Elected officials are powerful allies for park improvement projects. A strong rapport with elected officials, when leveraged in conjunction with the parks department, can play a major role in helping park advocates achieve their goals. Yet, relationships don’t form overnight.
The most successful park advocates, Friends of the Park groups, conservancies, and community associations devote significant time to engage their elected officials on behalf of the greenspace that they represent.
In early January, a new Mayor of Atlanta, seven new Atlanta City Council members, and a new council president were sworn into office. Though there is never a bad time to build or strengthen your relationship with city council members (or county commissioners for DeKalb County park advocates), right now is the perfect time to engage with your elected officials as they are establishing plans and priorities for the current term.
What can you do?
Below are steps you can take today to begin building relationships with elected officials to benefit your park:
- Plan a tour of the park that highlights community investment and invite your elected official for a walk! Share the work your group has done, including community volunteer days, play days or meet-ups, and any citizen-driven park improvements that you’ve accomplished to date.
- Learn about your elected official’s focus. How can their focus benefit the park? Align your park priorities and requests to match accordingly: present your park project as a solution to a shared concern for public safety, building a vibrant community, or engaging youth in positive activity, for example.
- Invite your elected official to the Parks and Greenspace Conference as an opportunity to learn about creative solutions for parks.
- Demonstrate passion with politeness! Discuss community priorities with elected officials as opposed to laying out a list of demands. Also remember to thank your elected official for their support publicly at park events, in social media, and in writing with a card or email.
The ultimate goal is to build a working relationship that will bring resources to your park projects and benefit the community!
You can use these suggestions beyond just forming relationships with elected officials, too; they’re appropriate with appointed government officials, employees of the Department of Parks and Recreation, organizations you’re approaching to fund your park project, and your neighbors from whom you’re seeking support or donations!
Attend a Park Meeting
Connect with park advocates over strategies for building positive relationships with elected officials by attending Park Pride’s monthly Park Meeting. Visit Park Pride’s online calendar for dates and locations: parkpride.org/events