with which to try and plan anything. I resigned after one meeting after assessing that nothing could be done because there was no staff to work on anything, no money in the budget and no leadership to advance parks and recreation programs. Yes, I'm a quitter in the face of futility.

However, if enough people - and I mean younger parents with families who are serious about working hard to lobby elected officials and county staff to make investments in recreational programming and new capital assets - worked really hard for 5 - 10 years then there may be some positive developments at the county level. 

And from what I've gleaned from the City of Hollister Parks and Recreation Department, they don't have the staff or financial resources to take on the extra work load of the proposition that Mr. Richman posits in this commentary. Great idea, though. 

Thanks, Mike, that's what I meant about consolidating and delegating the authority - we could use REACH or some other existing organization to do this planning and information work.  There is no need for the government to do it and much of what they are doing is just lip service anyway.

I do not underestimate the difficulties, but without a decent planning and information management system we won't be able to do anything effectively.

Marty Richman




Submitted by Valerie Egland (valerie egland) on

Well, Mike, R.E.A.C.H. San Benito Parts Foundation has been developing now since March of 2014.  Without large grants a group cannot advance quickly, and no grants are given to groups that have not been developing community recognition and support for a good period of time.  The CEO of the National Association of Parks Foundations gave me some welcoming words, "There are no 'plug and play' Parks Foundations.  They are all unique, depending on the needs of the community."  I'm hoping that the prediction you've made, that it will take 5-10 years of really hard work, will be closer to 5-7.  You have been a great recreation supporter in the county and city, and you will most likely continue bringing your ideas to the table for the good of the community.

Well, Valerie, Marty makes some very good points about recreational plans sitting in desks or hidden in covert county web pages inaccessible to the public. And, yes, I was interested in supporting recreation programs until it became obvious that no resources, funding or staffing exist to facilitate meaningful progress towards asset acquisition and programming development at the county level. 

If the county parks and recreation commission and REACH cannot develop grassroots support to lobby the voting public and county supervisors to create a revenue stream - such as a community services district - with which to provide the staffing, feasibility studies, financial analysis, planning, environmental mitigation, etc. then no progress can or will be made.

I would agree that 'needs of the community' is one criteria for Parks Foundations. But I would also argue that the average citizen isn't aware of existing county park assets; as such, the voting public will not see the value of supporting another self-imposed property tax to develop a parks and recreation asset acquisition and/or program without a sense of vision and demonstrated leadership to achieve the things they WANT or NEED. 



Talking only Parks and Recreation in the cities and county, the development of an electronic, living database would not be that far-fetched. It would take a dedicated administrator-manager-DB architect, consulting programmers (don't need perms), and of course the approval of both cities and the county to integrate. The programmers could even be volunteers from our commute workforce. I am not really sure what REACH does nor am I familiar with how it is incorporated but perhaps it could be used as a shell to do this work. Similar to how the Pine Ridge Association helps at Coe State Park--all volunteers, no state funding, operates under contract to the park.  I think you have a very good idea, Marty.  You are definitely on to something here.

--William McCarey

Submitted by Valerie Egland (valerie egland) on

William, I agree that Marty has presented yet, again, another well researched idea.  Thank you for the creative thinking about how the county could develop an electronic, living database. Great description! I don't know much about the Pine Ridge Association, but R.E.A.C.H. San Benito Parks Foundation (501c3)was formed by suggestion of the Parks and Recreation Commission(PRC) after the County Parks Plan was developed along side of the General Plan.  The SBC Park Land Dedication, known as the Quimby Act and the Draft EIR for the River Parkway and Regional Park Project brought a lot of possibilities to the table, but MAINTENANCE was and still is the element holding back progress on the facilities that could make the whole county community vibrant.  One of the steps that could build community awareness of parks and recreation that IS available to them would be the 'living database' considered here.  There is a developing Parks and Rec Staff assigned to the PRC that is promising.  Momentum needs to build from the public side.  New residents who want more opportunity here, rather than driving out of town, may hold the key.  See the R.E.A.C.H. San Benito Parks Foundation website, become a member and donate.  

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